When Port Moresby was chosen as the location for the 2015 Pacific Games, some people were concerned. The capital does not have the strongest reputation for safety – although this perception is far removed from reality, according to many who live and work there. In any case, the prospect of having thousands of athletes and their families descend on the city for two weeks sparked concerns about a possible incident. The games, however, went off without a hitch and since then, Port Moresby has been the setting of many high-profile events, including the eighth summit of the heads of state and government of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (ACP) in May 2016, and is gearing up for the even more prestigious Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit in 2018.
On The Rise
As evidenced by such big-ticket events, meetings, incentives, conferences and events (MICE) tourism in Papua New Guinea is on the rise. According to the Tourism Promotion Authority (TPA), there were over 7849 MICE visitors in 2015 compared to just 3408 in 2014 – an increase of 130% – showing much higher growth than overall arrivals at 4%. The segment’s share of total arrivals is also growing, with MICE arrivals in 2015 accounting for 4% of all overseas arrivals compared to just 1.8% a year earlier.
Much of this increase can be attributed to the 2015 Pacific Games, which attracted athletes from 24 separate nations, but with the recent ACP Summit and several future events lined up, including the FIFA Under-20 Women’s World Cup in November 2016 and the APEC Summit, MICE arrivals are likely to remain high. “The primary benefit of large-scale events, such as the APEC Summit, is an increase in global awareness of PNG,” Richard Knight, owner of the Loloata Island Resort, told OBG. “Indeed, it is unlikely that an event so large and costly would generate enough income over a few days to cover all the costs of producing it.”
An influx of visitors associated with such events has had positive knock-on effects throughout the economy, as more high-end hotels, restaurants and entertainment options are needed to service them. Projects such as the new Stanley Hotel and the Hilton Port Moresby, with their luxury accommodations and conference centres, are designed to meet this need, creating thousands of local construction and service jobs, and greatly increasing the amount of conference space available for MICE-related events. Facilities at the Stanley, which opened in mid-2016, include a 1600-sq metre ballroom and eight smaller meeting rooms, with capacity for 1000 people, while the Hilton, set to open in 2017, will also house a large conference facility.
Another new development, which opened its doors in early 2016, is also set to improve PNG’s offering in the MICE segment. The National Convention Centre, also in Port Moresby, was a gift of the Chinese government and has been built to include 9700 sq metres of dedicated meeting space, including a central auditorium, a 750-seat theatre and a number of smaller meeting rooms. “In the past, Port Moresby did not have the capacity to host even small meetings,” Alex Wilson, general manager of the Grand Papua Hotel, told OBG. “Now we are in a situation where we have multiple venues that can each serve different functions when hosting a large event, such as the APEC Summit.”
Given the success of the 2015 Pacific Games and the PGA Tour of Australasia, which held its first tournament in Port Moresby in April 2016, the nation is being touted as an ideal location for sporting events, a reputation that is sure to receive another boost from the upcoming FIFA Under-20 Women’s World Cup.
Growing interest has been matched with an improvement in facilities. Notwithstanding those that were created for the Pacific Games, two-year renovations to the country’s national football stadium were recently completed, resulting in a total capacity of 15,000. “If FIFA goes well, it is not unrealistic to think that PNG could host even larger events in the near future,” Wilson told OBG. “Perhaps even the Commonwealth Games.”