By MICHAEL LAI
IT IS like any other beautiful little slice of Earth with its loving and caring people that anyone would dream of going to for vacation.
Yaskom Resort Hotel in Enga is one of a kind with its stunning lake view, and peaceful people with a unique culture and traditions.
All is a product of peaceful community. If peace is at the core of any society, development and all else would be a complement.
The above was the message from the director of Yaskom Resort Hotel, Yalson Nick Kome during the opening of the Lake Ivae Deck View balcony extension early this month.
Enga is slowing moving to be like PNG’s more popular tourist destinations such as East New Britain and Milne Bay through the promotion of tourism and hospitality by the provincial government.
The Yaskom Resort Hotel located in Lagaip-Porgera district is approximately 15km from Wabag town and 30km from Wapenamanda Airport.
It is surrounded by four peaceful tribes namely Kunalin, Lyein, Tia and Sakalin. There are many clans and sub-clans under each tribe. The resort is located within Kunalin territory besides the ancestral lake Ivae walled by savannah and thick forest a kilometre away.
The place was known for tribal fighting in the 1990s. However, it has changed when the mindset of people have shifted to embracing the light of development in the province.
Tribal fighting has died out and no longer in the blood. The dream of a peace maker, father of Yalson Nick Kome, the late Yasowa Kome, to establish peace one day in the area is now in fruition. Tribal fights were quelled, peace maintained and the evidence of peace and development popped up. Spin-off benefit spins are going to the community and they readily embrace projects.
Now Sirunki has the Yaskom Resort Hotel, the Israeli Innovative Agro Industry strawberry and bulb onion farm and huge potato farming supported by the provincial government and other government agencies.
The hotel was first started by the late Kome in the 1990s from a family home and it was then known as Sirunki Lodge.
The project was set up to promote tourism and generate incomes and benefits for the community. During the 1990s there was no lodge to house travellers going from Lae to Porgera Gold Mine. Senior Kome considered the tourism market and converted the family home to a lodge then.
Since then, it has operated on its own daily earnings until the provincial government stepped in to support it in 2003. The name was then changed to Yaskom Resort Hotel.
Apart from Yaskom in the western end of the province, the Enga government also supported Kumul Lodge in the eastern end near the border with Western Highlands.
Kome is confident that Enga will be on par with tourist destinations like East New Britain and Milne Bay in a few years’ time given the provincial government’s support to the tourism sector.
He says the sector is a major source of revenue and a boost to the local economy.
Kome points out that there was no major lodge or guest house in the western part of the Enga during those past years until recently.
“That was why Kome Senior had invested in tourism and hospitality knowing that the return on investment would be healthy,” he said.
Demand for services at Yaskom is growing by the day because the major developments in the province are attracting regular travellers and tourists every day.
Eight years after the facility was opened and with the change of name, it was officially opened by then Minister for Rural Development Moses Maladina. It has progressed well with visitors going there every day.
These include high profile leaders including Prime Minister Peter O’Neill who slept there twice, in 2013 and 2016, ministers, and ambassadors, international and local tourists.
Sadly, the senior Kome died in 2017 and son Yalson Nick Kome who was working with Internal Revenue Commission as a senior auditor returned home to inherit the family business.
After one year of management by Kome Jr, the resort hotel was expanded to accommodate more travellers.
He has built the Lake Ivae deck view balcony which was officially opened by Governor Sir Peter Ipatas on Jan 4.
The hotel includes eight executive rooms, 11 luxury rooms, five standard rooms, and a conference room that can accommodate 120 people at one time. All rooms have multi-channel TV.
A very generous serving of local fruits and vegetables complementing a juicy T-bone or rump steak are certainly on the hotel’s dinner menu.
The hotel boasts great views of the Lake Ivae or Sirunki. It is surrounded by savannah and a kilometre away is a thick jungle that has tracks for bird watching. There is a vehicle access road connecting the resort to the lake. The resort has its own boat purposely for taking tourists for rides.
There is an exciting mix of activities for tourists including bird watching, trekking, traditional salt extraction, traditional dancing and other cultural activities.
Enga is known for its traditional dancing group the Silimuli, arguably the best Enga dancers in traditional attire.
During the Jan 4 opening, Sir Peter was accompanied by Minister for Civil Aviation and Kandep MP, Alfred Manase, Vice Minister for State Enterprises and Lagaip-Porgera MP, Tomait Notassi Kapili, provincial police commander Joseph Tondop, director commerce Margaret Potane, Makonda Production Ltd managing director Tania Nugent, senior statesmen Silas Kamuri, prominent lawyer Pato Potane and all council presidents from Enga.
Sir Peter was very impressed with the development and thanked the communities and family for looking after the project.
He said the provincial government was supporting the tourism sector in 2019 because it has the potential to boost the local economy.
The guests advised the communities to take care of the project well so tourists could flood in and spin-off benefits would reach them.
Kome says the project is entirely a family business but it works in partnership with the Enga government to promote tourism in the province.
He says his target for 2019 is to bring in more tourists since the province is also tapping into bird watching and traditional salt extraction.
He says the support of the provincial government through its tourism policy assures them of a brighter future although law and order was one of the major issues that has disrupted the smooth follow of government services for decades.
However, he says the Enga government and police commander Joseph Tondop have been continuously addressing law and order issues in the province so lawlessness has generally declined now.
This has been due partly to some major projects and development brought to the province which resulted in the change of mindsets.
Kome says Engans realised the importance of government services and gave up tribal fights. Law and order issues are now a thing of the past, he adds.
“Sirunkians have realised that the resort is a major project or service that is helping them either directly or indirectly.”
He says the resort played a major role in helping surrounding communities and they are very supportive and have great respect in the resort’s operation.
The resort has assisted sports teams, a number of church groups, provided assistance in solving tribal tensions and promoting peace, built a primary school using its own funding and provided assistance in other community activities.
With the current provincial government policy on tourism and agriculture, the socio-economic conditions are quite conducive to invest in tourism and other activities that will boost the local economy.
Things are looking up for tourism in this part of the country which still holds onto its rich cultural heritage and boasts spectacular natural scenery.
Kome is looking to the future with confidence that within the next five to 10 years Yaskom Resort Hotel will be a leading tourist destination in Enga.
By MICHAEL LAI