Tourism talks top agenda

The National,Wednesday June 15th, 2016

TOURISM became a major topic of discussion at the Miss Madang Pageant and Madang Festival over the long weekend.
Tourism and Culture Minister Tobias Kulang visited Madang and spoke of the events at a fundraising dinner attended by about 400 people.
He also held discussions on how to improve tourism in the province.
The festival attracted about 40,000 people over two days of culture displays through scores of singsing groups.
Resort owner Sir Peter Barter told Kulang that while Madang, like other provinces, was experiencing a decline in tourism, the province had enormous potential but was largely undermined by the concentration of hotels and conference facilities in Port Moresby which was denying  outside centres of hosting conferences and special events.
Sir Peter said there needed to be changes to the Tourism Management Act, especially policies to be made and implemented, if tourism was to develop into a major industry in the country.
“Tourists do not visit Port Moresby to see NCD, they visit PNG to seek new experiences,” he said.
“Madang and other provinces have the diverse cultures, natural beauty and activities that visitors want to see in such a unique destination.”
Sir Peter said tourists did not visit a destination to ride on an aircraft and stay in hotels, they mostly came to seek new experiences.
Kulang, in his opening remarks, told the audience that he recognised the potential of Madang as a tourist destination and that he supported the idea of including Madang as a hub for tourism.
He said he would initiate the opening of a regional Tourist Promotion Authority (TPA) office at the Madang Visitors and Cultural Bureau, and help share the cost of maintaining housing to accommodate TPA and a visitors’ bureau director.
Kulang said it was necessary for Madang to develop a master tourism plan to enable the Government, including donors, to further assist with the development of tourism in the province and Mamose region which included work on the proposed roads to Chimbu and Mt Hagen, much-needed improvement on the Ramu Highway and maintenance of the Madang township roads.
He said access to the Highlands would encourage more domestic tourism and offer opportunities for cruise ship passengers to extend their stay by visiting other parts of the country along the highway.
TPA was planning a conference for Chinese and Indian tourists, and  Kulang had requested for a national tourist conference in September to discuss tourism plans with people in the industry.
Sir Peter recommended the old Burns Philp wharf be reserved as a cruise ship terminal, saying that while it may not be justified now, it would be a shame to lose the strategic site which provided PNG’s first tourist ship terminal.
He said that a fast, safe and affordable ferry service should be established between Madang and Karkar for people and tourists so they could visit Karkar and other islands that missed the opportunity to witness the Bilum Festival on Karkar last week.
Sir Peter said apart from the success of the Madang Festival over the Queen’s Birthday weekend, there were a number of district cultural shows which “we need to gain more publicity and donor support but lack of roads was a serious impediment for visitors to see the events that take place at Simbai, Saidor, Karkar”.
He said it was vital for Madang to improve infrastructure, including roads, airport, wharves and ferry services.
Sir Peter offered a 50 percent discount on accommodation for the proposed national conference in Madang and suggested Air Niugini do likewise so many people could attend the event.
Kulang said he would present a national executive council paper to lift the restriction on Australian tourists obtaining a visa on arrival and, at the same time, find ways to categorise statistics to provide a more accurate way of distinguishing cruise ship passengers and other arrivals.
Currently, cruise ship passengers are bundled together under ‘holidays’ which was misleading.