Tourists coming to PNG want to experience the traditional way of life, writes DAMARIS MINIKULA
A FEMALE Tolai entrepreneur is promoting Papua New Guinea’s tourism industry around the world while gaining insight from the European, American, Asian and Pacific tourism and hotelier business world.
Ellis Guliman Waragat is 49 years old and owns Kokopo Lodge, situated at Ngatur village off the border fringes of neighbouring Ravat village.
Ellis has traveled to Japan, Fiji, Australia and Germany and arrangements are in place for her to travel to Europe, Canada and the United States of America this year under the Tourism and Promotion Authority’s Tour Operators Association.
Ellis started her lodge business in July 2006 which opened doors to mostly Japanese backpackers who wanted to experience the traditional Tolai way of life.
Today, tourists come to her lodge from around the world including Germany and the United States of America.
Her set up is arguably the only lodge in East New Britain province that offers tourists the opportunity to experience the everyday life of the Tolai people. Tourists can witness the Tolai signature aigir dish cooked before them, traditional Tolai dances, walks in the villages, night walks to see fire flies and if lucky enough, the seasonal tubuan ceremonies.
Set in a tropical village setting and surrounded by palm trees, virgin flora & fauna, Kokopo Lodge and Tours is nestled amongst other neat Tolai villages.
To experience the culture, people and their unique places at reasonable prices, you need to make this your village setting accommodation, and take advantage of all their local tour packages. This setting takes you away from a busy, noisy lifestyle and relaxes your whole being amongst the peaceful, natural surroundings. Simple but stylish.
Ellis guarantees her guests the ultimate “PNG-Tolai Experience”.
Many of her tourists who have visited the villages have marveled at how cocoa is picked and fermented – they have only enjoyed the end product of cocoa and chocolate!
“Most tourists want to enjoy and experience the village stays. They travel half way around the world to experience our village way of life so I try to give them an experience that is worth their money,” said Ellis.
Ellis is no newcomer to the tourism industry. She was a Traffic Officer with Air Niugini from 1974 to 1982 and later joined Bougainville Copper Limited (BCL) as the mine’s travel coordinator.
She later began operating her own fleet of buses and trucks.
Ellis’ entrepreneur gist blended with her work experience gives the advantage edge in her business.
Her business involves accommodation and tours around the Gazelle including visits to the volcanoes, Japanese monuments and war relics and hire cars.
“It only takes local knowledge to run a tour operating business. In Rabaul, it’s local knowledge how the Japanese hid their submarines at Submarine Base during World War II and we have our local legends of the volcanoes. Our old people even tell us these stories,” said Ellis.
She employs eight local staff who clean and maintain the lodge’s self-contained rooms and conference facilities.
Her clients include non-government organizations and provincial governments who use the venue for conferences, training and other events.