Speaking also as the acting Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister, Abel said that the Government have supported a major push to develop tourism as part of its forward-looking strategy for sustainable development.
He said that in a landmark decision, Cabinet approved the Tourism Zone Support Initiative (TZSI) which will include twice-weekly direct air services from Brisbane, Australia, to Hagen and Gurney.
Abel announced that K20 million (US$7.2 million) was appropriated in the 2015 budget for tourism zone development and will fund the priority costs which have been submitted by the committees to fund, upgrades, a flight subsidy, product development and a strong and positive marketing campaign.
He said that to kick-start implementation of the TZSI a steering committee comprising key stakeholders had been established.
“The committee’s inaugural meeting took place this week. It included executive representatives from Air Niugini, the National Airports Corporation, the Independent Public Business Corporation, Tourism Promotion Authority, PNG Customs Service and Immigration to map out an action plan that will see the operation of direct flights from Brisbane to Gurney, starting in October year and Mount Hagen, when the new terminal is completed,” he said. Mal Lewis, NAC chairman is the committee chair and OTAC provides the secretariat.”
Abel said that the TZSI included a transport hub concept for direct access into tourism zones for both general business and tourists.
“Gurney will service Popondetta, Tufi, Louisa, and the New Guinea Islands. Hagen will service Madang, Wewak and Goroka,” he said.
“The Government is serious about developing sustainable and inclusive industries such as tourism. To be competitive we need affordable and convenient access to our tourism products.
“This initiative is a multi-stakeholder approach with supportive measures from the Government including a flight subsidy and tourist visa on arrival for Australians and other existing countries who already have this benefit.
“The private sector will provide discounted accommodation for packaging, and cargo and passenger commitments. The flights will be linked to the existing cruise ship strategy to create synergies.”
He also said the K20 million was provided to East New Britain for tourism infrastructure in 2014 and that Cabinet also approved an impact study to be carried out after 12 months from November to assess the viability of direct flights, tourism activities and marketing packages as the tourism hub incentives.