Speculation is mounting that PNG will ban visas on arrival for Australians, which a tourism official says would be a blow to the struggling industry.
Speculation is mounting that the government of Papua New Guinea is set to ban visas on arrival for Australians.
The ban, expected to come into force after Prime Minister Peter O’Neill signs off on it, will mean Australian passport holders will need to apply from home before visiting their closest neighbour.
In recent days stories have circulated on PNG social media the nation’s National Executive Council, a cabinet-like body, approved the ban when it met last week.
PNG’s Tourism Promotion Authority (PNGTPA) was unaware of the impending ban until contacted by AAP on Monday.
However PNGTPA spokesman Colin Taimbari then sought confirmation from the department of immigration.
“They said the withdrawal of the visa for Australians will come into effect when the Prime Minister signs it,” he said.
“It will not be in effect until it is signed.”
Comment is being sought from PNG’s department of immigration and from Mr O’Neill.
Traditionally a 60-day tourism visa can be issued upon arrival in Port Moresby.
When asked if a ban on visa on arrivals will be a blow for PNG’s struggling tourism industry, Mr Taimbari said “definitely”, but declined to comment further.
When contacted by AAP on Monday, both PNG’s high commission in Canberra and the consulate in Brisbane said there had been no official word from Port Moresby.
“We have heard the rumours too, but we have been told nothing official yet,” a spokesperson from the High Commission said.
“Until then it’s business as usual.”
PNG already has visa-on-arrival bans for all African countries, all Middle Eastern countries and all Caribbean island states.
It also bans visas on arrival for Chinese, Vietnamese, Indian and Russian nationals, among others.
In November 2013 it was reported Mr O’Neill threatened withdraw visas-on-arrival arrangements with Australia unless Australia reciprocated.
“This visa on arrival business for all Australians will be withdrawn by the following year if we don’t get a similar arrangement with them,” Mr O’Neill told the ABC.