Reaching the ultimate peak in tourism accommodation

MOUNT WILHELM – Papua New Guinea’s highest peak – lies 4,509 metres above sea level and it is the point where three provinces, Simbu, Western Highlands and Madang literally meet in the skies above.

However, accessibility to one of PNG’s major tourism attractions is currently only through Simbu, particularly Gembogl station in the Kundiawa-Gembogl District.

The climb to the summit is usually undertaken by fit bushwalkers.

On gloriously clear mornings, the summit provides spectacular views for trekkers of the surrounding mountain ranges and valleys below, stretching as far as the eye can see even to the coastline of Madang.

But before one gets to the summit, one must start from the base.

And it is the work being done down below which is most encouraging for tourists, tourism operators and stakeholders alike.

The man behind the push to develop tourism as a key priority sector under the much talked about small to medium enterprise model is the local MP, Tobias Kulang.

Kulang and his Kundiawa/Gembogl District Development Authority (KGDDA) have taken the lead by developing major infrastructure such as rebuilding and sealing road accessibility to the area.

The KGDDA has partnered with key stakeholders such as PNG Tourism Promotion Authority (TPA) to use tourism as a vehicle for change.

KGDDA ultimately wants to improve its people’s living standards and reduce poverty through sustainable developments such as tourism.

Much of the vision can be achieved through tailored training in tourism, skills improvement and awareness workshops for locals.

One such programs is in the area of product development by delivering value added products that meet international tourist demands and are value for money.

KGDDA collaborated with TPA to launch the Accommodation Classification & Accreditation System (ACAS) in Kundiawa last week.

The ACAS is a home-grown accommodation ratings system developed by the TPA to help enhance existing tourist accommodations in PNG to lift their levels to meet standards demanded by the international traveller for specific accommodation types such as hotels, lodges, guesthouses and village home stays.

ACAS has already been introduced by TPA to a number of model tourism provinces around the country such as East New Britain, Milne Bay, New Ireland, Madang, Eastern Highlands, National Capital District and now Kundiawa Gembogl.

Kulaung believes the ACAS will eventually raise accommodation standards in his district and give confidence to adventure tourists and business travellers and the general public using accommodation facilities in Kundiawa and Gembogl.

He said the scheme will also enable accommodation providers in Kundiawa and Gembogl to take ownership and improve their facilities.

TPA trained inspectors will visit the accommodation facilities on a quarterly basis to recommend improvements and then rate each accommodation at the end of every year.

The KDGGA has also taken the lead in setting new precedence in its push for tourism excellence.

At the Kundiawa workshop following immediately after the ACAS launch, it invited the PNG Fire Service to be part of the scheme to address fire safety issues within the ACAS program.

He said this will soon be followed by the establishment of a fully fledged PNG Fire Service operation in Kundiawa in the near future.

“This will ensure service providers in the district comply with fire regulations and fire safety standards in PNG especially in the area of providing accommodation,” he said.

Kulang is not new to breaking new ground in tourism development.

In collaboration with the Royal PNG Police Constabulary, he set up the very first tourism police concept in his district by engaging and training unemployed youths in basic policing to provide security for tourists visiting Mt Wilhelm and to also maintain general peace and order in the district.

TPA has also provided training to locals in tour guiding, basic tour packaging and marketing, basic first aid and cookery and hygiene among others.

TPA has also erected sign boards in Kundiawa and Gembogl and has also set up signage along the track leading up to the summit of Mt Wilhelm.

Accommodation in Kundiawa township that are now covered by the ACAS program include Gor Yomba Guesthouse, Green Land Motel, Gambogi Tourist Lookout, Lapun Meri Motel, Simbu Premier Motel, Simbu Riverside Tourist Resort, Kundiawa Sunrise Transit Lodge, Mt Wilhelm Tourist Hotel, Mirane Windy Lodge, Kundiawa Hotel and Tropical Transit Home.

Accommodations in Gembogl include Betty’s Lodge, Irugl Guesthouse, Camp Jehova Jireh, Mondia Bridge Guesthouse, Piunde Aundo Guesthouse, Disney Land Guesthouse, A Frame Guesthouse, Immanuel Guesthouse, Kegesuglo Guesthouse, Engrere Rutz Guesthouse and Wina Lodge.

Kulang says this is only the beginning and tourists and visitors should expect good quality service at affordable rates from accommodation providers in his electorate moving forward.

These developments are all in line with the District’s vision - “Highest is Our Mountain – Highest is Our Destiny”.

Colin Taimbari