Government wants to develop Manus Island tourism industry

Government wants to develop Manus Island tourism industry
Manus Island Airport in 2012. Photo by DIAC Images via Wikimedia Commons

The Federal Australian Government is working to assist in the development of a tourism industry on an island in Papua New Guinea that was infamous as a detention centre for asylum seekers. It is currently funding Abt Associates, an aid contractor, to assess the market value of a tourism industry on Manus Island, doing a SWOT analysis of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.

The 6 month role as adviser is valued at nearly $150,000 plus additional allowances. Currently, there are still around 600 asylum seekers and refugees being detained on Manus Island.

On the infamous island, 4 asylum seeks had died with another 2 contracting fatal sicknesses and passing away within Australia. Many of the inmates had reported assault and abuse by the local security and PNG military persons stationed on the island.

This choice to develop the island’s tourism industry was not the brainchild of the Australian government, but the one in Papua New Guinea. The New Guinean government had contacted Australia to get assistance with this area of tourism development.

In a statement, the MPA (Manus Provincial Administration) said it had “identified tourism as a priority” and that it would work to “generate job opportunities and economic growth”.

Currently, the island has only 2 hotels and one of them is used to accommodate guards that work in asylum seeker accommodation. In 2014 that hotel had housed heavily armed police who shut down riots at the detention centre.

Despite the fact the island has been notorious for its role in hosting the detention centre, PNG’s Jerry Agus has said he think it can become a legitimate destination for tourists saying that it has “huge potential”.

Mr Agus said that the island had several strengths in terms of diving and surfing as well as discovering “war relics”. The island had previously been a big area for tourism in decades past for surfers and divers.

Mr Agus admitted that while the island had many great tourist attractions, it had little infrastructure to support overseas visitors. He also acknowledged that the international reputation as an island where a detention centre was would take time to shake off.

He said there were many things people could see and do that were not within eyesight of the detention centre. He said that “there’s a lot of positive things going on”, referring to the development of tourism infrastructure.

For the new adviser, one of their main roles will be to develop a new website for the island.