LISA SMYTH | Paradise, in-flight magazine of Air Niugini | Edited
PORT MORESBY - In May, Intrepid Travel released its 2019 Adventure Travel Index and Papua New Guinea topped its list of most ‘under-touristed’ countries, with a tourism density ratio of only 2.75%.
This means that in 2017, PNG had fewer than three visitors for every 100 people.
PNG’s vast natural, cultural and historical resources need to be protected, but this ranking shows that, if done responsibly, PNG’s tourism sector has a lot of opportunity for positive growth.
“We are really looking to showcase the incredible breadth of experiences in PNG,” explained Holly Marshall, account manager at Example, the Australian public relations agency that the PNG Tourism Authority recently appointed to market the country to Australian and New Zealand holidaymakers.
“Australians spend thousands of dollars every year to find unique experiences on the other side of the world.
“They just don’t know that incredible culture and amazing scenery unlike anything they could imagine is actually right on their doorstep,” said Marshall. “We plan on changing that.”
Visitor figures for 2018 released by the International Finance Corporation reveal that focusing on PNG’s closest neighbours to boost tourism makes a lot of sense – 53% of all holiday visitors were from Australia, with just under half having been to PNG at least once before and almost 20% having been five or more times.
“We have a varied target market, but Australian empty-nesters have a lot of extra income and are keen to experience their own types of adventures now that they no longer have to take care of their children,” noted Marshall.
“We will be looking to highlight the offerings in all provinces across a range of pillars–adventure, history, culture, and niche areas like diving and bird watching.”
In fact, adventure and cultural tourists were the largest niche markets in 2018, both bringing in about 20% of all holiday visitors.
While bird watching accounted for only four percent, visitors’ average spend was K25,000, compared to adventure tourists spending K5,400, making them an important market for cultivation.
Despite being ‘under-touristed’, PNG had a bumper year in 2018: 95,000 visitors arrived in PNG last year, a 9.5% increase from 2017. Collectively, they spent K700 million.
“Best of all, once holiday visitors make their way to PNG, they act as great ambassadors for the country and are overwhelmingly positive about their experience.”
Even more encouraging, the share of holiday visitors rose from 26% of total visitors in 2017 to 33% in 2018. Business visitors made up 50%, and those visiting friends and family constituted the remaining 17%.
Outside Port Moresby, Central Province, Morobe and Oro Province received the most visitors. There was a 25% rise in the number of visitors to Milne Bay and a 17% increase in visitors to East New Britain.