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Table of Contents
Table of Contents ............................................................................................................................ 2
Tourists: Americans ........................................................................................................................ 3
Tourists: Europeans ........................................................................................................................ 9
The Tour Operator: PNG Experience ........................................................................................... 13
Community Members ................................................................................................................... 18
Government: Federal .................................................................................................................... 24
Tourism Consultants ..................................................................................................................... 29
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Jack is staring into the dark water from his stance on the third deck of the “Darling
Mary”, a river boat steering through the Brown River in Papua New Guinea’s southeastern
rainforest. He is unable to see over rail. This is because Jack is four years old and 3’6”. The black
mesh railings don’t stand out against the dark water. It wouldn’t matter anyway. His stare is
transfixed on a reptilian nose puncturing the water.
Jack pointed below. Nancy doesn’t care. This is the fourth caiman Jack has seen in the
past fifteen minutes. Her maternal instincts kick in and she pieces together a response
begetting a four year-old child’s excitement.
“Whoa! That’s a caiman Jack.”
Nancy is nearly proud she can still fake excitement about a caiman after so many days
on the river.
“No mama! An alligator. It’s like Alvin the Alligator from my book,” Jack says
Nancy knows the conversation is going to be exactly the same as moments ago. She
swears her son has the memory of a goldfish.
“Yeah, very similar Jack.”
Nancy is relieved when Harry returns from the restroom. The conversations she had
with Jack was mind-numbing. She spent the past four years sitting at home with him. She is
always glad to have adult company.
“Honey, are we getting off the boat at the next stop?” Harry asks.
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“Yeah, we need to get Jack off the boat for a while. And I want to look at the jewelry.”
“Nancy, again? Can’t we do something else? We just keep shopping in these villages.”
“Harry, I didn’t come here to get sweaty and tired. I want a vacation. Relax.”
“Jack, get away from the railing. You’re too close,” Harry states excitedly.
“Harry, just let him be. There’s a railing. It’s not like he’s gonna’ jump over it. He can’t
jump 4 feet. The top of the railing is higher than his head for god’s sake.”
Harry relishes the other end of the 25 foot boat. He watches two other families gazing at
the alligator. Johan, a German boy of perhaps four years of age, is pointing toward the caiman’s
nostrils and eyes floating above the dark water. Harry wishes he could join the Europeans for
one of their excursions. The German and Swiss families hike when the boat stops. They swim in
the river. They eat food with the locals. Nancy won’t even let him try the local beer. And
Nancy’s sister’s family is even worse. Cynthia’s two kids and husband Jerry annoyed him. At
least they are below deck. Cynthia is worried the kids might sunburn. Cynthia ran out of
sunscreen on the fourth day of the ten day trek. She had only brought six bottles of sunscreen.
Harry unfocuses his eyes forward again. In the distance he can make out a manicured
shoreline. The next village is approaching. He glances to the shoreline. It is only another caiman
sunbathing along the bank of the Brown River. It was exhilarating. On the first day of the trip.
Now he wonders if caimans can see underwater. The water is pitch black from where he sits.
He is unhappy with the “family” part of the “family trip” but enjoys the pristine qualities
the river offers. He was enjoying the “trip”. He wishes there were options for activities though.
Maybe if there were official “activities” his family would be able to do something that
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Before he got married he took trips to exotic locales. Nancy wasn’t into it. This was the
first trip in their six years of marriage that was outside the United States. The trip wasn’t
turning out to be as exciting as he hoped for. He kept being told “NO” by Cynthia and Nancy.
Their always watchful eyes kept him from what they called “fun”, but in a facetious manner.
“Okay everybody, please listen up,” the speakers boomed. “We are arriving in Wilkila.
This is my hometown village. We will be stay here tonight. We have hotel room for each of us. I
come around with keys in five minutes for everybody, okay?”
Cot, the tour guide, is beginning to sound like nails on a chalkboard to Harry. The
accents in New Guinean, or whatever they call themselves, is killing the sensitivity in his ears as
they butcher his native language. Harry turns towards Jack’s perch at the front of the boat, but
he is gone. Harry observes a moment of panic. The panic pumps blood quickly through his body.
He turns around only to see Jack talking to Johan, one of the young German boys on the boat.
Jack introduced Johan to Alvin the Alligator on his Nintendo DS a few days ago and the two four
year-olds have been nearly inseparable since.
Harry stands up and walks toward Jack.
“Jack, come on, we’re getting off here. Are you ready?” Harry is still managing to
implant excitement into his voice when necessary to make Jack excited to participate in
“Papa, Johan saw Alvin too!”
“I know!” Harry swoops Jack into his arms and moved towards Nancy at the front of the
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“Harry, don’t forget, men’s night out in the village tonight after dinner,” Hans, Johan’s
father, yells after Harry.
