Steamships managing director looks to growth opportunities


One of Papua New Guinea’s oldest and largest companies, Steamships Trading Company Ltd, is focusing on expanding its hotel and property interests this year, according to Managing Director, Michael Scantlebury. He tells Business Advantage PNG that an uplift in PNG’s economic outlook is providing fresh investment impetus.

The Cassowary Hotel in Kiunga, the latest addition to Steamships’ Coral Sea Hotels chain. Credit: Rocky Roe

Steamships’s hotel division, Coral Sea Hotels, is continuing its pipeline of hotel investments in 2019.

This year, a new conference centre at the group’s Highlander Hotel in Mount Hagen will be opened, which will complement the recently completed upgrade of hotel rooms, bar and restaurant.

Coral Sea Hotels also opened its latest hotel addition—the Cassowary Hotel in Kiunga, in the Western Province of PNG—in February 2018.

This hotel, which has a modern restaurant and an Enzo’s pizza outlet, brings a badly needed new hospitality offering to Kiunga and is designed to support upcoming resource developments in Western Province.

Steamships’ Michael Scantlebury Credit: BAI

Lae taking off

Steamships is targeting further expansion of its hotel division in the second half of 2019, says Scantlebury. The company is planning a new hotel in Lae, at the former site of the Melanesian Hotel, which was demolished in 2016.

‘It will certainly be the best hotel in Lae when complete,’ he says.

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‘We hope this is the start of a good, sustained growth period for the whole of Papua New Guinea.’

Lae is already beginning a period of revitalisation, says Scantlebury.

He believes the city’s cleaner streets, its new buildings (such as the Central Bank Building), the redevelopment of the Highlands Highway and the upgrade of Nadzab airport are all signs of a clear intent from local and national government to improve the city.

The multi-billion Wafi-Golpu mining project in the Morobe Province is already starting to add further impetus to city’s development.

Scantlebury says the company is still to determine the exact numbers of rooms for the Melanesian’s replacement, and he is cautious about not over-saturating the hotel market in Lae.

‘We’re expecting a stronger finish to the year and hope this will be the start of a good, sustained growth period for the whole of Papua New Guinea.’

He notes that increased competition in Port Moresby from rival hotel chains the Hilton and Stanley, despite low demand, has been ‘challenging’.

Inside the Cassowary Hotel suites. Credit: Rocky Roe

Property developments

This year will also see the commencement of construction of the next phase of subsidiary Pacific Palms Property’s iconic Harbourside development in downtown Port Moresby.

‘With the commencement of this new phase, the Harbourside precinct will combine the best offering of residential, commercial, retail and restaurant space in the city, all in one destination,’ says Scantlebury.

He says last year was sluggish for the private sector, with growth in PNG’s economy continuing to be only modest.

Last year was, however, capped off with the APEC meetings in November 2018 and there are hopes that this event will lead to modest increases in international investments this year.

‘I think we expect the first half of 2019 to be a bit of a continuation of last year, but we’re expecting a stronger finish to the year and hope this will be the start of a good, sustained growth period for the whole of Papua New Guinea’.

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