Focus On Cultural Tourism

There is little doubt that the COVID-19 Pandemic has dramatically affected the tourism industry worldwide.

It has been a disaster for the entire tourism industry, causing crippling financial stress on all tourism stakeholders. South Sea Horizon’s Lead Guide, Alan Manning said re-setting the focus of the industry on domestic tourism has reduced revenue for many Papua New Guinean operators.

“I believe the costs of operating in PNG has been too expensive for the domestic market, considering the costs of running a tourism operation such as fuel for banana boats, vehicle running costs or food for guest houses. Tourism can be quite expensive for the domestic tourist,” Manning said.

Sadly, many operators have struggled to survive to continue operating, while others have been forced to go out of business, given the domestic market hasn't been able to sustain the cost of operating for many PNG tourism industry operators. 

“But are there any COVID-19 pandemic silver linings? Yes, I believe there are some, and we are optimistic about being able to bounce back from this pandemic. International travel and tourism look like it will bounce back in the coming years, but not in the immediate future,” he said.

Manning said that it takes collective effort to see popular tourism products such as the Festivals, Kokoda trail trekking and diving, bounce back by 2023, and perhaps a potential boom in 2024, if everyone can work hard as an industry.

He said that global tourism indications suggest a rise in demand for adventure tourism and soft adventure products.

“Given the restrictions and lockdowns people have faced worldwide, many travellers are looking to re-connect with meaningful trips. Many prospective travellers also have two years of disposable income saved up, so experiential trips are going to be high on the agenda for many tourists,” he hinted.  

Manning believes cultural tourism will be the big winner for PNG and should be a key focus for PNG tourism stakeholders, because people are looking for those meaningful cultural exchanges when they book their first post-pandemic trip.

“We all know that our country has a wide range of cultures, and we are a perfect destination for this tourism market," he said.

South Sea Horizons has been an in-bound tour operator offering innovative and rewarding small group experiences in PNG since 2007. The company champions responsible tourism practices and equal employment opportunities throughout the organisation.

The most significant silver lining indicated by Manning is the unity that the industry has shown in working together in collaborations.

Since the pandemic, there has been a real shift in tourism stakeholder attitudes, with operators working in collaboration, while the entire industry is working together to push the re-bound of tourism in PNG.

“We are certainly enjoying the relationships we are forming and look forward to our journey with our partners, moving forward and out of this pandemic. We are open to working with any reputable tourism stakeholder in PNG, and we invite anyone that is looking to collaborate with us, to contact us and start the conversation,” Manning concluded. 

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