I'm not trying to say development is wrong or shouldn't happen. But rather that unplanned development, development that doesn't take the local context into considerations can cause irreversible damage to the local economy.
In the case of Labuanbajo, a sleepy fishing village perched on the edge of Komodo National Park and some of the top diving sites in the world, development is happening at an alarming rate. But what concerns me most is the lack of local context in the development.
I find it hard to believe that tourists visiting this place would be happy to know that while they eat in one of the new fancy restaurants in town or enjoy their new luxury boutique hotel room, they city of Labuanbajo lacks basic services such proper sanitation and waste management. That yearly the area faces extreme drought and the harbour is flooded daily with garbage and toxic runoff from the streets.
Do the needs of tourists have to be in direct conflict with the local needs of an area? I tire of the outdated development model where tourists are valued over locals. Investment in local resources and infrastructure will still help to bring in tourist dollars in the long run.
Since returning to Labuanbajo I have heard word that there are plans to tear down the local fish market and outdoor eating stalls to build a new indoor mall. Trust me the last thing Labuanbajo needs is a mall on the waterfront! Instead why not invest in cleaning up the existing local market. Not only would this attract tourist but would create useable infrastructure for locals and tourists alike and directly support the local economy.
Tourists travel to experience something different than where they are from. Sure its nice to indulge in luxuries now and then but ultimately we travel to experience a local culture. Don't lose the local context for the sake of development.