“Definitely Hans, I am looking forward to trying some of that beer ya’ll drink every day!”
Harry is sure he will not be allowed to participate in the debauchery. Nancy won’t stand for it.
She calls it debauchery. He picked the term up from her years ago.
The boat comes to a jolting halt. Cot lays a wooden plank down so the tourists can get
from the boat to land without stepping in any mud. The plank uselessly sinks into the mud
almost immediately and serves no purpose to the tourists.
“Don’t forget Harry’s family. Tonight thee locals are having agriculture festival for you.
We eat good food from fire-cook. We watch dance. Maybe dance too. Kay, I get you from hotel
room at seven in the night. See sign?”
Cot pointed Nancy and Harry towards the sign that advertised their hotel for the night.
The sign was the tallest structure in the village.
Nancy leads the way down the plank. Harry follows closely with Jack in his arms. Before
they even get to the end of the ten foot plank ten to fifteen locals meet them with out-
“You buy. Very cheap. Good cheap.”
“Take picture I take. Very cheap.”
Locals hound them even more when they reached the end of the plank. Four year-olds
with mud plastered on their face sell gum. Old women smile, showcasing their toothless gums,
while Nancy and Harry passed their handicraft booths.
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Some local children play soccer on a field near the boat. They wear tattered shorts and
no shirts or shoes. The buildings immediately surrounding the dock are open air cement
buildings, but seventy-five feet down the dirt road Harry can see the cement buildings giving
way to thatch huts. Harry reaches the large sign written in what Harry thought was beautiful
calligraphy. He follows Nancy, who follows instructions from the New Guinan on the sign. The
sign, which is written in English, shows a New Guinean in white tribal warfare paint pointing the
group towards the “Papuan Spirit House”.
Walking towards the hotel they pass three bars for locals and one restaurant. They
know the bars are for locals because they are filled with local men wearing no shirts and the
sign on the door reads, “Locals Only”. The Italian food smells good though. This is a stark
contrast to the smells of a village that has no sewage system.
Harry’s arms are feeling heavy from carrying Jack. Jack’s head rests against Harry’s
bright turquoise Hawaiian shirt. The walk to the Spirit House is longer than anticipated. He
knows PNG Experience, the travel agency, markets the property as a unique nature experience
from the brochure. He is glad porters are bringing all of the luggage.
Suddenly, out of the weeds on the side of the road, three people run toward Nancy,
Harry, and Jack. They look like kids but everything happens so fast the family can’t even make
out the dark faces beneath the low brimmed hats. The first child takes Nancy’s purse off her
shoulder with one swift jerk of his hand. The third boy flashes a machete. They disappear into
weeds on the opposite side of the road. Everything happens in a flash. Harry doesn’t even have
time to think before it’s over.
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Nancy turns around and looks at Harry. She breaks into tears almost immediately. Jack
wakes up. He is met by an unfamiliar group hug and Nancy sobbing into Harry’s shirt where
Jack’s head had been resting while he slept.
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Hans looks down the plank. He is de-boarding the “Darling Mary”, a beautiful four-story
boat he, his wife Ana, and his four year-old son Johan have been traveling on for the past five
days. Cot, his tour guide, lies a plank of wood down for the tourists to de-board. Hans lets the
American tourists off first. They are always eager to be the first to do things. Always in a rush.
They can’t seem to relax.
The end of the plank dips into the mud on the bank of the river. Even the mud looks
good to Hans. He’s excited to be in Papua New Guinea. The experience has already been worth
the long trip and thousands of Euros he had to pay. The culture has been amazing, and the
locals don’t care if he takes pictures as long as he gives them a cigarette every once in a while.
Hans balances on the beam and begins walking down.
“Johan, isn’t this fun!”
“Daddy, look!” Johan points toward a four year-old girl with mud smeared on her face.
She is selling gum. Johan is endlessly amused by children his age. Hans doesn’t know what
Johan is pointing at because he is attempting to balance on the plank. Hans safely assumes
Johan is amused by the children though. He always is.
“This is tough. Ana, we shouldn’t have opened that last bottle of wine.”
Hans attempts to catch his balance and make his way down the beam. He is too drunk
though. He loses his balance when an older woman with mud smeared on her face knocks him
with her out-stretched arm. She is pandering for change.
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Hans falls into the soft mud below. His legs are in the cool, tranquil water and his head is
resting in the mud. His face is toward the sky. He is laughing loudly. Ana is laughing too, albeit
in an embarrassed for her husband manner.
“Daddy!” Johan yells as he jumps into the mud next to his father.
Cot jumps into action yelling at the pandering women and children to move away from
the man in the mud. He moves away the locals by yelling at them. He then turns his attention
towards the tourists in the mud.
