JOHN NGUNTS IMBAL
THE world through the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), celebrates the World Tourism Day on Sept 27 each year.
The UNWTO is the world umbrella organisation that leads in the area of tourism and serves as a ?global forum for tourism policy issues and a practical source of tourism know-how.
‘World Days’ are a common thing to inter-governmental organisations who want to promote certain themes they are devoted to as a cause of their existence.
The idea for the ‘World Tourism Day’ was conceived in Sept 1979, in Torremolinos, Spain, during the third session of the General Assembly of the UNWTO.
It was decided then that the World Tourism Day would be commemorated each year on Sept 27 commencing in the year 1980. This date was chosen to coincide with an important milestone in world tourism: the anniversary of the adoption of the UNWTO Statutes on Sept 27, 1970. The theme for each year’s celebration would be determined by the General Assembly, on recommendation of UNWTO’s Executive Council. The theme for this year’s World Tourism Day is ‘Celebrating Diversity’.
This theme is appropriate for the world and for our beautiful country, Papua New Guinea, because we have more than 800 different languages and diverse cultures. This is like having several countries in one country, how wonderful it is to know that we do not have to travel internationally to experience beautiful people, exotic cultures and pristine natural environments; you can take on a million different journeys in one great destination, Papua New Guinea.
Recently The Guardian Online/Pacific Media Watch reported that a lost world populated by fanged frogs, grunting fish and tiny bear-like creatures has been discovered in the remote Mt Bosavi dormant volcanic crater in the Southern Highlands province.
Included in the discovery are 16 frogs which have never before been recorded by science, at least three new fish, a new bat and a giant wooly rat, which may turn out to be the biggest in the world. This just goes to show that we have yet to fully discover and understand this exotic and magnificent country.
We could say the formal recognition of tourism in PNG happened in 1993 when the Tourism Promotion Authority Act was created by Parliament. However, the PNG tourism industry received much promotion and support from the highest level of government since 2004 when it recognised the country’s tourism industry to be of strategic importance. Earlier than that there had been pockets of tourism developments in various parts of the country.
In Madang in 1998, a trend in the development of rural guesthouses was noted; many of these did not become successful and their lives were short-lived; many guests did not use these facilities because of poor conditions and the general state of most of these facilities was in shambles. There was a general interest and increase in the number of training providers. The Lae Technical College, Divine Word University (DWU) and now the University of Papua New Guinea (UPNG), among other tertiary institutions in PNG, offer training.
In celebrating this year’s theme of World Tourism Day, the DWU’s Tourism and Hospitality Management (THM) Department’s fourth year Bachelors program emphasizes participation in both practical and theoretical components. Students do practical lessons with selected local hotels and run workshops in villages on islands and mainland to create awareness for the local people.
Last year, a THM student from Central province organized an awareness campaign on diving and conservation of marine life together with representative of PNG Dive Association on Fisherman Island in Port Moresby.
In May this year, the third year THM students conducted awareness on tourism and the marine environment on Karkar and Bilbil islands in Madang after getting additional training from the Coral Reef Alliance of USA.
This month, seven final fourth year THM students conducted a small workshop on culture tourism development for the Bilbil community of Madang. In this interaction, a community leader identified as Tegil explained the Bilbil community’s position on sharing their cultures with outsiders but will not reveal what is sacred or taboo culture.
One of the student presenters, Ken Pep, likened this to knowing your friend’s bank balance. One would hesitate to lend money to a friend whom s/he knows has nil balance because the friend cannot pay back, in the same way, tourists may have no need to return or it is not interesting any more if they know everything there is to know about a particular culture.
Luckily we can say, we have more of that, and quite mysterious too, hence the phrase “land of the unexpected” which fittingly explains happenings in the eastern side of the second biggest island in the world.
In May each year, THM DWU hosts its Liklik Diwai Tourism Expo which brings business houses and representatives from the tourism industry and the community together as a way of exposing the industry and sharing information.
It is through such meetings and interactions that our cultural diversity is shared and acknowledged, allowing useful knowledge and ideas to be transferred to those people who need and seek for it; without the implementation of theories (knowledge and skills) in the form of community service we deny our responsibilities to our communities and justification for the provision of their resources for our existence, and the promotion of cultural diversity which is our pride and identity.
We would hope that the theme for this year’s World Tourism Day is pursued by the industry in celebrating and promoting cultural diversity.
* John Ngunts Imbal is the head of the tourism and hospitality department at Divine Word University.