What do you like about your job?
For me it is the challenges. My job is not a conventional one; it is not a 'clock in, clock out' type of job. I work part-time and at the same time, I work from home. And sometimes I can get really relaxed and forget that I have 60-plus members who I need to make contacts and connections for in relevant bodies for the overall development of the industry. I have a Board that I need to report to monthly.
It’s not a conventional job but I manage all aspects of what I do – whether it’s financial, admin, marketing, or the media and social media side of things. So it can be very challenging to do all of that.
I started with the Tourism Industry Association in November 2015 and since then we’ve managed to cement our institution as a peak industry association and now we are seen as the 'go to' place for tourism information; especially the direct contacts for tourism operators and packages.
For me, it’s passion as well. I like the industry I work in and I know that it can do a lot for local communities. So, I try and give it that extra push whenever and wherever I can.
So how vital is tourism to Papua New Guinea?
Tourism is vital to Papua New Guinea. We’ve always been negatively portrayed as a dangerous destination, particularly when it comes to the safety and security for visitors. But with all the hype and the regional events Port Moresby/PNG has hosted and looking to host, I think tourism can be the vehicle that provides much needed resources for our local communities.
I think tourism would not be there for PNG if we did not have a vibrant cultural heritage. We have a vibrant rich culture and tradition through song and dance and most of our visitors identify with and are fascinated by PNG’s diverse cultures and drawn to the cultural festivals.
But I think in many cases, we are starting to lose it slowly through modernization and commercialization. I believe that if we can manage it well and see it as a vital resource, then we can conserve our resources, our nature, our culture and our environment, for the long-term. It’s vital to do that.
Looking ahead 25 years, what do you think the tourism market in PNG will look like?
If I was standing there and looking back right now, ideally, the infrastructure to support tourism should be in place.
We should, by then, have proper facilities for tourists. Cruise ships are starting to come into PNG shores and the proper facilities for tourists, like cruise terminals, should be established.
The systems and processes should be in place so that all our operators can be properly accredited. Right now, there isn’t a proper accreditation system for the whole tourist industry. We also do not have an award system to celebrate best practice.
With all these improvements, we can have a happy workforce that in turn can provide great service to our visitors.
And what, in general, do you believe is possible for Papua New Guinea?
I would like to see more tourists visit PNG. Our government is now talking about the Chinese market and I think every other country in the world, and in this region, is talking about the Chinese market. This is just my opinion, but I think the Chinese market is one that needs to be investigated further.
For PNG, do you think the way forward is more niche markets?
Definitely. We need to look at preserving our culture and we need to put more funding into that. It’s not only for the visitors, but also for our sake as Papua New Guineans. I think one thing that PNG can do is preserve our cultural festivals, our rituals and our dancers; even our traditional dress should be heritage listed.
New Zealand is a great example of a country that preserves its cultural and indigenous heritage. And they do it so well in terms of preserving skills and language. With PNG being rich in culture and traditions that is the sort of thing we can easily replicate here.
And I think we need more funding for our industry to look at development of cultural products and services. PNG has one natural/archaeological site listed as UNESCO World Heritage site and we still have a few pending natural sites. At least at some level PNG can be up there with the other places that also have a rich cultural heritage, which was highlighted in the IFC’s International Visitor Survey Report.
*The IFC (a part of the World Bank Group) is supporting people in PNG to get safe, affordable off-grid lighting, allowing children to study, cut household costs, and help women stay safe on the streets.
The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of the World Bank Group and its employees.