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Kinjap_Peter
Peter Kinjap

PETER S KINJAP

PORT MORESBY - At the official opening of the Goroka Cultural Show last year, Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister Emil Tammur told showgoers that Papua New Guinea’s major cultural events countrywide will now be funded directly from the national budget.

He said a policy submission to fund major cultural events “will be out in parliament soon for debate and endorsement.”

The events and festivals include Goroka, Mt Hagen, Jiwaka, Enga, Kutubu Kundu and Digaso, Morobe, Madang, KarKar Island, Kokopo, Sepik, Hiri Moale, Rabaul, Kenu and Alotau.

These festivals are increasingly recognised in PNG for their contribution to the growth of communities,. They revitalise the communication and celebration of indigenous culture, tradition and rituals.

Additionally, indigenous cultural festivals are often used as a drawcard to attract tourists and contribute to the development of the country.

Local communities and the PNG government know that these festivals also facilitate the development of the country’s emerging tourism and event industry.

Tourism has had little influence on the festivals, which are a relatively unspoiled resource. However, as tourism gains momentum, a key issue will be the extent to which it adopts the principles of sustainability.

The safety of visitors is not the only issue associated with tourism. There are poor and unreliable support services like police and ambulance, various health risks, limited resources and infrastructure to support the cultural events, unreliable access to technology such as internet and expensive domestic travel costs.

Australia’s official Smart Traveller website repeatedly mentions of the need to exercise caution while travelling in PNG, to maintain awareness of personal safety and to continuously monitor local media for warnings on new safety and security risks.

In general, tourism development in PNG has failed to keep pace with the rest of the world. In the South Pacific, tourism represents a avenue for small island nations to increase their economic base, expand foreign exchange earnings and enhance standards of living for their people.

PNGs’ share of the South Pacific regional market is tiny at only 5% of total arrivals and less than 2% of the holiday market. This indicates the low level of development compared to neighbouring countries. It also indicates the importance of the business market to PNG.

This can be attributed to a lack of support for the tourism industry by the PNG government over the years. For example, the Mt Hagen Cultural Show has limited accommodation facilities that are booked out in advance so additional visitors arriving at the festival cannot find accommodation.

Peter Kinjap is a freelance journalist, email pekinjap@gmail.com

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