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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (May 2, 2000 - The National)---The Tourism Promotion Authority is extending its proactive program to Bougainville for the first time since its inception in 1993.

TPA's presence there is another positive step forward in the government's ongoing efforts in restoring basic infrastructure services and programs on the island.

Two senior TPA staff will visit Buka to run an awareness workshop on tourism and hospitality skills training for industry members there.

Planning and Development Manager Steven Mago and TPA's New Guinea Islands Regional Manager Joseph Soiat will be in Buka this week to conduct an awareness workshop on the importance of tourism as an industry, its benefits, impacts and how each member fits into the tourism cycle and service delivery.

The industry skills training will be held for the operators and staff of guest houses and other service industries, officers from key government departments, agencies, NGOs and interested groups in Buka.

An invitation will also be extended to individuals and representatives from Central and South Bougainville.

The staff will also inspect tourism facilities and projects operating on Bougainville.

Acting chief executive Gard Renson said the move to include Bougainville in TPA's training programs is in line with an overall effort to achieve industry quality and standards, as well as supporting the Government's reform program on the island.

He said, "Before the crisis, Bougainville was one of the most peaceful and beautiful islands in PNG and was a popular tourist destination, especially for our American and Japanese tourists. Like Rabaul, Lae and Wewak, many Americans and Japanese have an emotional attachment to Bougainville because of the war.

"Bougainville is rich in culture and history and has many interesting natural assets and tourist attractions. We have to get into Bougainville and start with training programs to be comfortable that we have a skilled and knowledgeable tourism workforce," said Mr. Renson.

He said that Bougainville was also an important strategic location and at one stage had an international airport facility at Aropa in Kieta, which was used as the gateway to the Solomon Islands and other island nations in the southwest Pacific.

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

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