Tourism report predicts growth but warns on local inclusion
A new report on Pacific Tourism predicts growth and opportunity, as stakeholders warn on community development.
Tourism in the Pacific is set to grow, as long as Chinese tourists and the ageing population are enticed, according to a new report.
The World Bank's report, which was launched in Sydney, says the Pacific can do more to entice high-end hotel chains.
But stakeholders in the islands say the industry needs to work on access, and do more to bring people out of poverty.
Koroi Hawkins reports.
The Pacific Possible: Tourism report says small countries like Palau have benefited from a surge in Chinese visitors, and others can learn. The World Bank's senior technical specialist John Perrottet says another lucrative niche is the retiree market, who have money to spend and could be enticed to invest in property in the islands. He says there are some hurdles to overcome, but governments can help to make it work.
JOHN PERROTTET: "For that market to really be developed you need to be confident that you can spend ten years plus in a country and then be able to liquidate your assets when you retire back to the country where you came from. You also need to be confident that you can actually keep your money in the bank while you're there and that there won't be any sort of disasters in that respect."
For countries like Samoa, having attractive airline connections is key to bringing in the numbers. The CEO of the Samoa Tourism Authority, Papali'i Sonja Hunter, says Samoa pines for the days when Polynesian Airlines connected with multiple regional hubs and it could be time to take the risk and resurrect those links.
PAPALI'I SONJA HUNTER: "There are many other options where the other traditional airlines have patronised our country for a long time. Or whether we need now to say to government c'mon guys we just have to take our own destination into our own hands. We have to set up what we had before."
Last year the Samoan Prime Minister invited Airlines PNG to land at Faleolo Airport, connecting Samoa to Los Angeles and Hong Kong, after showing frustration over the shrinking of regional connections since its Polynesian Blue deal with Virgin. But John Perrottet says those in the Pacific have to recognise there's no easy solution to remoteness.
JOHN PERROTTET: "There are certain commercial realities you just can't run away from and the Pacific is often literally at the end of the road for airline planning people. The aircraft is being sent there because that's the only time of the day that it can be utilised and you can't have your aircraft sitting somewhere not doing something. So as a consequence you know that's a good thing for the airline but it may end up with some of the poorer solutions from a consumer point of view."
Mr Perrottet says in the meantime there is more scope for the cruise ship market, even though the economic benefits are not the same as when tourists arrive by plane. Papali'i says they would like to see more ships, as a recent survey reported every cruise ship tourist spends on average 100 US dollars when they come on shore.
PAPALI'I SONJA HUNTER: "That's additional revenue for our people and they usually do a lot of shopping and tours and for the cruise passenger that comes in, that's a bonus for everyone in the Pacific and there are some countries who do it well and mainly because they are in the backyard of Australia. For some of us, we get our fair share but we'd like more."
But there are real concerns that every tourism investment needs do its fair share of alleviating poverty. The Director-General for PNG's Office of Tourism, Arts and Culture Marianna Ellingson says her country is attracting high-end hotels, and is set to open its first 5-star hotel to help service a growing conference market, but the government could use these kinds of hotels to run hospitality schools and better serve communities.
MARIANNA ELLINGSON: "It's broad-based and everybody, whether you're in agriculture, whether you're in health, whether you're in education, it covers, it's a cross-cutting issue, tourism."
Marianna Ellingson also says access is a problem in PNG, and the country must promote and help develop its tour operators, who are crucial to delivering tourists to communities.
MARIANNA ELLINGSON: "The marriage between product development and tour packages is also a very very important aspect and that's the sort of connection that you want to create that brings the tourist and the community together."
She says she's heartened by the Air Niugini flights from Brisbane to Alotau which are set to start in October and help market Milne Bay as a tourist hub.
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