The hosting of the APEC Summit in Port Moresby in 2018 has sparked a flurry of investment in tourism infrastructure. It promises to kick start Papua New Guinea’s tourism industry as the nation’s capital gets more hotel rooms, airports are upgraded and a new tourism minister takes the helm.
The Summit will attract thousands of visitors in November 2018, including leaders from 21 APEC countries. Among them will be presidents and prime ministers from the United States, Russia, China, Japan, Australia and Indonesia.
PNG’s Prime Minister, Peter O’Neill, has said the summit represents a ‘coming of age’ for PNG on the international stage.
It also represents a coming of age for Port Moresby, in terms of hotel capacity.
It has long been the view that the city has a shortage of rooms, a view endorsed by the PNG APEC 2018 Coordination Authority, which quickly identified the shortage of rooms as a key challenge.
High room costs, particularly during the PNG LNG project construction boom, have also been viewed as a problem.
Well, there is good news.
There has been a flurry of hotel investment and development in Port Moresby since the announcement that APEC is coming to town.
Forthcoming openings include RH Group’s 433-room Stanley Hotel and PNG’s first Hilton Hotel, both in the Waigani district of the capital. Last year saw the opening of the Holiday Inn Express budget hotel, while other hotels in the capital, such as the Gateway and Airways, have expanded or renovated.
On the outskirts of Port Moresby, the Loloata Dive Resort is undergoing a total rebuild and, when finished, will provide the first serious resort experience close to the capital.
Whether arriving by sea, or air, things are improving for the 200,000 visitors who come the country each year.
Then there’s the giant Paga Hill Estate, a harbourside development that will not only provide Port Moresby with increased street appeal; it is also a modern precinct with a promised six-star luxury hotel, apartments, restaurants, a marina and an international cruise-liner terminal.
Cruising continues to be a high point in the country’s tourism sector, with more and more ships pointing their bows to PNG.
The cruise boom to PNG really picked up in 2013, when the giant shipping company P&O made its inaugural visit with Pacific Dawn.
Other shipping companies—Princess, the Holland-America Line and Silversea among them—have followed in the wake of Pacific Dawn, while P&O has increased its PNG visits from five in 2015 to 13 in 2016.
‘Kokoda remains a major tourist attraction for the country along with activities such as diving, surfing, bird watching and game fishing.’
But whether arriving by sea or air, things are improving for the 200,000 visitors who come the country each year.
The airport, additionally, has a new retail section with luxury brands, duty free and locally made handicrafts available.
Port Moresby’s Airport has also undergone a transformation, with the arrivals and departures areas receiving major upgrades.
Air Niugini’s chairman, Sir Frederick Reiher, says the National Government has taken a visionary approach in the redevelopment and upgrading of the airport.
‘The impressive redevelopment of Jacksons Airport is making passenger movement much more customer-friendly. The upgrading of domestic airports will also benefit our operations and enable us to expand services as demand grows,’ he tells Business Advantage PNG.
Kokoda remains a major tourist attraction for the country, along with activities such as diving, surfing, bird watching and game fishing—as well as a clutch of excellent lodges and resorts in jungle, coastal and mountain settings. PNG’s rich and colourful calendar of cultural events is also winning over visitors. The calendar includes the Goroka Show, the Mount Hagen Show, the Crocodile Festival and the Kenu and Kundu Festival.
Meanwhile, PNG’s new Minister for Tourism, Arts and Culture is Tobias Kulang. He was appointed in mid-April to replace Justin Tkatchenko.
Tkatchenko only took up the post in January, bringing with him a PGK50 million tourism budget. ‘My appointment is a huge challenge as tourism is our sleeping giant that only needs the right leadership and direction to take it forward,’ he told PNG media at the time.
Kulang’s appointment has been welcomed and comes after a government reshuffle that has seen Tkatchenko appointed as the APEC Minister for PNG in the lead up to the 2018 summit.
In another positive tourism development, a relaxation of tourist visa rules for Australians is on the cards later this year.
It is likely that visas will be available on arrival when Air Niugini starts direct services into special tourist zones such as Gurney-Alotau.