9 Jul 2013

Bougainville aims to capture adventure travel market

5:24 pm on 9 July 2013

The head of the Culture and Tourism division in the Autonomous Bougainville Government believes the Papua New Guinea province will become one of the must-see destinations for adventure travellers in the future.

It's been 16 years since Bougainville came out of a civil war and the acting CEO of Culture and Tourism, Lawrence Belleh, says there's still a lack of basic infrastructure.

But Mr Belleh says the industry is starting to focus on small-scale ecotourism ventures like caving and diving aimed at intrepid travellers.

He told Bridget Tunnicliffe that people with an interest in military history will also find something in Bougainville.

LAWRENCE BELLEH: The Numa Numa Track is a trail which was used by the allied forces and the Japanese during the war and it has a lot of war relics along the track. And we are also looking at ways of how we can get people to come back to Bougainville to see what their relatives during the war have been through. We had Japanese bunkers and a lot of war relics that are still on ground that we are developing. But with our services coming back to Bougainville and business activities coming back, there are so many things that are now being done to try and set up institutions to support arts and culture. We are intending to do three cultural centres in the three regions and we are also looking at two tourism bureaus.

BRIDGET TUNNICLIFFE: Are you expecting or have you already received government funding to be able to put these ideas in place?

LB: Not at this point in time. We only have a recurrent which the government has given us of $70,000. But hopefully in 2014 let's hope that the autonomous government will rescue us and help us out, so that we can do more.

BT: What kind of travellers are you trying to attract?

LB: Going to the places where transport is quite difficult here in the autonomous region, especially with coming out again from the 10-year conflict that we've had. So the target group of people will be the ones that are young, they are fit. Because in Bougainville, the tourism here is still raw, especially with the environment. Much of the environment is still in place. We are looking at looking at marketing Bougainville as a raw ecotourism type of destination. The political environment in Bougainville is conditioned to make people come into the region. It's the media, a lot of times, that's disturbing the situation here in Bougainville, whereby people are saying that we're still fighting and so on. But, you know, we have come out of that, and I think Papua New Guinea Bougainville is one of the best destinations. The law and order situation is quite good.

BT: Do you think there is huge potential there for tourism to become an industry in Bougainville?

LB: The rawness here, in terms of the tourism potential that we have is massive. I know that Bougainville is one of the destinations that people will be looking for in the near future, and starting now we can develop the industry and make sure it's one of the biggest in Papua New Guinea.