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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (March 2, 1999 - The National)---Cruise ships are set to bring in an estimated 3,000 tourists to PNG in the first three months of this year, the Tourism Promotion Authority (TPA) says.

TPA chief executive Kevin Byrne predicted yesterday that by the end of 1999, an estimated 10,000 visitors would have passed through Papua New Guinean ports aboard holiday cruise liners.

This year, the schedule for cruise ships arriving in Papua New Guinea is well spread out, targeting some of the country's most spectacular tourism ports, Mr. Byrne said.

The first of these cruise ships, MV Deutchsland, arrived in Port Moresby on February 9 from Townsville, Australia carrying 620 passengers.

The MV Vistamar arrived in Port Moresby shortly after, carrying 300 passengers from Cooktown, Australia.

During the same period, MV Europe visited Rabaul and Madang, accounting for 1,000 passengers.

"This year's schedule indicates cruise ships arriving at some of PNG's top tourist spots, such as Samarai, Alotau, Kiriwina, Lae, Madang, Rabaul, Kimbe and Kavieng," said Mr. Byrne.

"The number of cruise ships arriving PNG ports per year will also increase from 15 last year to 18 this year. These ports are strategic tourist spots and are a good showcase of what tourism can offer in Papua New Guinea."

Mr. Byrne said that last year tourists from cruise ships accounted for a quarter of all of tourist arrivals, which was almost 7,000.

By the end of this year, an estimated 10,000 tourists are expected to visit PNG ports and sample our hospitality.

"Upon their return, word of mouth is the best method of advertising this country and as such we must be creative when hosting them here," said Mr. Byrne.

In March, Kiriwina, Madang and Samarai will receive tourists.

Cruise operators conducting cruises to PNG ports include Peter Delmann, Barwil Agencies, Hapag Loyd, Crystal Cruises, Super Nova, Silver Sea, Saga and cruise shipping giant P&O Holidays.

Nationwide, Madang is expecting 4 visits, Port Moresby 6 visits, Rabaul 4, Kiriwina 1, Samarai 6, Kimbe 2 and Kavieng 1. There are also a couple of specialized operators such as dive vessels, which will be visiting Milne Bay specifically for dive expeditions.

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

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