Tourism a Sleeping Giant
The National Author
PAPUA New Guinea’s tourism industry has long been a dormant area of opportunity.
The sector has potential to be a significant earner for the country but little has been done in a cohesive manner to drive development across the country to promote the culture, sights, flora and fauna unique to this part of the world.
What the country needs is a workable plan and policy that will cater for the specific tourism attractions the country now offers to people around the world.
PNG’s diverse and vibrant cultures are a great selling point as are its potential in the eco-tourism niche which ties in with the mostly untouched areas of the country.
Ecotourism is defined as travels to natural areas that conserves the environment, sustains the well-being of the local people, and involves interpretation and education.
The Tourism Promotion Authority, the country’s body that regulates tourism, has partnered with the International Finance Corporation – a member of the World Bank Group – to carry out market research to realise the sector’s potential over the next 10 years. According to the TPA, the tourism demand assessment will measure the size, travel, patterns, and economic value of current tourist arrivals in the country.
It will assess the effectiveness of existing marketing activities and, crucially, project volumes and value of potential arrivals, with specific emphasis on high spending niche markets.
This is in line with TPA’s master plan for 2017 which states on its website as having a theme based on “Growing PNG tourism as a sustainable industry”.
The vision of this plan is that starting this year, PNG tourism will be a growing and sustainable industry which:
- Is recognised globally as a destination which offers a range of unique niche adventure tourism experiences;
- generates significant investment and employment through profitable business opportunities and subsequently the development of the economy;
- celebrates, protects and enhances our unique cultural heritage and natural environment by showcasing these attributes;
- provides visitors with an enjoyable, distinct and memorable experience; demonstrates partnership and collaboration across all stakeholders; and,
- Provides a broad distribution of benefits across PNG thereby improving the lifestyles of rural and urban communities.
The IFC/TPA partnership is geared towards enabling those aims to be achieved by guiding government and private sector investments in tourism-related infrastructure, products and services.
IFC’s Tom Jacobs said the objective was to find out what works and what might not be as successful in the PNG environment. “The research will provide recommendations to the Government to help it match tourism investment, development and targeting specific markets,” Jacobs said.
“Finding out what drives people to visit PNG and what is needed to bring more tourists – bird watchers, adventure seekers, or those attending cultural shows will help grow existing holiday arrivals and create new markets in the future.”
Tourism infrastructure is tied in with development needs such as having good roads including bridges as well as reliable communication apparatus and transportation, law and order and health services.
There is uneven growth across the country and the gap between the urban and rural is stark but at the same time an alluring quality.
Developing the tourism industry is beneficial collectively as there are multiple sites to visit for tourists.
Importantly, the development it is not all centered in one place and the revenue-earning benefits are ongoing unlike one-off events such as the 2015 Pacific Games which were staged in Port Moresby alone and saw the city benefit with a several major sporting infrastructure.
The TPA website states that a vision and overall goal for tourism in PNG will mean little if it does not result in benefits which flow to all sectors of the economy.
The potential benefits of implementing the tourism development plan are considerable.
In terms of employment generation alone the impacts would be significant.
For example, if the goal of doubling the number of holiday tourists within five years and then doubling the number again after 10 years is achieved, the net result would be tourism could have been worth K1.1 billion by 2010 and K1.78 billion in revenue terms by 2015.
Those on holiday would have spent K363 million in 2010 and K727 million in 2015. And the total employment in tourism would have increased by 4800 jobs by 2010 and 13,000 by 2015.
Given these are only projected returns, the figures and the potential to generate them cannot be ignored.
Tourism must be given the extra boost it deserves