Grand Papua Hotel embarks on two-year transformation as resource boom beckons


Port Moresby’s Grand Papua hotel is getting a complete makeover that promises new restaurant and bar concepts and updated, high-tech rooms. Business Advantage PNG speaks to Peter Laigaard Jensen, CEO of Steamships Hospitality and Coral Sea Hotels, to find out what guests can expect from the revamped landmark.

Completed in 2011, the flagship Grand Papua is one of seven properties in the current Coral Sea Hotels business. It is now affiliated with the Raddison Individuals brand. Credit: BAI

Business Advantage PNG (BAPNG): How is Coral Sea Hotels preparing for the increase in demand from the expected new resource projects?

Coral Sea Hotels’ Peter Laigaard Jensen

Peter Laigaard Jensen: Following on from our recent renovation of the Ela Beach Hotel, we are going to spend around K70–80 million over the next two years on rejuvenating the Grand Papua hotel in Port Moresby.

In the last two years, we have seen a significant increase in our restaurants, bars and all day dining business, in our hotels and also our QSR [quick service restaurant] brand, Enzo’s Pizza, which is also expanding. We are on seven outlets here in Port Moresby and we will expand with six more in 2024.

BAPNG: How do you approach training and staff retention as economic growth produces more employment opportunities?

One of the ongoing challenges here in Papua New Guinea is also to make sure we have the right capabilities and the workforce in place.

“There will be a shortage of labour in the market, and that means you really need to be an attractive employer.”

We are launching what we call the Coral Sea Hotels Academy, which is an umbrella of a lot of initiatives: development programs for our young potential leaders, an online hospitality program, on-the-ground training, and education for our line managers.

With all the mining and resource projects coming in, that will of course put a little bit pressure on the workforce: maintenance, housekeeping, catering workers, and so on. There will be a shortage of labour in the market, and that means you really need to be an attractive employer. It’s not always about paying a higher salary. It’s also to make sure you create a kind of potential for ongoing development for people. We want Coral Sea Hotels to be a Papua New Guinean company managed and led by Papua New Guineans. That’s our mission here.

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BAPNG: What is the strategy behind the Grand Papua Hotel renovation?

Peter Laigaard Jensen: The renovation will take about two years. We plan to renovate one section at a time and will keep the business operating. It will have some impact, but we will communicate clearly to guests so they’re aware that the renovation is ongoing.

“Papua New Guinea as a destination is an absolute diamond in terms of nature and our vast resources. But you need people to see these opportunities, and you need people who want to invest.”

We are extending what we call the Grand Bar, so that will become significantly bigger. We have a collaboration with SP Brewery where we plan to create a more industrial brewery looks and feel, and that will extend into the lobby so you can be part of that experience when you enter the hotel. We are doing a similar thing with our restaurant, where we’re developing a show-kitchen.

We recently opened our renovated pool deck, where we’ve developed a poolside bar and a relaxed eatery. We’ll then renovate each guest room, one floor at a time. We also plan to redevelop the 15th floor, which will feature a sky bar and a library in addition to our exclusive executive lounge.

BAPNG: What innovations can your corporate customers expect?

Peter Laigaard Jensen: We want to make sure we are reflecting the needs of customers, because we know 95 per cent are corporate customers. They want to have a good night’s sleep, quick check-in, quick check-out, and they want to have a beer in the bar and a good steak. We want to reinforce that experience. Our new technology and entertainment systems will be a hallmark of the hotel. We’ll make sure that guests can easily use all of their devices, and they don’t have to crawl around under the table to find the right socket.

BAPNG: What’s the outlook for your properties outside of Port Moresby?

Peter Laigaard Jensen: We have a hotel in Mount Hagen that we renovated before COVID-19 with new conference facilities, restaurants, and rooms, and we have other areas we plan to renovate. We were close to starting on the Melanesian Hotel in Lae before COVID-19 put the brakes on the project. By the end of 2024, we will be a bit closer to a starting date. We have very strong mid-market products that cater for local activity but also to businesses when people are traveling from Port Moresby to Lae, Mount Hagen or Goroka.

BAPNG: Do you expect Papua New Guinea to grow as a tourism destination?

Peter Laigaard Jensen: It’s a challenge to help people understand the whole concept of tourism; what does it mean and what does it require in terms of safety, infrastructure, transportation, airlines? Obviously, Papua New Guinea as a destination is an absolute diamond in terms of nature and our vast resources. But you need people to see these opportunities, and you need people who want to invest. People will only invest if they feel secure, and for that you need to have a stable economy, a stable security situation and a stable supply chain.

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