RABAUL has been given a push by the East New Britain Provincial Government to become the tourism hub of Papua New Guinea.

Earlier this year, the provincial government released K1.5 million to the PNG Tourism Promotion Authority (TPA) to promote and expand tourism in East New Britain.

The funding will be used over a three year period.

In a statement, TPA said this process started with a meeting in Kokopo where it discussed several tourism aspects with those in the industry, including Air Niugini, hoteliers, tour operators and other local business houses.

TPA Australia project manager Kayleen Allen told participants that in order to make Rabaul a tourism capital, it was important to work and train those in the industry up to the standard where they could take in international guests.

Ms Allen said TPA had a three year marketing plan to help Rabaul meet that standard, but it would be a waste of time and resources if there was no serious commitment from those within the sector.

“We need a holistic approach, hard work and commitment from everyone here in East New Britain. We must all work together to make this happen,’’ she said.

TPA said the three year marketing plan covers everything from integrating campaign to training people and product development.

Ms Allen said this plan will be raising a lot of awareness, education and motivation.

It will also evaluate all tourism activities in East New Britain, she added.

“Over the three year period, we will be looking at how customer services are being provided here in East New Britain, the pricing structure at the hotel industry, tour packages, scheduling, expectations of customers, training, law and order and many other areas,” Ms Allen said.

TPA said Air Niugini made a commitment to support the government’s initiative when it implemented a direct Rabaul/Cairns service.

Air Niugini general manager-customers and markets, Dominic Kaumu said Rabaul will be used as the gateway for visitors travelling to and from Cairns to Rabaul and onto other Niugini Island ports including Kavieng, Hoskins, Buka and Kieta.

Air Niugini launched the direct Rabaul/Cairns service in May last year, operating services using its Q400 aircraft twice a week.

The National Government’s initiative is to make Rabaul become the tourism hub of Papua New Guinea, Lae the industrial centre, Mount Hagen the agricultural capital and Port Moresby as the administration nerve centre of the country, TPA said.