By ELLEN TIAMU
EAST New Britain is known for many things: War history, idyllic white sandy beaches, cultural diversity, friendly people, and Rabaul the old capital.
Add to that a good road system and readily available hotels, lodges and inns and you can easily believe that this is a very special place. And it is.
But that is not enough for East New Britain. The PNG Tourism Authority wants more for the province and it is working hand in hand with the province’s tourism authority to make the province a tourism destination that will be as good and as popular as any other in the Pacific Islands region.
In fact when it comes to tourism numbers, East New Britain is now on par with Milne Bay as a destination and work is ongoing to lift that. Where the national and local tourism authorities don’t have the money to do the work of promotion and development, outside funding sources have been found.
One of those sources is the World Bank, which at the start of this year approved funding for tourism development in East New Britain.
The funding is earmarked for a period of five years for projects like tourism product and infrastructure developments and some of those have been identified. One is The Trans New Britain Trail that runs from Pomio, in the east, to Biala in the west. Others include the refurbishment of the Kokopo Museum and other relics and sites of interests within Rabaul and the provincial capital Kokopo, a port road and handicraft market for Rabaul (where all sea transport still dock), and good toilet facilities at all sites and attractions such as the Barge tunnel and the Hot Spring at Matupit.
Funds from the World Bank are held by the Department of National Planning and will be accessed through project submissions via the PNG Tourism Authority.
“The first two projects that will be implemented this year will be the Rabaul port road (K6 million) and the craft market (K4 million) in Rabaul,” says East New Britain Tourism Authority chief executive Gard Renson.
“Tourism is an industry that the world is turning to as the driving force for economic development. For ENB the financial assistance by the World Bank could not have come at a better time as ENB is turning to tourism to build and strengthen its local economy.”
The authority and the provincial government have also held discussions with the Japanese government through Japanese International Cooperation Agency (Jica) for the possible re-development of Tokua Rabaul Airport, the kind of project development that the Japanese government has been keen to support.
Tourism is good business in East New Britain with the income gained from it trickling right down to village level. The big market right now are cruise ships and the province is expecting to receive 20 this year.
“On estimation, East New Britain makes roughly about K7 million a year from tourism, especially form cruise ship tourism,” says Renson. “This estimation does not include visitors who come in by air. These monies go directly to service providers such as site owners, bus owners and art and craft sellers.”
Tourism is a booming industry around the world with many countries in the Pacific Islands, like Fiji, building their economy around it. In Papua New Guinea, as it has become around the region, tourism also has the potential to become a big job provider.
When compared to other Pacific Islands states, Renson says PNG is still “ a small time player in this lucrative industry”.
“But then again, the opportunities for us is to learn from the front runners in this global industry, for us to take stock of their shortcomings and perfect the industry to our advantage,” he says.
And East New Britain will be right in the middle of it.
This story was made possible by the PNG Tourism Promotion Authority.
By ELLEN TIAMU