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Old 31-01-2002, 10:40 PM
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Why tourism is in doldrums

‘IN PNG' we tend to lose sight of the importance of providing what the consumer wants. We also lose sight that PNG is just one of hundreds of destinations all calling themselves “paradise’’, most of whom have a far more advanced tourism infrastructure than we do in PNG’

OVER the past week much has been said about tourism or rather the lack of tourism.

In an attempt to put the problem into perspective it is important to take into account some of the factors that have brought about a decline in the numbers of tourists visiting PNG.

In real terms, the decline has not just happened over the past 12 months. While in some years, increases have been recorded, there has been a steady decline since before Independence. In 1973 I would estimate that PNG handled in excess of 15,000 genuine holiday tourists, most of whom originated from the USA, Europe, Australia and Japan in this order.

These were tourists who either made PNG a destination visit, or included PNG as a part of a Pacific or Asia tour. Most of these people travelled in a group as opposed to traveling independently.

At this time PNG was served by TAA, Ansett and Qantas all of whom had fairly active sales offices throughout the world. Following the formation of Air Niugini, TAA, Ansett and Qantas stopped actively promoting PNG, this was coupled with a number of other factors including the fuel crisis that deterred people from travelling and not least was the growing perception that PNG was not a safe place to visit.

Since Independence, Air Niugini has been the only stable organisation that has carried the tourism flag, supported by a number of private tour operators. We have had numerous attempts to establish a government tourism office and up until today, these attempts have failed for one reason or another.

In PNG we tend to lose sight of the importance of providing what the consumer wants. We also lose sight that PNG is just one of hundreds of destinations all calling themselves “paradise” most of whom have a far more advanced tourism infrastructure than we do in PNG.

Although a number of companies in PNG have done well to provide some infrastructure, the infrastructure is very small compared to our neighbours. The capacity of hotels in major centres could not cope with one full load of a B747 aircraft.

Until we can increase the number of rooms of an acceptable standard and provide what the consumer wants, including safety of travel, we are unlikely to attract more airlines to serve PNG and tourists to travel in the aircraft.

As a tour operator ourselves, the menu we offer today is vastly different than what we offered 20 years ago. Every time we produce an itinerary, we have to be certain that the areas we include are safe, or we have in place the necessary security to ensure that our clients will not be subjected to any danger.

There are some regions and places in PNG we no longer include.
We have been actively engaged in discussions with the tourism industry to support the concept of tourist police, a concept not unlike tourist police in other developing countries.

My company recognises that we ourselves cannot prevent crime, but through employment of youth, retention of youth in rural areas as well as giving people pride in their culture, we are able to contribute towards a situation which is worsening.

Another factor which has made life more difficult in promoting tourism is the communication revolution that has taken place over the past decade. It is relatively simple for news to be made available instantly anywhere in the world and while this could be used to our advantage we have suffered due to adverse media reporting that has seriously damaged the image of PNG.

In addition to adverse media, we now have to contend with “traveler warnings” or “traveler alerts” produced by various governments who basically tell their citizens where and when they can visit PNG or other destinations.

Any Papua New Guinean who has read these alerts would have been angered by the content. These alerts are efficiently disseminated through the internet, trade magazines and given to their citizens prior to leaving their country.

We spend millions on promoting safe places to visit in PNG, our efforts are sometimes totally nullified when the travel agent or airline provides a copy of the latest warning which in most cases are not accurate.

It should also be noted that companies failing to provide warnings to their citizens after purchasing a holiday or ticket can be held responsible if anything goes wrong.

In Germany, the Government produces a booklet advising consumers how they can sue their agent(s) if the holiday they purchase is not exactly the same as described in the brochure - this makes it very difficult to sell in Papua New Guinea — “Land of the Unexpected”

The industry is fragmented in PNG. We lack the effective direction that could come through a strong government tourist body or industry association. In Fiji following two coups, tourism rebounded because the Government and industry worked together to combat the adverse images.

In PNG most of the efforts are made in isolation without a combined effort. There are many other cases where countries have recognised a problem and get together to minimise damage. Again the TPA was to have established a damage control committee - this in effect has not happened.

In an effort to restore the flow of tourism from the USA, following the Sep 11 terrorist attack, Australia has just announced a K20million TV campaign in the USA to promote Australia as a “safe” place to visit.

This campaign has the full support of the airlines (including Qantas), hoteliers, tour operators where they sell two weeks for under $2000. They also sell NZ and Australia, two countries for the price of one.

It would be nice if Australia (and Qantas) could sell NZ, Australia and PNG, “three countries for the price of one” but of course this is highly unlikely but it would help if occasionally Tourism Australia would mention that PNG can be visited for as little as K599 thus improving their offerings to consumers.

