By Kiwiana Ngabung – EMTV Online
East New Britain (ENB) might be known as one of Papua New Guinea’s tourism hubs, but for a long time coming has been looking at improving the tourism sector.
Recently-appointed Tourism Minister, Tobias Kulang, said East New Britain is the first province he visited because he wanted to give meaning and commitment to the national government’s tourism hub initiative in the province.
He added that now is the time for real change to happen in this sector, but there must be synergy and connectivity between government agencies under his ministry, the provincial government, the Tourism Promotion Authority (TPA) and other tourism operators in the province.
The East New Britain Tourism Authority (ENBTA) is working on putting together a tourism master plan in order to promote and boost the industry, however funding remains a drawback.
Speaking to EMTV early this year, ENBTA Chief Executive Officer, Gard Renson, said “In the long run we need some good funding […] because there is nothing in place at the moment.”
Minister Kulang’s visit to ENB was an opportune moment, as he pressed the need for the tourism master plan to be completed immediately with cooperation from TPA, so that funds can be sourced from the World Bank – US$20 million to support the ENB tourism hub development.
“The World Bank is willing to give us funding but we must show that we are serious about developing tourism in the province by coming up with a tourism master plan for ENB,” Kulang announced.
In his four-day visit, he met with tourism industry members, the Provincial Administrator, Provincial Chairman for Tourism, ENB Tourism Authority and the East New Britain Tourism Board.
Kulang made it known that his ministry will build a new interactive cultural heritage centre to showcase iconic traditions and cultures of ENB, and said that with technical assistance from TPA they will create a website for ENB Tourism.
In addition, a proper structure will be built as the provincial museum to house war relics and other historical and valuable figures.
A regional director appointed by the Tourism Promotion Authority will be based in Kokopo to liaise and work in partnership with the provincial administration and industry members, to promote tourism there.
“We all need to speak the same language. If we are not speaking the same language, how are we going to develop tourism,” Minister Kulang said.