Tourism prop for Bougainville’s economic revival

Published on : Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Bougainville flagThe Autonomous Region of Bougainville is banking on tourism to help it get back on its feet after a decade of civil war. Tourism authorities on the island are launching an initiative aimed at selling the island to the world.

 
Bougainville also has a website featuring the many tourist experiences the island has to offer.

 
Lawrence Belleh, chief executive officer of Bougainville Tourism, told Radio Australia’s Pacific Beat that the country has many attractions that are expected to be a draw for tourists.

 
“We still have the rawness in the natural environment and everything people would want to see especially with the ecotourism that is around here in Bougainville,” he said.

 
“The people here are very, very friendly. You can walk in the streets during the night unlike Port Moresby.” Mr Belleh says the island’s natural environment is still in tact after the 10-year conflict and is suitable for tourism.

 
“So many things like lakes, the mountains, the volcanoes… you see crystal clear water everywhere, it’s good for diving, snorkelling, swimming, fishing,” he said.

 
There remains much wariness among the locals over reopening the copper and gold mine because of what they experienced at the height of the civil war. The mine, which was one of the world’s largest, was closed in 1989 after it caused the civil war on the island.

 
“One of the things we are trying to avoid is to reopen the mine and that’s the sentiment that we have here especially the people of Panguna where what they would like to do is to do tourism,” Mr Belleh said.

 
“Rebuilding their lives, they want to build it through ecotourism, that’s what people have openly said.”

 
A recently released film Mr Pip – which is set during Bougainville’s civil war period – has also generated global interest in the island.

 
The movie is based on a novel by New Zealand author Lloyd Jones.

 
“Some of the actors and scenes you see in the film is actually the experiences people had experienced during the height of the crisis,” Mr Belleh said.

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