“Sir, I’m sorry. Let me help you.”
Hans takes Cot’s hand and pretends he is going to pull him in to the mud. He continues
“Cot, don’t worry. It’s nothing!”
Hans stands up straight. The mud is above his ankle. He walks waist-deep into the river
and washes the mud from his face and shoulders. He takes off his shirt. It is covered in mud. He
hands his muddy shirt to a young boy standing near him.
“The shirt’s all yours buddy.”
The young boy takes his thumb out of his mouth and takes Hans’ shirt.
Hans picks Johan up with one fell swoop and smiles at Ana.
“Let me get him Hans. You’re both covered in mud. I feel left out.”
Hans passes Johan off to Ana.
“Okay Cot, we’re ready. Where are we headed next?”
“Mr. Hans, you see that sign? It points to the Spirit House, where we stay tonight.”
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He takes Johan into his arms with a swift motion. Johan wants to walk though. He puts
Johan down and takes Ana’s hand. They stop at booths where women sell jewelry. They
purchase a necklace without bartering from an elderly woman with a toothless grin and mud
smeared on to her face.
After a stroll through the village they begin walking toward their hotel, “The Spirit
House”. On the way there Ana notices a bar of locals.
“Babe, let’s stop for a drink. Doesn’t it look fantastic!”
“The sign even says they don’t allow tourists,” Hans says with excitement.
They walk into the bar. There are nine men in the bar and two bartenders. The German
couple can almost pass for locals. Johan and Hans are not wearing shirts. All three of them are
covered in dirt. They are wearing cheap flip-flops.
Ana knows from the last two towns they stopped in that locals are not always
welcoming at first. She pulls out twenty Euros and hands it to the bartender.
“A drink for everybody in the bar!” She tells the bartender in her loudest voice.
“And I’m paying for you to drink too,” she tells the bartender.
She looks to the men drinking beer in the bar. They raise their glasses in unison,
thanking her for the free forthcoming drinks…
Three hours later the couple stands up to leave the bar. They are sitting at a table with
fifteen men. The Germans paid for all of the drinks, but the entire tab was under $60 Euros
“We can dress you up. Just like locals. For the party tonight,” one of the locals says.
“We are working tonight’s tourist event,” the elderly gentleman at the table states.
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“That sounds great,” Ana says excitedly.
“Yeah, I’m in too,” chimes in Hans.
“Johan, you wanna’ play with paint?” one of the locals asks Ana and Hans’ son.
The most elderly local begins explaining the tradition of white warrior paint to Ana while
Hans and the younger local speak with Johan. Ana is listening, but between his accent and her
drunkenness she is only able to catch bits and pieces of the one-way conversation.
Before long Ana and Hans are covered in white New Guinean warrior paint, along with
the Swiss couple, who painted themselves as well when the opportunity arose. They are
walking along the main path from the “Spirit House” to the evening’s festivities. The locals had
given them locally produced beer from one of the man’s farms. The night is going well. They are
getting along well with the locals and they have already made friends with people in the
C a n n i b a l T o u r s | 13
The Tour Operator: PNG Experience
Brett is looking out his corner office on the fourth story of the Hamti Building. The view
is seemingly spectacular. He works in one of the tallest buildings in Port Moresby. He can make
out the city’s harbor in the distance. When he looks closer at the people beneath him he sees
the truth. More than half of the people below are not wearing shoes. Every once in a while a
shimmer would catch his eye. A gun’s silver barrel reflecting sunlight. Or it could be a cell
phone. Chances are it is a gun. There are more guns than phones in Port Moresby.
He is reminiscing over the humble beginnings of his multi-million dollar tourism
establishment. Thirty years ago he didn’t have an office. He was a young adventurous traveler
who fell in love with the beauty and culture of Papua New Guinea. He bought one boat from an
Australian and began running tours through Papua New Guinea’s jungled plateau in the
country’s heartland. Now he owns the largest tour company in the country. Things are falling
apart around him though. Apartheid ended. Locals are running their own companies. He is
losing market share at an astounding rate of 1% per month this fiscal year. He lost nearly 10%
market share already in 2008.
His computer beeps. Another received email. He glances at one of the three computer
screens on his desk. A new booking. He pulls the PNG Experience website up to check which
package had been booked. An English couple booked a three day excursion. He thought to
himself, “Very little profit margin on the short trips.”
A knock on the door alerted Brett.
“Yes, come in.”
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The door opened and Cot, one of his most loyal tour managers, walked in. Cot rarely
worked as a tour guide anymore. He was more valuable an asset in the office. Instead, Cot took
one tour group each month. It ensured consistent contact with the local populations Cot had
become close with. Cot was being groomed for the Vice Presidency position at PNG Experience.
