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Old 12-11-2002, 11:29 AM
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Reply from Steven Mago

Dear Malum,

I further endorse the earlier comments by Benny Popoitai and Meg Taylor.

There are many issues that we need to address right across the board but I will touch on the immediate few that come to mind.

The airport is the first point of contact for the arriving visitor and his/her
first impressions of the country, and its people and tourism service culture are formed there and then. So the people at the airport should be among the first people to be educated about little things like putting on a smile and saying hello. In all my exists past the immigration and customs counters at the international terminal, no one has ever said hello to me (not that I need it because I don't). Imagine how many other people out there who don't feel welcome when they arrive, especially the foreign tourists. Most officers are poorly dressed with clothes unpressed, some with buai still in their mouths, stained clothes and there is no sense of urgency.

They take their time as if they are ina funeral cortege. Someone
should remind them, "time is money".

Going one step back, I remember a time at Air Niugini when the flight
crew would bend over backwards to serve you, both on domestic and
international flights. There were many fine examples like Helen Mesulam, Nasain Puipui and Cathy Hiob who have moved on to other pastures.

They had personality and their presence on flights made your flight all
worthwhile because you felt you were being truly cared for. Today, most
have lost that personal touch and you wonder from their faces whether
they've had a bad previous flight or are not enjoying their job.

The job of tourism promotion does not only belong to the TPA and tourism operators. We are all ambassadors and we are all in a position to make a difference, doesn't matter who we are and where we are. We should all be promotiong our country because essentially, tourism affescts us all in one way or another. Also, we are all tourism promoters and tourism promoters are in essence, information officers and their job is to inform, persuade and remind prospective tourists and other visitors about a country and its tourism products.

Weighing eveything up, I personally believe that there is no more greater challenge in PNG tourism development than education and awareness for our local people because tourism really belongs to them. After all, they own the resopurces and should educated and made aware to a level whether they have a basic understanding of what is involved and what their individual and communal roles are.

Of particular interest to me are the rural host communities who are the
tourism resource owners. It is unfair to expect a lot from our people in
villages when they don't even understand what tourism is all about. The
industry should simultaneously be educated and trained to improve and
enhance its skill base to polish their customers better and improve their
attitude towards tourists.

At the same time, the travel trade in the source markets and the
consumer markets need that continuity of access to destinational and
tourism product information to be able to sell our country. Some travel
agents overseas that I have spoken to tell me they don't offer and sell
PNG to their tourists because they do not have much information about
the destination. And I can understand - If I was a travel agent, I wouldn't send a client to a place that I didn't know much about.

This is why it's important for the government to support the TPA with the
level of budgetary assistance it needs so that they can go to many more
travel shows, have more famil visits for travel agents and wholesalers and media visits.

It's not enough to attend a show one year and not attend the next year
because of budget constraints. To be effective in our promotion, we have to consistently be present and be seen in the marketplace because there are more aggressive competiting destinations out there wanting a slice of the same tourism dollar.

And with PNG's tarnished image overseas and the lack of general
knowledge about where we are on the world map, there is a huge PR
exercise out there and we have a lot of work to do.

Thank you.

Steven Mago
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