Barter calls out POM-centric tourism

The National,Tuesday July 5th, 2016

MADANG businessman and retired former Parliamentarian Sir Peter Barter made a valid comment recently regarding the focus of tourism in Papua New Guinea.
He said tourism needed to be shared throughout the country and not centralised in Port Moresby.
The 76-year-old former regional MP made the remarks last week at the Lukim PNG show and conference in the national capital last week.
The gathering of tour operators, businesses involved in the service industry, community group representatives and the relevant State entities was organised by the PNG Travel Association with the support of the PNG Tourism Promotion Authority.
According to Barter the Moresby-centric attitude of tourism promotion in the country in terms of what the international community had been getting lately was largely skewered toward the happenings and goings on in the NCD.
TPA chief executive officer Jerry Agus alluded to the main reason why things are the way they are when he said his body had decided to host the show and conference in Port Moresby because of the cost factor.
The country’s biggest urban centre has many benefits for the foreign visitor it can be said. After all this is PNG’s political, legislative and financial hub and anyone who wishes to visit the country must first enter through there but the point Sir Peter was making was that staging such shows in other parts of the country would better serve the national tourism interest because at the end of the day isn’t that the whole point – to give as many places in this country exposure and to make it a collective and an inclusive act.
“Whilst the concept of the Lukim PNG is an excellent concept, and certainly the need for everyone to be more proactive in promoting tourism, it is equally important for such national and international events to be shared by other provinces throughout PNG,” Sir Peter iterated.
The fact is PNG’s natural and cultural aspects of interest are situated in virtually all corners of the nation. Many if not all tourists come here to experience the authenticity the country’s culture, history and its flora and fauna which are unique to this part of the world.
Sir Peter went to the crux of the matter saying that those attending the show could experience the “real PNG”, what lies beyond the capital, which was the prime objective of visiting the country in the first place.
Ask yourself, what is a more powerful and thought provoking experience to the foreign visitor – witnessing a cultural dance or ritualistic practice performed in a modern setting such as Port Moresby or one that is performed in its natural habitat.
Watching the Huli wigmen dance and chant in their native Hela province will be a more valuable experience then if one were to see them in a city.
Sir Peter put it bluntly that he thought Port Moresby was being over-exposed at the expense of other areas of the country when it came to tourism and promoting local and traditional arts, culture and environment.
Although Port Moresby might be at the forefront of several major regional and international events with the last one being the Pacific Games, it is by no means representative of PNG.
The abundance of culture and history and tradition cannot be encapsulated in Port Moresby nor can it be the only stage on which PNG is presented to the world.
That is not fair to the rest of the country and the majority of the eight million or so inhabitants of this land.
“We continue to see and hear of new hotels, convention centres being built, freeways, sports facilities – all of which concentrate development for the lucky few who live in NCD, while the provinces are being starved of conferences, domestic and international tourism,” Sir Peter said.
For their part the TPA said they were supportive of staging national and international events in the provinces but as they funded half the costs for the event, it was practical and financially sensible to have them in Port Moresby for the time being.
If Port Moresby continues to be the default option for TPA and the main base from which they chose to work out exclusively then they should not really be called a tourism promotion authority – that would be misleading.