Brett knew it was time to include a local at a high level to stay competitive.
“Cot, what’s up?”
“Not a lot sir.”
Brett motioned Cot to sit in the chair opposite him.
“So Cot, you just got back from your monthly trip, right?”
“Yes, and we had a few problems I want to tell you about.”
Brett motioned Cot to continue with a raise of his eyebrow.
“One of the guests was robbed. Another guest was pushed into the water by a local
woman looking for money. Things are not like before sir.”
A silence fell upon the office.
“Cot, let me show you this.”
Brett took some financial statements from his desk drawer. He began pointing to line
items on the P&L.
“See here? Trips are getting shorter. I’m dropping prices on the longer Stars, but the
Dogs are winning out.”
“What are these highlighted percentages?” Cot asked.
“Remember, that’s market share. Here look at this.”
Brett turned to another page in the P&L.
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“This shows our market share month over month for the past five years.”
“It’s getting smaller.”
“Yeah, we’ve been losing a lot of market share. It’s not less tourists coming to PNG. It’s
less tourists coming with us.”
“Cot, that’s a good question.”
Brett turned pushes the P&L to a corner of his desk. He takes out a report entitled,
Brett opens a copy of the report he had prepared for the tourism consultants. The
numbers struck him. He shows the numbers to Cot:
Table 3.2. 2008, Annual Growth
% of clients % of Profits
Country of Origin Growth
African 0.9% 1.1% -3.9%
American 15.8% 15.2% -0.5%
Australia 23.3% 17.4% -1.1%
Canadians 4.1% 3.9% -0.4%
Chinese 3.1% 4.7% -12.8%
English 8.8% 9.1% -0.4%
French 5.6% 5.1% -9.5%
German 6.2% 6.1% -7.5%
Japanese 8.6% 12.5% -14.5%
Middle Eastern 0.8% 1.6% 1.2%
Portugese 1.2% 0.8% -8.7%
Russian 2.7% 2.4% -18.4%
Spanish 1.9% 1.3% -16.3%
Other/European 9.9% 8.9% -22.6%
Other/Asian 4.1% 6.1% -21.2%
Other/Latin American 3.9% 3.8% -19.8%
TOTAL 100.0% 100.0% -9.7%
C a n n i b a l T o u r s | 16
“This shows our 2008 annual market share loss. The economy tanked around the world,
but we lost almost 10% market share.”
Cot studies the worksheet for a moment.
“Especially with groups that didn’t speak English,” Cot says after a moment.
Brett began printing literature in German, Japanese, Chinese, French, and English. He
hasn’t updated the website with other languages yet, but he is going to. English is, after all, the
official language of Papua New Guinea. Only 60% of the country speaks English though. There
are approximately 1,000 languages spoken throughout Papua New Guinea. Still, more people
than ever are visiting Papua New Guinea in 2009 and his profits are falling!
Brett had finished a meeting with Tourism Gurus, a tourism consulting firm, moments
ago. He had caved. He agreed to pay $150,000 for a report detailing improvements that could
be made in the company’s structure. Brett was afraid the company would have to be down-
sized to stay profitable. He was already cutting hours for the tour guides. Cot was his highest
“Sir, we’re losing the most money in Asian countries,” Cot said, but sounded unsure of
“You’re right. We’re getting killed in that market. I’ll tell you Cot, pages upon pages of
the report all say the same thing. We’re losing more money every month to competition.”
There was a time when PNG Excursions was the only tour company that took tourists to
the elusive central plateau region of Papua New Guinea. A drop off had been experienced when
new tour agencies opened that visited the region. That was when apartheid ended and the pay-
C a n n i b a l T o u r s | 17
offs Brett had been making to corrupt officials were no longer possible. That was years ago
though. This new trend is disturbing Brett because he can’t identify a reason for the problems.
Another trend that had hurt Brett a few years ago was governmental. PNG Experiences
no longer provided the opportunity to visit all regions of Papua New Guinea, in main part
because Brett aligned with the unpopular central government where the average elected
candidate receives less than 15% of the vote due to the enormous number of political parties.
For example, Bougainville is inaccessible to clients of PNG Experience due to its population's
isolation on an offshore island and its attempts to establish its own government and military,
independent of Port Moresby.
Tourists feel limited in their experiences according to the surveys. There is a high
demand for the ultimate experience with pristine environments and cultures.
C a n n i b a l T o u r s | 18
Hatu can see the boat nearing port. She is prepared. Her grand-daughter Kiti is stationed
near where her nephew Cot would lay the plank for the tourists when he got off the tourist
boat. She smears some mud from the soccer field on Kiti’s face. She always makes more money
when there is mud on her face. Kiti is gripping an arsenal of gum ready to sell the tourists.
