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Selling PNG’s unique culture and beauty From modest beginnings, Papua New Guinea’s tourism sector is starting to make progress internationally. Robert Upe reports.


Leisure travel It’s the type of invaluable publicity that PNG tourism needs. Of PNG’s 182,188 visitors in 2013, only 41,000 were leisure travellers, according to figures provided by the Papua New Guinea Tourism Promotion Authority (TPA). While leisure tourism is on the rise, helped along by the ever-popular Kokoda Track and a boom in cruise ship visits, it is business and employment travel that is really sending PNG’s visitor numbers on a trajectory that would please the National Government. Business and employment travel into the country has more than tripled since about 2002. But in raw figures, leisure travel has only increased by 10,000 people in the past five years. ‘While leisure tourism numbers are increasing due largely to the growing awareness of Papua New Guinea as a viable tourist destination, business travellers are a more significant source of inbound tourism expenditure,’ says Euromonitor International, a London-based market intelligence firm. ‘Australia, New Zealand and the US represent key business traveller source markets and mining is the dominant foreign investment activity.’

Government target The World Travel and Tourism Council says the ‘direct contribution’ of travel and tourism to the country’s GDP was K369.5 million in 2013 and it forecasts this to rise by 4.3% between 2014 and 2024. Tourism’s ‘total contribution’ to PNG’s 2013 GDP was 2.5 per cent. 52

Passengers on a Coral Princess cruise encounter local canoes.

Credit: David Conn

apua New Guinea tourism was in the world spotlight in 2014, with a startling publicity campaign in New York. Two PNG tribesmen, in traditional dress, stopped cars and crowds as they wandered the streets of the Big Apple and visited sites such as the Empire State Building. Additionally, one of the world’s leading travel publishers, Lonely Planet, selected PNG Village Stays on its list of the 26 experiences to do in the world in 2015, and the New York Times named the new Lake Murray Fishing Lodge in its 52 places to go in 2015.

To help these figures along, the National Government has targeted tourism as a priority area for economic development and for the creation of employment opportunities.

Tourism hub One of the Government’s major initiatives is to turn Rabaul in East New Britain into PNG’s tourism hub. The Rabaul project manager, Kayleen Allen from TPA Australia, says that in order to make Rabaul the tourism capital, it is important to work and train those in the industry up to the standard where they can take in international guests. ‘We need a holistic approach, hard work and commitment from everyone here in East New Britain. We must all work together to make this happen. ‘Over a three-year period, we will be looking at how customer services are being provided here in East New Britain, the pricing structure in the hotel industry, tour packages, scheduling, expectations of customers, training, law and order and many other areas. We will be working with everyone to make this happen.” Last May, the national carrier, Air Niugini, made a commitment to support the government’s initiative when it implemented twice-weekly direct flights between Rabaul and Cairns in Australia. Australians are, by far, the key source of visitors to PNG, and the convenient new Cairns flights should help bolster leisure arrivals, especially since travellers can bypass the country’s capital, Port Moresby, which suffers from an image problem.

Image challenge The TPA says that many visitors do not understand the vast difference between Port Moresby and the safe regional areas such as New Ireland, East New Britain and Mine Bay.

Business Advantage Papua New Guinea 2015  
Business Advantage Papua New Guinea 2015  

Annual business and investment guide to the Pacific's largest and fastest-growing economy