PNG Post-Courier

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (Jan. 15) - Our country, Land of the Unexpected and a tropical paradise!

Our shores have been welcoming to visitors from other places for a long time.

Now we find ourselves in a situation where there is one group of visitors who are deciding not to drop in. These are tourists. On the other hand, there is another category of visitor which is seemingly booming. That is the category of unwanted, illegal immigrants.

Yesterday, we had it confirmed from the new Foreign Affairs and Immigration Minister Sam Abal what the rest of the people had suspected and known: That many foreigners are walking into Papua New Guinea without the required approval of our government!

It is to Mr. Abal’s credit that he is admitting the situation. With tourists, our figures have never been something to exult about. Our government tourism officials have always been sensitive about our failure to attract tourists and point to exceedingly modest increases from time to time.

But coming from such a small base as we have, to have any reductions is a dismal confession.

Now the head of the Tourism Authority and a major private industry operator are tipping that tourism will fall because of the higher costs of fuel.

So, the "good guys’’ are less likely to visit and spend their money here yet the "bad guys," the illegal immigrants, are swarming across our borders unchecked and unaccounted for. The illegals are being aided and abetted by our own politicians and officers from Abal’s department.

So what is going to be done about this twin problem? Will Abal be able to break the longstanding defense mechanism in his department that continues to protect the corruption in immigration?

Will the TPA garner sufficient help from the Government to make real breakthroughs in fostering a major tourism industry? While Fiji staggers through post-coup jitters (again!), neighbors like Vanuatu, the Cook Islands and Tahiti are making big bucks.

We continue to dither and rake in a few toea from surfers in Vanimo and Kavieng, the increasingly rare parties of wealthier tourists to Madang, Milne Bay and the Highlands and… nothing else.

Travel and accommodation costs, hassles in airline timetables, betel nut stains and untidiness in all our major centers, unhelpful officials… these all have to be tackled if we are to succeed!

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