Hatu turns to her sister Margi, Cot’s mother.
“Here they come Margi.”
“Yes, and Cot is staying two nights this time.”
“Good for you. You must miss him when he’s gone so long.”
“He’s never here anymore. I don’t think his sister and brother even know who he is any
Hatu is eager for the boat to arrive. The boats have been stopping less and less. She
doesn’t make the money she did five years ago. There was a time when she didn’t bother with
the tourists. Now she has few other opportunities for making money. On top of this, her son
Arkana has moved back to the village. He was living in Port Moresby for the past two years but
with no jobs he moved back to the village. Of course, there are no jobs in the village either.
Hatu is left taking care of her two children and her younger son’s daughter Kiti even though her
sons are adults in the village. They haven’t learned any skills like farming, as their father had
before he passed away last year.
“I still have hope for Arkana Margi. I know he can’t be a tour guide now. But maybe he
can still be a doctor or a lawyer in Moresby one day.”
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Margi feels bad for her sister. Hatu works hard but her children won’t be tour guides.
They will never make the money Cot makes.
Hatu looks at the port’s poor infrastructure. It is almost unusable in the rainy season.
She has seen pictures of the port in Moresby. It is beautiful, with cement and walkways.
The port built up for small tourist boats in the village, but with recent criminal activity,
and some elder leaders harboring a disdain for tourism and the effects they claimed tourism
was having on their community, the community has requested some tour companies no longer
use the port. Only two companies are still using the port and neither one is stopping as often as
they once had. The elders who stopped the boats from coming had no young children left and
they owned farms. They didn’t need the tourists’ money.
Hatu is lost in thought as the few women, men, and children who had been on the
tourist boat pass her stand with handicrafts and traditional artwork. She gives her toothless
smile to them, but no sales. Nobody even stops. The ship is so empty that there are more
beggars and peddlers than tourists on the boat.
Another week without sales means she has to send Arkana and Paloti, her younger son,
to a neighboring town for work. She doesn’t know where they get the money or what they do
in the neighboring villages, but they always came back with money for food. She needs the
money to buy food. Most of her handicrafts take a full week to make and she sells it to the
tourists for only $15-$20. She asks for $40, but they always haggle. She is often told by Cot that
in Port Moresby and Australia there is no haggling. The price marked is the price people pay.
But tourists always haggle her. She doesn’t understand why.
C a n n i b a l T o u r s | 20
Every dollar counts though. When her husband was still alive she used the money to buy
goods from tourists. Or she would send money with Cot or Arkana to buy things in Port
She watches the tourists turn towards the Spirit House. It is the most beautiful building
in the town. It was once the “church”. She was married there thirty years ago. Now tourists
sleep there and locals were not allowed inside unless they work there. Few locals worked there.
The manager was white and the employees were from Port Moresby. One of five security
guards from Port Moresby stood watch at all times.
“Kiti! Kiti! It’s time to go.”
“Mama, I’m with Marit,” Kiti boldly stated.
Hatu turned to Margi, who was waiting for Cot to finish tying the boat up.
“They don’t respect their elders anymore.”
“Of course not. They have more money than us.”
“When we were young nobody had money.”
“I didn’t know what money was!”
They shared a laugh.
Hatu turns her attention towards the soccer field.
“Arkana, come over here!”
‘Mama, we’re almost done!”
“Arkana, now! We need to move the booth to where the ceremony is tonight.”
Arkana kicked the soccer ball as hard as he could in anger and ran towards his mother.
“Arkana, we need to move this.”
C a n n i b a l T o u r s | 21
“Can’t I just finish the game mom?”
Hatu sighed and kept her eyes trained on Arkana.
“Okay, but move the table to the ceremony tonight as soon as you’re done, okay?”
“Did we sell anything today mom?”
“No, nothing today. You’ll have to work this week and make money with your brother.”
Hatu turned to go home. She knew Kiti would follow her home. There was no crime in
the town of four hundred and fifty people. The only crime was when tourists were there, and
nobody was going to harm another villager. There were tribal laws against it. Although
cannibalism hasn’t been practiced in more than thirty years there were still harsh penalties,
such as drowning.
“Hey, look at this hon!”
Two foreigners, and their son, approached Hatu’s stand. They were covered in mud.
They didn’t look like normal tourists.
“You like? You should buy. I made it myself at home. It took a long time. Very good
“Put the necklace on babe,” the white man told the white woman.
“How much is it?”
“$35. Handmade,” Hatu replied. She had to start the bargaining high. Tourists always
“Do you like it?”
“Yeah, it’s great. What do you think?”
The woman smirked at the man. Hatu thinks there is a chance of a big sale.
C a n n i b a l T o u r s | 22
“Very beautiful ma’am.”
