The marketing skill that could revolutionise Papua New Guinea’s tourism industry


Papua New Guinea has been growing as a tourism destination, but the number of holiday travellers is still below regional competitors. To address this ‘holiday market gap’, experts say PNG’s tourism sector needs to develop a new skill.

Madang. Credit: PNG Tourism Promotion Authority

In PNG, niche tourism—speciality tourism that focuses on a specific concept or topic such as food tours, sports events, visiting war memorials or wildlife experiences—could give local businesses the opportunity to capitalise on the country’s natural, cultural and historical assets.

But to achieve the results the country needs to become booming niche tourism destination, businesses will need to develop suitable digital marketing skills.  

‘The strategy that we at IFC recommend is for PNG to develop niche market tourism,’ says Jessie McComb, the International Finance Corporation’s (IFC) tourism specialist.

‘The tourism industry will need to put effort into their online marketing and presence to take advantage of these trends’

The study, The Papua New Guinea Tourism Demand Assessment, showed that PNG has the potential to receive over 86,000 high yield niche market tourists contributing US$286 million to the economy by 2027, increasing arrivals by 82 per cent and receipts by 70 per cent from 2018,’ she explains.

‘Tapping into the niche tourism interest of business travellers, such as diving, bird watching and cultural tourism, through short add on tours that are easy to purchase and integrate into a business trip itinerary will help to increase the value of the business traveller market to the PNG economy.’

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The 2018 International Visitors Survey (IVS), undertaken by IFC in partnership with the PNG Tourism Association and the New Zealand Tourism Research Institute, included niche tourism for the first time and found that adventure and cultural tourists ‘were the largest niche markets, bringing in about 20 per cent of all holiday visitors;’ bird watching and scuba diving brought in four per cent and 12 per cent of holiday tourists last year.

But Jerry Agus, CEO of PNG TPA, says that the main focus continues to be on marketing and promotion of PNG.

Better internet, better marketing

PNG has found it difficult to market its tourist attractions on the internet because of high costs and poor download speeds, but the advent of the Coral Sea Cable System may open up new possibilities and challenges.

One of the first challenges will be the need to develop a new skill—digital marketing.

McComb believes that an ‘increased internet presence by local tour operators and hotels will support direct bookings, which will leave more of the tourist spend in the country. However, the tourism industry will need to put effort into their online marketing and presence to take advantage of these trends.’ 

The IFC has also suggested that PNG will need to address critical constraints to achieve growth in the sector. 

‘To realise this growth, the government of PNG and the private sector must make almost US$80 million (K270 million) worth of coordinated investments to address air transport and accommodation capacity, strengthen the regulatory environment, develop and formalise products, improve infrastructure, build capacity and increase marketing.’ 

From business to pleasure

Last year, PNG received over 86,000 air visitors who spent US$205 million (K691.3 million) in the country. But only 25 per cent of those visitors were tourists. The biggest number were business travellers, representing 57 per cent of all visitors. 

Although there was a slight improvement compared with 2017, PNG could try to tap into the niche tourism interest of business travellers to boost tourism in the country.

‘There is real potential for PNG to tap into this growing business market for weekend getaway and add-on tours, as these travellers are familiar with the country.

‘Tapping into the niche tourism interest of business travellers – such as diving, birdwatching and cultural tourism – through short add-on tours that are easy to purchase and integrate into a business trip itinerary will help to increase the value of the business traveller market to the PNG economy,’ McComb says. 

The National Capital District was the most visited province in PNG last year. Credit:

In February 2019, PNG finally became an official destination page on TripAdvisor, the world’s largest travel platform, and a critical source of information for travellers.  

‘Tourists coming from high-yield long haul markets, such as North America and Europe, rely on travel websites such as TripAdvisor to plan the specific details of their trips to PNG,’ explainMcComb. 

‘Hearing from other travellers through review sites inspires travellers to visit destination, get them excited about their trips, and helps them plan the specific details.’ 

Key points

  1. Marketing niche tourism tours to business travellers will help to boost tourism in the country.
  2. An effective Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) will be critical to ensure internet visibility.
  3. Compiling data and applying web-based analytics will enable businesses to strengthen their customer connections over time.

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