Tourism: Adventure-seekers cruise in


Greater access, improved accommodation and a unique culture lure greater numbers of visitors to Papua New Guinea.

The 180-room Grand Papua Hotel opened in ‘Town’ – Port Moresby’s CBD – in September 2011

Visitor arrivals to Papua New Guinea grew by 12.8% in 2011 over arrivals for 2010. While many travelled to the country on business, there was also a signifiant rise in holidaymakers. Australia provided 46% of PNG’s 165,059 visitors in 2011, but visitors are being increasingly drawn from Asia and Europe because of improved air access, more diverse accommodation and PNG’s reputation for unique cultural and soft adventure options.

‘When compared to its other Pacific neighbours, PNG’s pristine wilderness, preservation of culture and the range of outdoor activities to be enjoyed make it a stand-out destination to visit for tourists with the urge to explore,’ says Executive Consultant Carla Ewin of Roaming Adventures, an adventure travel consultancy specialising in the Pacific.

The PNG Tourism Promotion Authority (TPA) focuses on the country’s untouched and wild landscapes, and diverse peoples and cultures in promoting PNG to prospective visitors. ‘The main strategy we use … is tracking, diving, surfing and of course, cultures,’ said TPA’s Australia and New Zealand sales manager, Michael Woods, at a PNG tourism workshop in early 2012. The workshop brought together Online Travel Agents (OTAs) including Wotif, Travelocity,, Zuji, World Hotel Link, and local hoteliers, to discuss how they can develop online strategies and increase international visibility. Similar workshops are planned for small business operators.

‘PNG’s pristine wilderness, preservation of culture and the range of outdoor activities to be enjoyed make it a standout destination to visit for tourists with the urge to explore.’

Improved accommodation

Airways Hotel

Port Moresby’s trailblazing Airways Hotel won the World’s Best Airport Hotel in the 2011 World Travel Awards

Steamships Trading Company’s Grand Papua Hotel—the first newly built hotel to open in Port Moresby in more 20 years and a K200 million ($US97 million) investment—opened in November 2011. ‘[It’s] our statement of faith in the future growth of PNG’s economy,’ says Steamships’ Chief Operations Officer, Tom Owen.

The opening is part of a broader invigoration of the accommodation offerings in Port Moresby, which had been suffering from a shortage of hotel rooms. Beyond Port Moresby, Steamships has expansion plans for the Melanesian Hotel in Lae, while its Goroka, Mount Hagen and two Port Moresby properties—the Ela Beach Hotel and Gateway Hotel—have all recently undergone improvements. The Lamana Group, owner of the award-winning Airways Hotel, is expanding the hotel’s dining facilities and has plans to build a Jack Nicklaus-designed championship golf course near Jacksons International Airport.

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At the other end of the accommodation spectrum is Villagehuts, a new online company that lists hundreds of accommodation options, deals, tours and flight information, and provides a secure reservation system. While some of the offerings are four-star hotels in major cities, the majority are guest houses and lodges that are particularly attractive to the growing adventure market.

Better access by air and sea

Air access to Papua New Guinea continues to improve, with national carrier Air Niugini now flying to Singapore four times a week, Manila three times, Hong Kong twice and Japan once. Pacific Blue, Qantas and POMSOX-listed Airlines PNG have regular flights connecting PNG to Australia’s major east coast airports, while Air Niugini also has flight connections to Fiji and the Solomon Islands (Solomons Airlines has also recently resumed flights from Honiara). Air Niugini is also strengthening its alliances with other international carriers, recently signing an Interline E-ticketing Agreement with Air France and KLM Royal Dutch Airlines.

Papua New Guinea has also seen an upswing in cruise ship visits, with more than 1000 tourists visiting aboard four cruise ships in early 2012. While some of these visitors took tours in Port Moresby, Madang and Rabaul, others flew to Mt Hagen and Goroka for day trips. The TPA says cruise ships are responsible for 90% of the revenue earned by PNG’s coastal tourism operators. Alotau, Rabaul, Madang and the Sepik coastlines are strategically convenient destinations for cruise ships from Asia, and Australian Expedition Cruises is looking at expanding its PNG offerings. The TPA and PNG Ports Authority participated in the first Cruise Shipping Asia Trade Show and Conference in Singapore in late 2011 in a bid to spark further growth in this sector.

Beyond traditional markets

The TPA has appointed Lee Travel Consulting to represent it in the European market. The company has offices in London and Munich, Germany, and specialises in advice and contract services to companies in the long haul sector. ‘We have recently had a steady increase in tourism from both the UK and Europe and feel strongly that this market will benefit from the services our own local office can offer,’ says Leith Isaac, TPA Director of Marketing.

The TPA also hosted a visit for Japanese surfers in late 2011. The trip generated a 10-page feature in Surf Trip Journal, and it is hoped this will create a buzz around PNG’s small but established surf tourism industry.

This article first published in Business Advantage Papua New Guinea 2012/2013.

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