There will be a new country near Indonesia soon, but travellers are advised to be cautious when taking the trip.
The potential new state is Bougainville, which voted for independence from Papua New Guinea in a 2019 referendum.
Bougainville’s disengagement process will begin in 2023 and is expected to become a fully independent state in 2027.
The result of the referendum has made local residents and international observers optimistic about Bougainville’s bright future, as the island is rich with abundant natural resources and tourism potential. The forests are untouched and the rivers, volcanoes, and 685 km of coastline are pristine.
In fact, Bougainville is said to be an alternative for natural tourism besides Bali and Fiji, but tourists are advised to make very careful plans if they want to go there.
“Tour operators are limited in Bougainville, mostly World War II veterans and their relatives,” said Dr Thiago Cintra-Oppermann, a Bougainville expert from the Australian National University, quoted by the Daily Mail on Thursday 25th November 2021.
“Bougainville is a very beautiful place, with great and diverse views and friendly people, but the infrastructure is still very limited compared to Fiji and Bali,” he continued.
One of the main tourist attractions is the World War II ruins and historical tours. More than 60,000 Americans were based in Bougainville during World War II and Japanese Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto died in a plane crash in the jungle there.
Bougainville was also recently plagued by the Delta variant of COVID-19, resulting in a lockdown and 10 deaths in early November and 170 new cases.
“Ecotourism is an area of possible growth, but over the last two years it has stalled,” continued Dr Cintra-Oppermann.
As a developing country, Bougainville has a lot to do to develop its healthcare and tourism infrastructure. In addition to COVID-19, endemic malaria is also a sustainability issue.
There are many other factors that also make its mother country, Papua New Guinea, less popular in terms of tourism, especially its dangerous reputation for personal safety.
This is largely due to crime and violence between local residents, especially domestic violence and violence against women, as well as corruption.
Transparency International’s 2016 Corruption Perceptions Index ranked Papua New Guinea at 142 out of 180 countries.
“For a very long time the only viable tourism industry was small-scale adventure tourism and for people with money, because the costs to get there and do activities around Bougainville were very high,” said Dr Anthony Regan, a Papua New Guinea expert at Australian National University.
“There’s hardly any tourist-grade accommodation of any kind, outside of small, not-so-maintained guesthouses.”