The National

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (May 5, 2009) – About two years back, a conference of provincial treasurers was held in a strange setting near Port Moresby.

All the treasurers were housed in makeshift huts along one section of the Gaire beach about 30 minutes drive out of Port Moresby along the scenic Magi Highway.

The treasurers were accommodated in such quarters for a full week before decamping.

The conference went well and all that it meant to accomplish was accomplished but, unwittingly, this meeting accomplished much more than that.

It helped establish a beachside resort that is quickly becoming a must-visit place of leisure and relaxation.

The proceeds from the conference fees and fees charged for the modest accommodation and conference centre helped the enterprising owner to expand what is now becoming a favourite weekend outing for Moresbyites – the March Girls Resort.

No international tourist dollar went into establishing this place and, yet, the recent developments at the resort have made it definitely up-market and any tourist, domestic or international, will not lack for much there.

What does this tell us?

It tells us that we need not sit around waiting for international tourists to start up our tourism industry.

The capacity, the drive and the money is here for Papua New Guineans themselves to kick-start touring different parts of the country.

That is what has happened in Kokopo these past two weeks, for example.

Some K1 million [US$368, 000] a day is being poured into East New Britain for the benefits sharing agreement (BSA) meeting.

As our report states today, the economy of East New Britain has been boosted by the huge influx of visitors to the province.

Money is pouring into guest houses, lodges, hotels and resorts as well as hire car companies, restaurants and markets in Kokopo and Rabaul.

The rooms at guest houses have been so congested many homes are being rented out to visitors at attractive prices while local residents commute from their villages to work.

Guests at Queen Emma Lodge are placed three to a room and that is the same story all over the town.

This tells of the capacity we have in-country to generate wealth through domestic tourism.

For a long time tourism has been taken to mean attracting overseas visitors to PNG shores.

We have celebrated or lamented the annual rises or falls in the number of travellers coming to Papua New Guinea.

Sure enough we need the international tourism dollar and efforts must not be spared in that direction.

While efforts and campaigns have been launched to attract the foreigner to our shores, there is far too little done to promote domestic tourism.

That is where we can take heart from the Kokopo case this week that without any foreigner on our soil, Papua New Guineans can fill every available hotel room anywhere and take out all hire cars and pour millions into a provincial economy.

Sure, much of the money might be from the National Government at the moment, but it still speaks of the capacity.

The different people, their culture and traditions and the different scenes from around Papua New Guinea are breathtaking.

Where else in the world do you have a thriving town nestled neatly between two active volcanoes like Rabaul is?

The thundering beauty and majesty of Beaver Falls in Southern Highlands province is as captivating as any of the world’s great waterfalls.

The mighty rivers, the huge inland valleys and lakes, the islands, the coral reefs and much more make PNG a wonder.

You do not need to go away from Papua New Guinea to fully enjoy yourself. You do not need to carry foreign currency and worry about terrorist attacks and racial prejudices abroad.

PNG has everything, if only local tourism could be promoted more with budget packages offered by airlines and hotels.

Companies and Government departments which tend to take various meetings abroad ought to go to different parts of PNG to conduct them.

We have the spending power. There are people and places in our own country that are as attractive to see as any other place and peoples on earth.

We just need to get better organised.

The National:

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