Surf tourism goes to new level

National, Normal

The National- Friday, January 28, 2011

 THE sport of surfing has taken tourism to a whole new level by bringing informal business opportunities to the local communities where a surf club is located.

Surf association PNG (SAPNG) president Andrew Abel said this week that the impact of this “unprecedented approach to assisting rural communities using the reverse spiral model” have seen villagers getting involved in both the sport and the tourism aspect of surfing. 

Since the establishment of surfing in Vanimo, West Sepik, in 1987, the SAPNG has grown to a total of nine surf clubs in different provinces including West and East Sepik, Madang and New Ireland  and outside of Port Moresby.

Abel said that in each of these communities, the locals had worked hard to be part of the growing trend in surfing tourism, and using the benefits to fund various community projects such as health, education and water sanitation projects.

The bottoms-up approach to surf tourism was created into a surf management plan (SMP) that aims at making sure that influence comes from the host communities, rather than down from big businesses and government.

With the assistance from the International Financial Corporation, this plan was further developed to become the road map for SAPNG and its affiliates to ensure that local owners of the reefs, beaches and marine environments are fully consulted and, upon whose involvement, decide how the surf tourism will work in their areas.

The socio-economic impacts of surf tourism include empowerment of communities, opportunities for the communities to compete, participate in tourism-driven activities, and the chance to showcase local cultures, among other benefits.

SAPNG is currently working to have the SMP become an act of parliament to further protect surfing communities from becoming beggars in their own land.