“We’ll take it,” the white man says.
He pulls a men’s wallet out of his female companions’ purse. He thumbs through it and
hands Hatu $30 Euro.
“That’s, let me do the math, wait,” he says.
He returns to his wallet and grabs two more Euros.
“Here, I think this is like $36.”
“Thank you sir. Thank you very much.” Hatu can’t hide her joy in the sale.
The young boy waves goodbye to Hatu as he walks away with his parents. Hatu waves
back. Hatu then turned around to the store. She has money now. She can buy food. Then she
would go home herself. She left the table for Ankara to clean up. Nobody would steal from her
in the town.
When Hatu gets home with Kiti they are both carrying a bag of canned food. They walk
in the front door and Hatu is met by jubilous sons.
“Mama. Look what one of the tourists dropped!”
There is a beautiful brown leather bag on the table. Its contents have been spilled out
on the table. There is money. A lot of money. There are cigarettes and make-up. So much
make-up! Hatu can sell it in the community and make a fortune. She won’t have to work for
months. She thinks about how her sons came across the bag, but knows better than to ask.
They need the money more than the rich white people on this boat who don’t even need to
“Oh my sons! This is wonderful. We need to celebrate. Don’t tell Cot tonight, all right?”
C a n n i b a l T o u r s | 23
They agree. Cot would want to give it back to the tourists. All they need is to keep their
good fortune under wraps for one night. Cot will leave soon and they can do as they like when
he is gone. Cot lost touch with the community. He is a tour guide now.
“Tonight we all need to go to Margi’s. Cot’s home. She’s cooking. Then we can go to the
tourist ceremony and sell more.”
Two hours later they begin the seven minute walk from their home to Margi’s on the
other side of town. They hare ad dressed in the only collared shirts and dresses they own. They
always try to put on a good face for Cot. They don’t want him to look down on them. Maybe
one day he will provide a way for them to leave the village.
On their walk they come across a group of whites on the road. They are leaving the
Spirit House. They are dressed in traditional white tribal warfare paint. They are covered. The
men are not wearing shirts. The women are covered in the paint that the spirits made only for
men. They are laughing at the paint on each other’s bodies and drinking too much. Even their
small young children are wearing the tribal paint.
“I remember when our men left the Spirit House as the ghost,” Hatu sighed.
Her boys can feel her disdain. They feel it too. The whites are taking their spiritual past
and making fun of their history.
“Look, I’m almost naked. No clothes!” Yells one European tourist.
“Ha, look at the paint chip off my arm!”
The only reason Arkana is able to hold back is that he has already taken one of the
white’s money. They might steal his traditions, but he can always steal their money.
C a n n i b a l T o u r s | 24
“George, sit down. Thank you for coming.”
“Aah, Mr. President Michael Somare, you know I wouldn’t miss an opportunity to sit
down with you,” George says facetiously in his elegant British accent.
“George, you’re too kind,” the President quips, replying to George’s tone with a
dissenting tone of his own.
The President continues, “Ever since our last meeting. When you walked away with a
new enterprise, right?”
“Aah, Michael, it’s been going well. And you should see the jobs I’m creating in your old
“Good, good, but I don’t see that. This is why I called you here today.”
George cuts him off, “These things don’t show up overnight.”
“George, I need to see results.”
“I have something you should look at Michael. Let me get it out of my briefcase
George begins flipping through paperwork in his briefcase. He finds what he is looking
for and spreads it on the table in front of the President.
“See here? This is the job creation.” George points to a place on the chart that makes no
sense to Michael.
“By being the only company allowed to stop at this port we are helping the people.”
“Really? That’s not what I heard. And you want to grow. Be more monopolistic?”
C a n n i b a l T o u r s | 25
“Michael, this is what it’s going to take. I gave you $30,000 Kina last time. I’m prepared
to give you another $20,000. There are two boats still stopping at the port on the Brown River.
Some tour guide told us he has to. We need him to stop. We have to raise wages in the area.”
The President is confused. He doesn’t understand George. He rarely does. George gives
him money and he continues granting George what he wants, especially when George tells him
it’s best for the country.
The President understands he’s a high school drop-out in over his head. He’s become
President with only 11% of the country’s vote. That’s good enough for third place out of
seventeen candidates. Only 14% of the country’s eligible citizens voted. But, with the backing of
the military he was able to continue the democracy the Westerners established in 1973.
The President needs a break from George before he can continue the conversation. He
hadn’t prepared sufficiently and he doesn’t want to make a mistake. George is still talking. He’s
asking for sole tourist rights to areas closer and closer to the President’s hometown. The
President doesn’t care about giving neighboring tribes’ lands to George. They’re enemies. But
he can’t let George control his homelands unless it is best for families.
