Photo credit: PNG Tourism Promotion Authority
National Fisheries and Marine Resources Minister, Jelta Wong, expressed his optimism regarding the future of tourism in Papua New Guinea (PNG). He believes that the country's tourism industry will experience significant changes within the next five years, particularly with the growth of the cruise ship sector. Wong noted that the cruise ship industry is the fastest-growing subsector of the tourism industry globally and a crucial export for over 80 percent of developing countries, particularly those in the Pacific region.
Wong stated, "The Australian cruise market is one of the world’s fastest-growing cruise markets, frequently cruising the South Pacific, namely Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu, the Solomon Islands, and Fiji. With this influx of mass tourism, smaller Pacific nations like Papua New Guinea experience some positive, high-value macroeconomic impacts."
However, the growth of the cruise industry also poses significant concerns, particularly regarding the socio-economic impacts of over-tourism, population pollution, and passenger environmental footprints. Wong emphasized that the direct impacts of cruise tourism on cultural-based tourism and cultural integrity are primary concerns for grassroots people, especially in the Gazelle District, where he serves as the Member of Parliament. He stated, "The direct impacts on cultural-based tourism and cultural integrity are a primary concern for our grassroots people, especially in the Gazelle District. PNG’s people have solid cultures, customs, and traditional beliefs, and these are what we need to protect when we engage in cultural tourism."
It is crucial to strike a balance between the growth of the tourism industry and preserving the country's cultural heritage and natural resources. Wong added, "PNG’s people have solid cultures, customs, and traditional beliefs, and these are what we need to protect when we engage in cultural tourism."
Despite the potential negative impacts of the cruise industry, Wong acknowledged that cruise tourists visit PNG seeking authentic cultural exchanges, virgin environmental adventures, and remote island experiences. Most tourists engage in some form of community-based tourism during their PNG adventures. Wong stated, "Cruise tourists travel to PNG seeking reciprocal authentic cultural exchanges, virgin environmental adventures and remote picture-perfect island experiences. Most tourists are engaging in some form of community-based tourism when on their PNG adventures."
It is essential to address the potential negative impacts of the cruise industry while promoting sustainable tourism that preserves PNG's cultural and environmental integrity. Wong's comments highlight the importance of striking a balance between economic growth and the preservation of PNG's cultural heritage and natural resources.