OXFORD BUSINESS GROUP
PAPUA NEW GUINEA’s tourism industry faces another tough year after being passed over for funding in PNG’s record K13 billion budget last November. However, the 2015 Pacific Games may give the sector a boost.
The Tourism Promotion Authority’s (TPA) request of K10 million in the budget for an international media campaign was an attempt to elevate the country’s profile across international markets.
The rebuttal was a blow to the sector and to the TPA, which has campaigned for greater government commitment.
While the government’s focus on developing core services, including education, health and infrastructure, is clearly of prime importance, PNG’s tourism sector has pointed to the industry’s potential.
Although the sector posted 12.8% growth in 2011, attracting over 165,000 tourists, it has yet to overcome severe transport constraints.
Moreover, ongoing disputes between the sector and the Office of Tourism, Arts and Culture (OTAC), has made the situation more difficult.
However, 2015 may prove to be the catalyst for change. In hosting the Pacific Games in Port Moresby, PNG is determined to showcase its progress in the 40 years since independence from Australia in 1975.
PNG has already billed the Games as “the best ever”, and at the beginning of 2013 it launched an extensive program of renovation and development worth K77 million.
Although the Games will be held in Port Moresby, it is an opportunity to showcase all 22 provinces. The organising committee will incorporate attractions from around the country into the design of the event.
Hosting the Games will provide a significant boost to PNG’s local economy, which has already begun to benefit from the construction of the $19 billion, Exxon-Mobil-led PNG liquefied natural gas project.
The facilities being developed will also give PNG an edge in competing for future sporting events. It will provide an important platform for sports tourism and the sector as a whole.
The hospitality and meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions segments may also benefit once the construction work on a 9,700 square metre International Convention Centre, adjacent to Parliament House and the National Museum, is completed in 2015.
However, with PNG’s poor reputation for maintenance of its facilities well established, the country cannot afford to miss its goals, nor fail to meet expectations in 2015.
While the Games may be the catalyst for bolstering PNG’s tourism sector, there is much work to be done to ensure that not only are they a success but that the country’s international profile receives a much-needed makeover.