The President reaches under his desk and presses a button causing the phone on his
desk to ring. George is still talking, but he has lost the President dozens of seconds ago.
He picked up the receiver.
Nobody answered, but Michael continued the conversation with himself.
The President implants a worried look on his face.
C a n n i b a l T o u r s | 26
“I see, one moment.”
The President turns to George.
“George, I need a moment. Do you mind waiting outside?”
“No, Michael, of course. Take your time.”
George is sure to take his briefcase with him. Last time he left the President alone with
his briefcase the President had gone through his paperwork.
When George reached the door the President yells after him.
“Close the door!”
As soon as the door closes the President puts the phone down. He’s glad George forgot
to take the large report he laid across the President’s desk. He turns the report to face him and
begins slowly reading the Executive Summary.
“The currency in Papua New Guinea is the Kina. $1USD is equivalent to 2.95 Kina. In
2006, the GDP was $15.41 billion ($2700 per capita), with 85% of this being composed of
agriculture. The GNP is $6.9 billion. In 2000, only 7,000 U.S. tourists visited Papua New Guinea.
In 2006, the number of tourists increased by 12% to 77, 486. In 2005, tourism brought in 1.5
billion U.S. dollars to Papua New Guinea.”
The President is beaming. He knows tourism is a strong industry in the country. It is
especially strong in his homeland. He is continuing the growth by monopolizing areas for
tourism companies. This will lead to higher prices for tourism services. This is money that
tourists will leave in the country. He continues reading.
“ENVIRONMENT: 90% of Papua New Guinea is covered by rainforests. Hence, there is a
need for environmental conservation. Tourism works two-fold though. First, as an economic
C a n n i b a l T o u r s | 27
income generator, and secondly, tourism can harm fragile natural environments unless proper
regulations are instituted. Not enough attention is being provided to cultural protection due to
modernization influences which begin with the central government.”
The President is not concerned with the environment. He is worried about what the
report seemingly says about his government. This is libelous. Saying anything against his
government can land you in jail. He can’t jail George. George controls the largest tourism
company in the nation and has more power than the President. None the less, something needs
to be done if this information is to be published or seen by locals.
“Government regulations have changed over the past thirty years in Papua New Guinea
as economics and money have changed the mindset of the people. This is no more evident than
in the issues of land ownership and usage rights. The Papua New Guinean Constitution has
created a system under Preamble 5 in which indigenous groups are self-governing with the
complete ownership of traditional lands. This autonomous system has in turn created a situation
in which villagers are attracted to tourism sites, and there is no legislation in place to prevent
The President continues beaming with pride. He created Preamble 5. It allows for
indigenous warring factions to strike against each other, without the central government being
responsible. By having to control fewer lands his government is be able to assert more control
over the areas that are not in anarchy.
“To further complicate matters, there are discrepancies in nation-wide political decision-
making processes. For example, elected incumbents rarely win 15% or more of the popular vote.
Corruption and crime are out of control, causing the United Nations to relegate their status from
C a n n i b a l T o u r s | 28
a third world country to a fourth world country. Visitors are urged to stay in compounds and not
leave the compound premises while it is dark. Within Papua New Guinea's twenty provinces
there are 850 languages spoken (1 language for every 7000 people). Each region has their own
ideas about the central government, and they are self-governing within their province. All of this
has culminated in a major problem for Papua New Guinea's central government, not the least of
which is extremely different laws enacted from the different regions of the country, many of
The President knows he has to continue controlling the country. Reports like this
reaffirm the necessity to control the media. Perhaps George will pay him to control another
newspaper. He needs a new car for his third wife. He can’t allow anyone else to make decisions.
C a n n i b a l T o u r s | 29
“This country is too hot! And Moresby is ugly. I feel like I’m gonna’ vomit from the
smell. Why would a tourist come here?”
Mike has no answer for his new peer. He’s wondering the same thing.
“Chels, I have no idea,” he mumbles due to what he thinks is an oncoming heat stroke.
They resume to sitting in silence in the back seat of the town car. Chelsea can’t let her
complaints about their consulting assignment go unstated for long though.
“Look at this thermometer.”
Mike doesn’t look. He can’t think of one reason to exert the amount of energy a turning
of the head would require. It’s hot. No need to burn calories with exercise.
Mike slowly turns his head. The red line stops somewhere between 105 and 110 degrees.
Mike is not surprised. The thought makes him realize he is no longer wiping the beading sweat
from his forehead. It is dripping across his face. He feels a slight sting from the sweat in his eyes.
“Why don’t you ask him to open the window again? Maybe he learned English in the last
twenty minutes,” Mike condescendingly states while glancing at Chelsea before closing his eyes
Chelsea gives Mike a dirty look. Mike doesn’t notice. His eyes are already closed. His
head lays back on the headrest.
