Papua New Guinea embraces global hospitality brands


International hotel chains are finally arriving en masse in Papua New Guinea. Business Advantage PNG takes a closer look at this noteworthy property trend.

The IHG-run Crowne Plaza Residences in downtown Port Moresby. Credit: BAI

When the Hilton Port Moresby opened its doors in early 2018, it felt like the start of a new era in the city’s high-end hotel sector.

At that point, international hotel brands were scarcely present, yet here was a stylish, 212-room five-star Hilton and state-of-the-art convention centre – the first of three stages of the Star Mountain Plaza development in Waigani, financed by local landowner groups under the Mineral Resources Development Company (MRDC).

Since then, the international brands have just kept coming, as local property owners seek to leverage their name recognition, marketing clout and loyalty programs.

The 54-key Crowne Plaza Residences opened in 2019, as part of another new development, Nambawan Plaza, developed by superannuation fund Nambawan Super and Lamana Development. Operated by Intercontinental Hotels Group (IHG), the upscale property on the edge of the CBD (‘Town’) provides both regular hotel rooms and longer-stay accommodation.

‘When large companies like TotalEnergies, ExxonMobil or Santos come into PNG, they look for what they’re familiar with. Many of them have global procurement where they favour specific brands, such as Marriott.’

With 80 per cent of guests currently staying long-term, IHG’s Area General Manager Mauro Leone says that IHG’s loyalty scheme is a big selling point: ‘There is no doubt that part of our success [is] down to our IHG One Rewards. If you look at most people coming into Port Moresby for work, they have to stay somewhere and might as well earn points. Our guests can use their points in over 6,000 hotels globally.’

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New wave

The Grand Papua is now affiliated with the Raddison Individuals brand Credit: BAI

During the last resources boom a decade ago, hotel rooms were scarce, leading to the construction of two large new hotels, the Stanley in Waigani and Coral Sea Hotels’ flagship, the Grand Papua, in Town.

In early 2022, the latter became a Radisson Individuals property, affiliated with the Radisson Hotel Group, one of the world’s largest hotel operators. Radisson Individuals hotels leverage Radisson’s ‘high standard of quality and service,’ as well as its rewards program, while still retaining their own unique characteristics.

Harbourside South, the next project of Coral Sea Hotels’ parent, Steamships, will feature a fully-fledged Marriott-branded property, alongside retail and office space. Marriott Executive Apartments Port Moresby is scheduled to open in July 2023, as part of a K250 million, 21-storey addition to Steamships’ transformative Harbourside precinct.

‘When large companies like TotalEnergies, ExxonMobil or Santos come into PNG, they look for what they’re familiar with. Many of them have global procurement where they favour specific brands, such as Marriott,’ explains Steamships’ Managing Director, Rupert Bray.

Although Steamships plans to completely rebuild its Melanesian Hotel in Lae, which closed in 2016, for now the internationalisation of PNG’s hotel market remains confined to the capital. However, the presence of several global brands in-country surely bodes well for the future development of tourism in the country.

‘The Papua New Guinean customer is becoming much more discerning.’

Meanwhile, Stage 2 of MRDC’s Star Mountain Plaza project is also due to be completed this year, with a second Hilton property, the Hilton Residences, comprising 180 luxury apartments and related facilities.

In one sense, the advent of major hotel brands simply reflects the maturing of the country’s economy.

‘The Papua New Guinean customer is becoming much more discerning’, says Bray. ‘People have more disposable income on the back of PNG LNG. They have had the opportunity to travel internationally for work and for pleasure. So, they’re beginning to enjoy the privileges that come with brand association.’

This story was first published in our annual publication Business Advantage Papua New Guinea 2023. To read the emag click here.

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