The impacts of the ban imposed by the PNG government on cruise ships have kicked in East New Britain province as hotel owners and tour businesses see a decline in the number of their visitors.
Following the Coronavirus alert worldwide, tourism businesses in the province are cautious of running into a financial downturn as most of them are losing more than what they are making.
Despite agreeing with the government’s move to impose the blanket ban on international visitors, they are seeking answers from the provincial and national government on alternative plans to keep their businesses going until the ban is uplifted.
Susan McGrade, a longtime resident of Rabaul town and the owner of the Rabaul Hotel said tourism businesses, unlike any other businesses, have huge overheads and if the spiral drop continues, then most of them are expected to go broke.
“I sell a bit of beer and the New Guinea Club makes some money so it all helps. At the moment, other grassroot vendors are hungry. They absolutely have no cash income. They will be starving soon. I’m suffering too as people put off travelling until this government or this virus hysteria stops,” Susan said.
So far, the East New Britain provincial government has responded stating it may subsidize each business during the ban period.
But the owners are uncertain if funding will ever be made available.
About two weeks ago, hotel owners and tour business operators gathered in Rabaul to discuss possibilities on how to handle their businesses during the ban.
The meeting convened a few days after Cunard Queen Elizabeth, a cruise ship that arrived from Australia was restricted from disembarking 2, 800 tourists on board following quarantine warnings issued by the East New Provincial Government.
The Chief executive officer of the East New Britain Tourism authority, Gard Renson said there is a likelihood that the businesses will be compensated.
Mr. Renson said each business must submit a financial report outlining their losses that they may have encountered when Queen Elizabeth was told off.
While the ban is placed only on visiting cruise ships, the business owners are angry that it doesn’t cover other forms of arrival, such as tourists coming through the Tokua Airport or on small boats, yachts, and merchant ships.
Last week, the Prime Minister, James Marape announced a travel restriction on international visitors and a 60-Day ban on all cruise ships bound for Papua New Guinea as preventive measures.
Marape’s call comes a few days before the country reported its first case of COVID-19 in the Morobe province.