Upturn forecast in Papua New Guinea domestic tourism


The Australia/New Zealand representative for PNG’s Tourism Promotion Authority predicts strong growth in domestic tourism, anticipating a drop in travel costs and increased marketing of PNG’s natural scenic spots. Sonja Heydeman reports.

Madang Resort

Madang Resort

‘As the construction phase of the ExxonMobil-led PNG LNG project comes to an end and demand for hotel rooms decreases, particularly in Port Moresby, we believe the cost of domestic flights should drop, making travel more attractive for business travellers and expats,’ says Stuart Thompson, the TPA’s Sydney-based Sales and Marketing Manager.

‘The biggest hurdle for us is educating these visitors that PNG extends far beyond Port Moresby.

‘There are beautiful coastal and jungle locations with incredible culture that are only an hour or so flight from the capital,’ says Thompson.

Leveraging Kokoda

The authority’s long-term planning focusses on building on the Kokoda brand name, as a launching pad to boost travel to coastal areas. Value-adding around Kokoda will involve establishing pre- and post-Kokoda tours to other areas such as Kavieng, he says.

Shorter-term development goals include the expansion of coastal cruising, which is tipped to raise visitor numbers to levels not seen before, and the building of better infrastructure and organisation in port towns, making shorter weekend trips an easier option.

‘In the past couple of years we’ve seen an increase in business travellers’

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The TPA cites the appeal of Trans Niugini Tours, which operates resorts around PNG.

Feedback from operators

In the absence of official figures detailing the current level of domestic business travel within PNG, Thompson says resort owners regularly provide feedback on where executives are heading.

Thompson says trends indicate expats are travelling to the Tufi dive resort – just a quick flight from Port Moresby; Loloata Island Resort (a short ferry ride from the capital), Kokopo Beach Bungalows near Rabaul in East New Britain Province, and Lissenung Island Resort in Kavieng, New Ireland Province.

Tourism operators say expats also want specialised activities, such as diving, hiking, bird watching or fishing.

Thompson says he’s also advised many expats to seek cultural attractions near Ambua Lodge in the Southern Highlands or even to wrestle barramundi at Bensbach Wildlife Lodge in Western Province. Others, with more time, he advises, could take in Karawari Lodge in East Sepik Province.

Cheyne Benjamin, General Manager of Walindi Plantation Resort on the shores of New Britain Island’s Kimbe Bay, says expat businessman from Moresby and Lae  want to venture to some of the most healthy and bio-diverse coral reefs in the world.

‘In the past couple of years we’ve seen an increase in business travellers,’ he told Business Advantage PNG.

Recognising the value of the market, he says he is now looking to strategically develop facilities to meet specific corporate demand.

Forward bookings

Rapopo Resort

Rapopo Plantation Resort in East New Britain

Rapopo Plantation Resort, located on the Gazelle Peninsula in East New Britain Province, draws clientele from the corporate and government sectors, plus tourists.

Most guests stay two or three days, enchanted by the exquisite location, diving and deep-sea game fishing. History buffs aren’t disappointed either, as the resort’s located on a site that was once a Japanese fighter airstrip, and numerous underwater relics dot the coastline.

General Manager of Rapopo, Brian Martin, believes that while the past few years have seen a slow down, the second half of the year looks promising with improved forward bookings and conferences.

Tourism veteran Melanesian Tourist Services (MTS) runs the Madang Resort in Madang – the oldest hotel on the mainland – and Kalibobo Village, an adjacent property.

Both properties are set on prime water frontage and are designed for both the tourist and conference market. Visitors are met with a vast array of recreational water activities, beautiful art and carving crafted using traditional methods, indigenous wildlife, and more adventurous guests can even try a helicopter safari.

MTS Managing Director Sir Peter Barter laments a drop in tourists coming to PNG over recent years but is predicting an upturn in occupancy rates, in line with the development of Madang’s economy and continual improvement of the resort’s facilities and services.

‘The long-term future is very bright,’ he says.

Sonja Heydeman is a freelance journalist with interest in the Asia Pacific region.