FACTORS like natural resources, location, size, topography, demography and climate have a huge impact on the international political behaviour states.
Such things cause countries to issue travel warnings, enforce sanctions, spy on each other, engage in various activities to safeguard their citizens and even go to war.
These factors also have an impact on international tourism. Some tourists are attracted to a particular place because of its topography, climate or location. They want to enjoy white sandy beaches and warm sunshine. Others seek exotic destinations.
At the moment few tourists will go to West Africa. Governments throughout the world have issued travel warnings and bans to avoid the possibility of a global ebola pandemic.
Tourists are also advised not to travel to countries like Iraq, Syria and Israel because of current conflicts.
This prompts one to question the implications of the so-called ‘PNG Solution’ on our tourism industry. The arrangement to send asylum seekers to Manus continues to attract a lot of international media coverage. This can play a major role in influencing potential tourists whether to come or to stay away.
If the coverage is positive, describing PNG’s keen interest in addressing the international issue and its suitability to house asylum seekers, it might help increase the flow of tourists.
If the coverage is negative, highlighting how manipulative Australia is and the inability of the PNG government to manage the wealth of the country, then it might deter potential tourists.
According to the PNG Vision 2050 strategic plan, the increase in the number of tourists will be an indicator that security agencies like the National Intelligence Organisation, Royal PNG Constabulary, Department of Defence and Customs have played their part in ensuring that PNG is a safe and peaceful society.
Tourists are classed into various categories based on their motive for travelling. Those who travel to PNG for topographic reasons (mountaineering, trekking, scuba diving) are important to the economy.
Mountaineers will travel to PNG to climb its mountains if the tourist products are attractively packaged. The same can be said for fishing aficionados, our seas and the many rivers are well stocked.
High mountains and deep gorges mean fast flowing rapids suitable for kayakers. Surfers, cavers and bird watchers will travel to remote places to experience something new.
There is a need to register all terrestrial and marine resources as outlined in the strategic plan. Clans or individuals who own land with potential for tourism can register their groups and start marketing.
Our rugged terrain has made it difficult to build roads to connect population centres on the main island and the popularity of air transport is reflected in high fares. The national carrier, Air Niugini, has for years made much money for the government.
Tourists may be susceptible to acts of violence. They can become victims of petty crimes like pickpocketing and bag snatching. But the perpetrators, who are mostly unemployed youths, have adopted another tactic that is more dangerous.
They creep up behind an unsuspecting tourist and grab their belongings. If the tourists try to struggle they will be stabbed with a knife or sharpened screwdriver.
A tourist on a European cruise ship was the victim of such an attack a few months ago. He was taking pictures at the makeshift Madang market at Sir Donald Cleland Park when out of nowhere a youth who was high on drugs came from behind and grabbed his camera. In his attempt to pull back the camera the tourist got stabbed with a sharpened screwdriver.
The use of the PNG Solution as a deterrence strategy has worked well for Australia because of the decrease in the number of asylum seekers. But this picture is not good for tourism in PNG; it brings to mind a somewhat negative image of PNG.
This is echoed in Australian television advertisements about asylum seekers. The way it is communicated gives one the impression that PNG is a little hellhole in the Pacific that can easily be manipulated by a more powerful Australia.
The take home message that one gets is this: If you decide to come to Australia via the various people smuggling syndicates you will be shipped to this hellhole where life will be difficult and your dreams of living in Australia will fade as you find yourself stuck on a godforsaken island.
The Tourism Promotion Authority is spending a great deal of money marketing PNG as a very attractive destination but the PNG Solution is detrimental to their campaigns.
The brutal death of the late Reza Berati has had a negative impact on the perception of potential tourists. On the other hand, Australia has placed PNG on the world map with the wide dissemination of information about the PNG Solution. The media coverage is giving this once unknown country global prominence.
PNG is seen as a vital partner who is willing and able to help address this global phenomenon.
Freedom of press means that the information shared with the international audience about the PNG Solution is both positive and negative. This will either entice or push away potential tourists.
At the moment the impact of the PNG Solution on the plans of potential tourists is unknown.