Getting Kokopo tourism-ready for Asian influx

Tourism impact development projects will take place in Kokopo, East New Britain Province, following the signing of an MOU with a Chinese non-government organisation.

The MOU was signed between Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister and Kokopo MP, Emil Tammur, Provincial and National Government, and Asia Pacific Tourism Organisation (APTO).

The signing is geared to ensure Kokopo lives up to its name as the tourism hub of the country.

Minister Tammur said the signing now paves the way for work to begin so that the district and province can be ready to take in huge numbers of tourists.

He said the tourism industry in PNG was still in its infant stages, which begs for more collaboration between the national and the provincial governments.

“APTO is a very powerful organisation in the Asia Pacific region. They have observed and found that PNG is the next tourism destination to become like Bali in Indonesia and Nadi in Fiji,” Minister Tammur said.

“But our tourism products are more authentic and natural and were passed down from generations after generations. That makes us different and unique.

“But we all need to work together to realise this. We need road infrastructure, airports, hotels and improved tourism products. There’s so much work to be done.

“We must be ready before tourists can come,” he said, adding that the memorandum of understanding also paves the way to work on a tourism benefit structure that would ensure the benefits trickle down to the local villagers.

“I want tourism benefits trickling down to the village level. Our local people must benefit. I want to see this during my term in office. I want to see families’ lives in the village improve.

“We’re lucky and I’m thankful that we have this cooperation. This is a historic occasion. We must seize this opportunity while we have it,” the Minister said.

Governor Nakikus Konga, who signed on behalf of the East New Britain Provincial Government, said he was privileged and excited to be a party to the agreement.

He thanked the national government for selecting Kokopo as the tourism hub, and added that the cooperation with APTO would ensure the national government announcement comes to fruition.

“We are here to make it happen,” Governor Nakikus said, and promised that the provincial government will make available land to the Chinese investors to establish base to kick start the tourism development projects in Kokopo.

At the signing of the memorandum of understanding at Rapopo Plantation Resort in Kokopo, the president of APTO, He Guangye, said the cooperation between China and PNG under the agreement would see major infrastructure development projects delivered.

He said the expansion of the Tokua airport, the improvement and building of roads in Kokopo and the building of new hotels and improving hotel capacity would be some of the immediate projects in sight.

Guangye said improvement of the many tourism attraction sites would also be on the development project list.

Other party signatories to the memorandum of understanding included the president of China Railway International Group Company Limited (South Pacific), Wu Dongzheng, and the managing director of Wonders Travel Services Limited, Lin Xiaoliang.

Guangye said the signing of the agreement was to prepare Kokopo and the East New Britain Province to be tourism-ready to take in the huge influx of visitors from the Asia region, especially China, which has the record 1.3 million visitors every year in the world. He added that the purchasing power of China is also ranked number one in the world.

APTO is a non-government organisation founded in Hong Kong in 2008 and has a membership of 27 countries including China, Hong Kong, Malaysia, United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, Japan, India and Russia. It is an important international organisation in the Asia Pacific tourism industry headquartered in Hong Kong with its secretariat office in Beijing, China.

The purpose of this organisation is to promote and develop tourism in joint collaborative service manner and promote economic development, world peace and enhance international understanding.

Cedric Patjole