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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (April 24, 1999 - Post-Courier)---Air Niugini is heading back to Japan, with charter flights to start in August.

Public Enterprises and Communications Minister Dr. Fabian Pok announced the move yesterday, signaling his desire that the Tourism Promotion Authority should take the lead in promoting PNG as a tourism destination.

Previous charters by Air Niugini were successful revenue raisers and brought 9,000 Japanese tourists to PNG, he said.

The minister said an air link between the two countries was in line with the government’s policy to encourage commence, trade, investment and other areas of cooperation between PNG and Asia-Pacific countries.

Air Niugini began operating scheduled services to Osaka in July 1997, after the signing of an Air Niugini agreement between the two governments in March 1997. However, with the general world recession, the Asian financial crisis last year and the downturn in PNG’s economy, Air Niugini was forced to suspend this route a year later, Dr. Pok said.

The Government recognizes Japan’s importance as the second biggest trading partner with Papua New Guinea. The resumption of air services will promote bilateral trade opportunities and give PNG direct access to Japan’s lucrative tourism market, he said.

"Japan is the single largest market source for outbound tourists in the world and it has a tremendous potential to be a sustainable market for this country’s developing tourism industry and generate an increase in Papua New Guinea’s foreign exchange earnings," the minister said.

"This country can be offered as an attractive tourist destination. However, our products must be price driven on the world market to lure the tourists to PNG."

Minister Pok said the tourism industry should review its capacity to professionally handle such markets because of the selective nature of the Japanese people.

It would require a tremendous effort by all parties to work together to capture and maintain a small percentage of the Japanese market, he said.

The existing infrastructure needs improvement and to be further developed to meet the expectations of Japanese tourists, the minister stressed.

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