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By Alphonse Bariasi

LAE, Papua New Guinea (September 2, 1998 - The National)---Coastal and islands villagers of Morobe province will soon get used to a regular visitor to their shores - a tourist vessel that resembles a mini floating hotel.

She is the latest initiative in the growing tourism business in the province.

The live-aboard tourist vessel, MV Heduru, is owned and operated by long-time Lae resident, Ross Bishop, who launched its operation recently.

The Heduru was formerly a mobile hospital that patrolled the waters of Milne Bay some years back, delivering basic and specialist health services to the province's remote island communities.

The floating hospital was decommissioned after years of operation, and Mr. Bishop, a qualified and experienced engineer and boat builder, bought it with the "floating hotel" idea in mind.

Following wholesale refitting and refurbishing, the vessel can now carry 12 passengers in six fully fitted cabins.

The Heduru provides something that is unique - a relaxed trip to some tranquil islands and coastal villages in the province.

The vessel will travel the coast of Morobe to as far as the border with Northern province, the islands and the Finschhafen coast.

The initiative is part of the Tourism Promotion Authority's "Paradise Live" campaign to open up more areas of the country to tourism.

After many years in Morobe, Mr. Bishop says he is going into tourism with a difference - to work in close consultation with communities and resource owners for the long-term benefit of all.

During the Queen's Birthday weekend, the Heduru sailed into the Morobe coast where crew and owner spoke to villagers about planned tourism activities.

The second of such familiarization tours was to the Sialum, Wasu, Tamigidu and Tami island villagers.

On those visits Mr. Ross, with the assistance of provincial tourism office Joe Kewere, explained to the people that Heduru would be operated closely with the communities.

On Tami island for instance, villagers welcomed the company's approach.

The island's arts, especially its carvings, and the beautiful coral reefs, were obvious attractions that could also bring some economic development, according to the tourism officer.

For additional reports from The National, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/The National (Papua New Guinea).

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