East New Britain’s Duke of York Islands not only has a special place in Christian history but also offers unique adventure to visitors. Karawa Village ward councillor Corey Eron leads efforts in luring visitors to the islands to enjoy the pristine scenery, island hospitality and local cuisine.
By MICHAEL PHILIP
THE PNG Tourism Promotion Authority (TPA) concedes that the industry was in a really bad condition given the travel restrictions and border closures.
However, if Covid-19 is here to stay, that means that every player in the industry must rearrange what they had done in the past to cope with the situation and environment at hand today.
One of the country’s tourism hubs East New Britain has been affected due to travelling restrictions but locals have their own way of keeping the tourism business running through different innovative ways.
Located in Karawara, an island village in Duke of York Island in East New Britain is a gem called Pangpang. The island has been described by many international tourist as Paradise Island.
Pangpang Island today is still unseen by most of the country’s population but hopefully the island will be famous three to five years into the future.
Councillor leads the way
Karawara Village ward councillor Corey Eron is the man behind the process to put Pangpang Island on the spotlight for recognition from the Government through the Papua New Guinea Tourism Promotion Authority (TPA).
In 2019 when the coronavirus hit the country, Pangpang was slowly introduced to ENB locals for leisure activities but since then, the number of visitors have increased and now a few international tourists have visited the island.
During the Covid-19 period, numbers of international tourists to East New Britain have dropped with hotels and guest houses in the province facing a downturn in revenue and reduction of job opportunities to locals.
Following this, Councillor Eron decide to create something different to promote tourism in the Duke of York Islands, mainly in his village and East New Britain as a whole.
He built guest houses and other infrastructure from his own money in Pangpang Island and named the place Correy Corals Retreat.
“I came up with the unique tourism approach and continue to encourage local tourists to come to Karawara for leisure activities to free themselves from noise and also their busy work schedules.
Dolphins and picnics
“We offer Pangpang paradise island a place for dolphin watching and Corey Corals Retreat for picnics and retreats. Last year my hard work paid off as East New Britain Provincial Government recommended me for the initiative saying ‘it’s a job well done’.
“It is a community participation programme. We involved our local boats for ferrying tourists and mothers for mumus of kaukau and tapiok, our local fisherman for fish and sea shells and our youths for the preparation of the venues.
“We encourage local MSME eco-tourism to enhance our local economy in the island. We have made a local policy on free education at Karawara Primary School and have launched the first K14,250 from the local initiative.
“I believe we can grow tourism in our community and if only everyone knows tourism and its benefits, then we can all set up all around Karawara Island, Kabokon Island and Ulu Island. This will reduce poverty and people will be creating jobs and earn an income and become bosses on their own, just like in Fiji and other Pacific island nations.
“All families at Karawara should have a setup each so we will form a network. Everyone will feel part of the tourism activities since they will be directly benefiting.
“As the founder I am very happy to see that we’re having international tourists coming now and experiencing the nature here at Pangpang Island and I hope many more will be coming.
“I have played my part from the little that I have and now, I need support from the provincial government since I am serving its people and it should intervene with funding to boost and promote local tourism in the province.”
Correy Eron graduated from the University of Natural Resource and Environment (UNRE) in Vudal, East New Britain with a Diploma in Tropical Agriculture in 2007 and later worked with the ANZ Bank in Port Moresby as a teller from 2008 to 2012.
Realising the tourism potential in his village he decided to resign from the job and travel back home in 2013.
In 2017 the locals elected him to be the ward member for Karawara Village.
The tourism industry despite trying its best, still needs support. To make matters worse TPA has stated that the industry did not receive any funds from the Government even when it promised to help with a stimulus package.
Apart from government support, industry members also stated that one of the major contributing factors to the downturn is the decrease in the number of visitors into the country.
TPA said that despite efforts made by the players and stakeholders in the industry, they were still on their knees since 2019 right through to last year and who knows what the situation would be like this year.
The authority is now concentrating its efforts on developing new market strategies to promote domestic tourism as one way to re-build the industry.