Tourism is on the rise in Papua New Guinea

Welcome,

More holiday visitors are starting to come to Papua New Guinea. Credit: David Kirkland

Papua New Guinea might be ‘under-touristed’, but if numbers continue to increase it won’t be that way for long, and that’s great news for the economy. Lisa Smyth reports.

In 2017, 82 million tourists visited Spain, even though the country only has a population of 47 million. In the same year, a whopping 2.22 million people visited the island nation of Iceland, when the country’s population is only 338,000. There’s no denying that in some parts of the world ‘over-tourism’ is wreaking havoc and negatively impacting people’s way of life.

In May this year, Intrepid Travel released its 2019 Adventure Travel Index and PNG topped its list of most ‘under-touristed’ countries, with a tourism density ratio of only 2.75 per cent. This means that in 2017, PNG had fewer than three visitors for every 100 people of its population. PNG’s vast natural, cultural and historical resources need to be protected, but this ranking shows that, if this is done responsibly, PNG’s tourism sector has a lot  of opportunity for positive growth.

‘We are really looking to showcase the incredible breadth of experiences in PNG,’ explains Holly Marshall, account manager at Example, the Australian public relations agency that the PNG Tourism Authority recently appointed to market the country to Australian and New Zealand holidaymakers.

‘Australians spend thousands of dollars every year to find unique experiences on the other side of the world. They just don’t know that incredible culture and amazing scenery unlike anything they could imagine is actually right on their doorstep,’ says Marshall. ‘We plan on changing that.’

‘We will be looking to highlight the offerings in all provinces across a range of pillars–adventure, history, culture, and niche areas like diving and bird watching.’

Time to grow

Visitor figures for 2018 released by the International Finance Corporation (IFC) reveal that focusing on PNG’s closest neighbours to boost tourism makes a lot of sense–53 per cent of all holiday visitors were from Australia, with just under half having been to PNG at least once before and almost 20 per cent having been five or more times.

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‘We have a varied target market, but Australian empty-nesters have a lot of extra income and are keen to experience their own types of adventures now that they no longer have to take care of their children,’ notes Marshall. ‘We will be looking to highlight the offerings in all provinces across a range of pillars–adventure, history, culture, and niche areas like diving and bird watching.’

In fact, adventure and cultural tourists were the largest niche markets in 2018, both bringing in about 20 per cent of all holiday visitors. While bird watching accounted for only four per cent of all holiday visitors, their average spend was $US7392, compared to adventure tourists spending $US1603, making birdwatchers an important market for cultivation.

Despite being ‘under-touristed’, PNG had a bumper year in 2018: 95,000 visitors arrived in PNG last year, a 9.5 per cent increase from 2017. Collectively, they spent $US206 million.

‘Best of all, once holiday visitors make their way to PNG, they act as great ambassadors for the country and are overwhelmingly positive about their experience.’

Even more encouragingly, the share of holiday visitors rose seven percentage points, from 26 per cent of total visitors in 2017 to 33 per cent in 2018. Business visitors made up 50 per cent of all visitors, and those visiting friends and family constituted the remaining 17 per cent.

This indicates that PNG is starting to close its holiday market gap and is coming closer to the global average holiday market of 53 per cent of total visitors. Holiday visitors spent an average of $US2500 per person per trip, 15 per cent more than business travellers, making increasing their numbers a priority.

Outside of Port Moresby, Central Province, Morobe and Oro (Northern) Province received the most visitors. There was a 25 per cent rise in the number of visitors to Milne Bay and a 17 per cent increase in visitors to East New Britain, suggesting both coastal provinces are perfectly positioned for future growth.

Best of all, once holiday visitors make their way to PNG, they act as great ambassadors for the country and are overwhelmingly positive about their experience.

This story was first published in the September-October edition of Paradise, the in-flight magazine of Air Niugini.

Comments

  1. Benny Leo says

    Very encouraging for tourism in Papua New Guinea.. Its a challenge for us up in the Highlands to develop new tourism products and tap into this looming tourism business

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