VOLCANIC ASH HURTS PNG TOURISM

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Flights to East New Britain severely affected

By Sheila Lasibor

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, Jan. 20, 2009) – Hotels, lodges, resorts and catering service providers have been the worst hit as flights into East New Britain province remain suspended due to prolonged volcanic ash falls over Tokua.

However, while normal business operations in the province were said to be flowing unhindered, those operating between East New Britain and other provincial centres had been badly affected.

John Bosco, an executive councillor and secretary for the office of PNG Growers’ Association (ENB), said hotels, lodges, resorts and restaurants were the worst hit as their main clients were those on business trips and holiday-makers.

"We are really affected but it is business as usual in the province," he said, adding that this has been the situation for the past two weeks.

Tim Wilson, Rabaul Travelodge manager, said there had been no tourist customers and holiday makers since two weeks ago.

Although he was unable to estimate the cost of the ash falls causing his operations, Mr. Wilson said lodging had been "greatly affected".

He said it had been almost 15 years now since the last major eruptions, in the province and its business being at the mercy of volcanic ash falls.

Carol Elly, a staff supervisor with Kokopo Beach Bangalow, agreed that they had not been able to get guests with prior reservations and that their operations were getting the blow for two weeks now.

Ms Elly said their restaurants were being forced to close most of the time due to ash falls, adding that some of their guests have had difficulties getting out of the province due to flights cancellation.

Queen Emma Lodge’s Kessie Lume said the lodge was not greatly affected but agreed their customers were not coming in due flight suspension.

Mr. Bosco also said they were unable to transport vegetables to mining companies including Lihir Gold Ltd in New Ireland province.

As of yesterday, Air Niugini flights into Tokua remained suspended.

The National: www.thenational.com.pg/

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