Green shoots emerge for Papua New Guinea’s tourism sector


While Papua New Guinea’s tourism sector is still rebounding from COVID-19, a new strategy for the sector, plus key infrastructure investments, looks set to support future growth.

Papua New Guinea cruises tourism

Now that most parts of the world have lifted COVID-19-related restrictions, the expectation is for cruise tourism to grow. Credit: Coral Expeditions

PNG received over 210,000 visitors in 2019, on the back of several years of steady growth. That momentum was lost during COVID, and the key to it being regained lies in PNG successfully re-engaging with the international market.

PNGTPA Eric Mossman

PNGTPA’s Eric Mossman. Credit: Godfreeman Kaptigau

There’s also the challenge of addressing the social disruption caused by the large job losses in the industry in 2020.

‘We understand the challenge that the sector has faced with COVID, and we understand that there are challenges that we will face coming back,’ Eric Mossman Uvovo, CEO of the PNG Tourism Promotion Authority (TPA), tells Business Advantage PNG. ‘2023 is a year we expect going into full swing, especially promoting and marketing.’

As well as rebranding and launching a new online booking platform in 2023, Uvovo says the TPA is focused on product development – working with industry to create travel products that are easier to promote, sell and deliver. These will be around some of PNG’s most attractive niche tourism offerings: cultural festivals, historical tourism, as well as diving, surfing and birdwatching.

Another initiative, with national airline Air Niugini, has seen the TPA commit K500,000 to subsidise domestic tour packages sold through the airline and promote inbound tourism from Australia.

Cruise ships and Kokoda return

Due to strong pent-up demand, cruise ship visits to PNG are expected to reach or exceed pre-pandemic levels in 2023, after a gradual return in 2022.

Story continues after advertisment...

‘In 2019, we had about 54,000 cruise passengers. From the confirmed calls that the agents have given us, we are expecting about 84,000 cruise passengers this year. That is a significant leap for the cruise tourism industry,’ says Uvovo.

Mindful of the need to increase the economic benefits of cruise visits, Uvovo says the TPA is focused on building more capacity and facilities at key locations such as Rabaul and Milne Bay, helping to train operators and develop more local tourism products.

‘We are also expanding the ports of arrival to include Vanimo and Wewak, and looking at how we can connect flights to complement the arrival of the cruise ships,’ he says.

Kokoda trail tourism

Kokoda Trail sign. Credit: Drew Douglas/Flickr

A long-term staple of PNG’s tourism industry, the iconic Kokoda Trail, has already reopened this year. Around 3500 people normally walk the demanding 96 km track annually.

Improved infrastructure

For those travelling by air, a major upgrade of airports is under way by the National Airports Corporation under the Asian Development Bank-funded Civil Aviation Development Investment Program.

This is seeing major improvements, including runway extensions, terminal upgrades and improved safety facilities.

A new terminal at Kavieng Airport opened in late 2022, while a state-ofthe-art terminal will open in Lae in mid-2023. To follow are upgrades at Gurney (Milne Bay), Kiunga (Western Province), Aropa (Bougainville), Wewak (East Sepik), Hoskins (West New Britain) and Port Moresby’s International Airport.

Longer term, the PNG Government has flagged its desire to create some Tourism Special Economic Zones to encourage investment in the sector, starting with Rabaul in East New Britain. This looks set to see further investment in Tokua Airport and its environs, with investment incentives also likely to be available.

The article ‘Green shoots emerge for the tourism sector’ was first published in the 2023 issue of Business Advantage PNG. Read the emag here.

Leave a Reply