PNG is unique, and this uniqueness or diversity could in fact help them sell Australia.

The problems we have in PNG are no worse than in many other countries who enjoy a thriving tourism industry. We tend to believe ourselves that PNG is too dangerous to attract tourism where instead we should be promoting the areas and regions in PNG that are safe and in doing so encouraging the areas that are unsafe to sort out their problem so they too can enjoy the benefits that come with tourism.

We also lack the commitment to take on challenges, open new markets, new ideas. The PNG Dive Association is one example where the industry has worked together and the result is that diving is one of the segments that has shown an increase in tourism arrivals in PNG.

In 2001 Air Niugini made a decision to operate direct flights from Port Moresby to Sydney in an attempt to win back some of the passengers who travelled on Qantas.

It is a tough decision, but it was a decision and while the initial loadings were low, by December they had doubled and I have no doubt that had the direct flight continued it would have been a very viable route in 2002.

The industry supported the flight and the result was a positive increase in Australians visiting PNG — most importantly, all left PNG totally satisfied and it is through this word of mouth that tourism will increase and dispel the fear that PNG is a dangerous place to visit.

Over the past few years, Air Niugini has been operating charter flights from Osaka (Kansai Airport).

Through a lot of work by the Air Niugini office in Tokyo, supported by management, the TPA and the industry, approval has been given by the Japanese Government to operate scheduled flights between Port Moresby and Tokyo (Narita).

Since the approval was given, PNG has hosted numerous TV shows, many articles have been written exposing the potential of travel in PNG to the Japanese consumer, they have organised cultural exchanges and not least the presentation of a pair of Birds of Paradise which are expected to be presented to a Zoo in Tokyo which will again lift the image of PNG in the eyes of the Japanese.

In 2001 Japan was the only country that increased the number of tourists to PNG. Around 3000 Japanese visited PNG. In 2002 with the new scheduled flight from Narita it is expected that this number will increase by 67% in the first year of operation and judging by the support of major tour operators in Japan this target does not only appear possible, but it is possible it could be exceeded.

It would not have been possible to anticipate the increase of tourism from Japan without Air Niugini, our national carrier. It is not something we can expect from a carrier that is not Papua New Guinean. Qantas has had the opportunity to develop tourism but has chosen not to do so. They are keen to service the route, but do very little to encourage traffic to PNG.

It is for this reason alone, that PNG people, including residents, support Air Niugini wherever possible. Perhaps ultimately Qantas and other airlines will share the burden and associated costs of developing the tremendous tourism potential PNG has to offer.


To be Continued
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Old 31-01-2002, 10:45 PM
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Continued

Following the War on Terrorism, the number of tourists travelling by air has dramatically decreased. Many people in the USA and Europe have chosen to take their holidays in their own countries or destinations that are known to be safe.

Relatively speaking, PNG is safe and we have lost a good chance of promoting PNG because we are not really switched on to tourism or have the ability to market effectively. It is obvious that with the low value of the kina we could have taken advantage of the situation and attracted more tourists.

Tourism will not happen because a government or minister wants it to happen. We have to make it happen.

The budget for the TPA is reasonable given the current economic situation, what we need to do is spend it more wisely, work together with Air Niugini (and other airlines), the industry both in PNG and in countries that produce tourism.

We need to dilute the severity of the travelers alerts and begin to attract good responsible journalists, film units and photographers to make the public more aware of what PNG has to offer and work on ways to address the crime situation within the industry.

There are a number of events that will take place this year where PNG will attend to promote the country. They include the ITB in Berlin, DEMA where divers meet from around the world, PATA Travel Marts.

We can also expect a visit by “Getabout Holiday” who intend to make a program on PNG in the near future. It is encouraging to also learn that dialogue is taking place to overcome some of the problems that occur with migration and customs at Jacksons Airport.

In order to continue promoting, we need development and it is sad that tourism development in PNG is not taking place. We need more hotels, more facilities more safe areas that can be opened up for tourism.

As I said earlier, the menu we offer today is less than what was available a few years ago. We also need a theme and a marketing strategy to improve our tarnished image along with some incentives to attract domestic and international investment in the tourism industry.

We need to support institutions like the Divine Word University who have started formal diploma courses in tourism and hospitality. Through education we can begin to realise our potential and fully involve Papua New Guineans in the development of tourism, keeping in mind that tourism is one of the few renewable resources PNG has to offer.

Sir Peter Barter is chairman of the Tourism Promotion Authority board

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Old 27-10-2016, 10:32 PM
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These points are very valid and having ideas the way it would work is quite an important thing for the majors we experience.
For me taking care of all the points helps and brings betterment.
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