Five questions for the IFC’s Dina Nicholas on growing cruise line tourism in Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands


Cruise liner tourism in PNG and the Solomon Islands could grow five-fold within two years, according to a study commissioned by the Australian Government, the IFC and cruise operator Carnival Australia. Business Advantage PNG asked the IFC’s Senior Operations Officer, Dina Nicholas, what will make this growth happen.

A P&O cruise ship arrives in Milne Bay. Credit: David Kirkland

A P&O cruise ship arrives in Milne Bay. Credit: David Kirkland

Dina Nicholas (DN): This growth is driven by the continued popularity of cruising out of Australia. Companies such as Carnival Australia continue to seek new destinations and experiences for their passengers, many of whom are repeat travellers.

The IFC's Dina Nicholas

The IFC’s Dina Nicholas

It is also driven by positive feedback from passengers about their experience in PNG and Solomon Islands.

Positive passenger feedback is key to ensuring that PNG and Solomon Islands ports continue to be included in cruising itineraries out of Australia. In addition, ports such as Honiara and Gizo in the Solomon Islands, and Alotau and Madang in PNG, can see more cruises with investment in port infrastructure.

Business Advantage PNG (BAPNG): Can PNG and Solomon Islands handle such a big increase so quickly? What do they need to do to assist the process?

DN: The principal issues facing both the Solomon Islands and PNG today are a need for product development and for additional investment in port infrastructure.

Product development will help more local businesses benefit from the cruise tourism dollar, while infrastructure investment will ensure that ship arrivals don’t infringe on infrastructure access for local populations, that passengers are able to spend more time onshore, and that ships travel to more locations within the country.

BAPNG: How many cruises does a ‘five-fold increase’ mean and is it sustainable over the medium to long term? Will it be a year-round process?

DN: The increase from 2015 is expected to be a doubling of arrivals in Alotau and a tripling of arrivals to Honiara. Other destinations (Rabaul, Madang, the Trobriand Islands) will see a slower pace of growth based on current projections, but arrivals are expected to grow to these locations as well. Alotau will see about 25 ships a year from the P&O and Princess brands alone. Other key PNG destinations will see about half that.

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New Caledonia and Vanuatu see more than 200,000 cruise passengers on nearly 200 ships per year. Whether this is sustainable will depend on the continued popularity of cruising in Australia, and continued positive feedback from passengers on ports in Solomon Islands and PNG, which is linked to product development and infrastructure investment.

BAPNG: Where do most Pacific cruise line tourists come from? Roughly how many tourists travel per ship and are the cruise lines expanding their current routes?

DN: For popular PNG and Solomon Islands ports, the vast majority of cruise tourists come from Australia, where the largest ships serving these countries are based. Australian-based ships traveling on PNG and Solomon Islands itineraries carry about 1800 passengers on average, and about half that amount of crew.

BAPNG: Carnival is the biggest line, but are others likely to be part of this five-fold increase?

DN: P&O and Princess brands will be leading the expected increase in cruising to PNG and Solomon Islands. They are both part of Carnival Australia.

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