Hear the words ‘Manus Island’, and you’ll no doubt think of news reports of refugees living in dire circumstances.
You certainly wouldn’t think of resorts, or the island as a possible tourist destination – despite its rather idyllic Pacific location and landscape.
But island authorities, together with the Tourism Promotion Authority of Papua New Guinea, in which the island is incorporated, want to change that. They want to look at developing tourism to the island – and the Australian Government is helping, funding a new study that aims to identify its “various strengths, weaknesses, threats and opportunities for growth”.
PNG Tourism Promotion Authority CEO Jerry Agus said Manus had huge tourism potential.
"One of the greatest areas of strength they have in terms of tourism is diving, surfing is one of them, and there's a lot war relics in Manus Island as well," he said.
Mr Agus said the island would first need to develop its tourism infrastructure and overcome perceptions that Manus Island was essentially just an offshore processing centre.
"Manus Island is not … only the detention centre. It's a big place," he said.
"There are a lot of things you can see and do - even completely out of sight of the detention centre.
"It's not about what you hear about and what you read in the papers.
"There's a lot of positive things going on in terms of tourism development."
According to the ABC, around 600 refugees and asylum seekers remain on Manus Island, which currently has just two hotels – one of which houses detention guards.
But Google images of ‘Manus Island beach’ and you’ll find pictures of palm tree-lined, pristine beaches perfect for tourism.
At least, that’s what its authorities hope.
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