Chelsea looks at her hands. She is sweating from the palms of her hands. She isn’t sure
this has ever happened.
“This isn’t a dry heat. This is dirty heat.”
C a n n i b a l T o u r s | 30
“Chels, I’m sure we’re almost back to the hotel. It’s too dangerous to put the windows
down. Port Moresby isn’t safe for white people like Zimbabwe.”
“Ha ha. Mike makes a joke.”
Chelsea glances at the butt of a machine gun sticking out from the front passenger seat.
Their security detail while in the country is “Bob”. His name isn’t really Bob. They couldn’t
figure his name out though. His accent is unintelligible. He never says anything. So she calls him
“Bob”. Then Mike began calling him “Bob”. He just seemed like a “Bob” to her at the time. The
driver is referred to as “Bob” as well. Neither of them speak English without an extreme accent,
so what’s the difference?
Chelsea begins losing herself even more in heatstroke induced thought. This is her first
consulting job. Mike has been covering the globe consulting with tour operators for three years.
She tries to think about the mission at hand. She has to be responsible and come up with good
ideas so she can prove herself; She reads to herself from a manual, “Responsible cultural
ecotourism operators provide a code of ethics for visitor conduct, how to behave, tipping,
bargaining ethics. So…” She can’t remember to think straight. The heat is too much.
Chelsea looks at the binder she is holding. It is maroon and says “Tourism S.T.A.R.
Consulting” on the front. She feels the front of the binder. It is plastic. She thinks it would
probably melt right onto her fingers if she touches it for more than a moment. She opens the
binder. At least she can get work done while moving at fifteen miles an hour over gravel roads
that are more often used as a restroom than a road. This makes sense in Papua New Guinea.
There are more people without restroom facilities than there are cars.
C a n n i b a l T o u r s | 31
She thinks about re-reading the assignment. Then she reflects about how cool the job
seemed when she was applying. This was most likely because she still can’t believe she is
consulting for a tourism company in this hell-hole.
Chelsea outlines the dimpled “PNG Experience” on the 100% bright white unrecycled
paper with her finger. How could a tourism company make enough money to print a seventy-five
page report on paper that costs $.10 per page in a country where the average person makes less
than $350 per year? She does the math. PNG Experience spent $14 printing her and Mike’s
She turns to a section of the report she wrote 3 weeks ago in the proposal. She reads
silently, “Tourism S.T.A.R. Consulting will assist you with better understanding your current
She turns to her notes from their meeting from that morning with Brett, the Australian
owner of PNG Experience. She reads the first bullet-point:
Tension with residents. Why don’t they want PNG Experience stopping at ports along the
Brown River anymore?
Chelsea has already solved that one in her mind. In thirty years of tourism operations the
modus operandi had not changed once. This included indigenous relations. Chelsea thinks this is
an easy fix. She would be able to impress Mike. She could recommend the implementation of
eco-tourism practices. Responsible eco-tourism operators provide a code of ethics for visitor
conduct with aspects such as tipping, bargaining, and ethics being covered.
She flips to the next page to follow up with the bullet-point: “comment cards”. Common
themes throughout the cards included the lack of a true cultural experience, as promised by PNG
Experience, and a deterioration of the local natural habitats. Brett has already given them an
example of a problem he can’t fix: The Papuan Spirit House.
C a n n i b a l T o u r s | 32
Thirty years ago PNG Experience’s lodge “Papuan Spirit House” in the Chimbu Province
of the Highlands region was located sixty kilometers from the closest village. The recent
development of tourism locations encroached upon the Spirit House, which is now located 1.5
kilometers from a tourism and village compound. Bars and lights from the village create noise
and light pollution late into the night on an every evening basis. This reduces the hiking and
pristine habitat experience for tourists searching for such things. This is Brett’s thought, but it
seems to make sense.
Chelsea turns to the back of her binder. The section is entitled “Government”. This is
where Tourism S.T.A.R. Consulting has their work cut out for them. Chelsea has printed the CIA
Factbook page. Skimming the country’s information depresses her. There are significant
governmental issues, especially between the regional and central governments. Corruption is
unchecked. According to statistics crime is rampant, unemployment is 70% in Port Moresby and
55% in the indigenous communities, and more than 1,200 tribes speak 800 languages throughout
the country. Port Moresby is ranked the world’s most unlivable city. There is no saving grace.
Chelsea knows the tourists are creating larger than sustainable ecological imprints on the
culture and natural habitats, but the money they import to the country is necessary for the people
to subsist. Within regional areas there are disconnects between the young generations and the
culture of the indigenous people. Chelsea only has to deal with PNG Experience though. She
can’t fix the whole country.