PNG Tourism operating in a parallel universe

Kokoda Anzac 2011 032The proposed K200 visa fee for tourists without consultation reflects a disturbing ignorance of the reality of operating a tour business in PNG.

It comes at a time when the country has experienced the most negative international publicity in decades as a result of the PNG Kokoda Track Authority allowing two unprepared international tourists to trek Kokoda without a licensed tour operator.

PNG is primarily an adventure tourism destination for divers, trekkers, surfers, fishermen, birdwatchers and those with an interest in the cultural and environmental diversity of the country.

Adventure tourists have an abundance of alternative destinations in Australia, French Polynesia, Bali, Asia, Africa and South America. They are not queuing up to come to PNG.

Trekker numbers for the Kokoda Trail have declined by 44 per cent since the Australian Government assumed responsibility for the management of the Kokoda trekking industry in 2009.

Not one of the five strategies or 33 key performance objectives developed by Australian Government officials and contained in the KTA Strategic Plan 2012 – 2015 has been achieved.

Over the past decade some of the wealthiest and most influential people in Australia have been among the 40,000 trekkers who have crossed the trail. Many would be willing to travel to other PNG destinations as a result of their experience, but the KTA does not even maintain a database. They represent 40,000 lost marketing opportunities.

PNG has the opportunity to become the wartime tourism capital of the Pacific with markets in Australia, the United States and Japan. History records that adventure tourists and those with an interest in wartime tourism do not just ‘turn up’. They arrive as the result of individual marketing initiatives by tour operators in the industry.

PNG Tourism has operated in a parallel universe for many years. They are more concerned with the theory of tourism rather than the business of tourism.

The PNG Government would be better advised to get the basics right and support adventure tourism operators rather than trying ‘to kill the goose that lays the golden eggs’ with an opportunistic tax grab.

Charlie Lynn OL
Adventure Kokoda, Camden AustraliaTOURISM-CHARLIE LYNN-Post Courier-Wednesday March 9 2016-p11

Kokoda Nius

Newspaper Kokoda Anzac 2011 032reports of a British ‘Reality TV star‘ and his American girlfriend being ambushed, tortured, tormented and raped  by ‘cannibals’ on the Kokoda Trail went viral last month.  After escaping from their captors the near-naked couple apparently trekked in bare feet for 15 kilometres from Templeton’s Crossing to Alola from where they were evacuated.

The story generated the most negative publicity PNG has experienced in decades. International tourism will take a big hit as a result.

Hopefully it will precipitate a wake-up call amongst government agencies responsible for the Kokoda trekking industry because this couple should never have been issued with a permit to trek without a PNG guide or any emergency equipment. Time will tell.

PNG could become the wartime tourism capital of the Pacific –  if they get the model right! It’s an industry waiting to happen. [Read more…]

Potential of the Kokoda Trekking Industry

Kokoda Anzac 2011 032The most relevant guide to the potential of the Kokoda trekking industry is the continued growth in Australians making the pilgrimage to Gallipoli.

Each year up to 9 000 Australians visit the Dawn Service at Anzac Cove.  Thousands more visit it at other times of the year. It is now becoming a pilgrimage for more than a million Turkish people also visiting Gallipoli each year.

Papua New Guinea has the potential to be a world class adventure-tourism destination but it has to address negative perceptions in regard to safety and reliability – particularly after the recent ‘Black Cat Track’ murders.  This will require a focused investment in national marketing and support for the development of niche adventures such as wartime pilgrimages, eco-trekking, white-water rafting, caving, bird-watching, diving, surfing, fishing and culture.

People who participate in these niche adventure activities are generally more aware of the sensitivities of culture and environment and do not expect 5-star accommodation and service. They are also more tolerant of ‘surprises’ that are often experienced in the ‘land of the unexpected’. [Read more…]

Kokoda: A Consultant Free Zone!

Kokoda Anzac 2011 032The most important asset in the development of a sustainable trekking industry along the Kokoda Trail is the client who pays for the journey. Without him or her there will be no trek fees, no employment for guides and carriers, no shared benefits for villages, no campsite fees – no sustainable trekking industry!

Of equal importance in a country with complex traditions regarding customary land ownership are local landowners.

Unfortunately the people in charge of dispensing government aid programs from Australia seem to have little appreciation of these essential basics. Of more concern is the fact that they disregard the advice of those who have invested risk, time, energy and resources to create a wartime trekking industry across the Kokoda Trail. They have achieved this by working at the grassroots level to establish local partnerships based on mutual obligation. [Read more…]

Why Kokoda?

Kokoda Anzac 2011 032Since former Prime Minister Paul Keating visited Kokoda on the 50th anniversary of the campaign in 1992 the name has become synonymous with ‘Anzac’ and ‘Gallipoli’ because of its wartime historical significance.

The Kokoda Trail is unique because there is no other known challenge in such a remote jungle environment with such a compelling story – an experience that allows modern day trekkers to conquer their own adversity as the wartime history of the Kokoda campaign unfolds.

Kokoda, like Gallipoli, is a wartime pilgrimage where heroic stories of courage, mateship, sacrifice, endurance, initiative, egalitarianism and leadership are experienced in a way that has no equal in today’s civil society.

Australians do not trek Kokoda to have an environmental levitation or a cultural awakening – that comes later.  They trek it to walk in the footsteps of the brave. [Read more…]

VALE: Alex Rama – Kokoda Trek Guide

alex 1Alex Rama was my guide on my first trek across the Kokoda Trail in 1991.  At the time I had no idea what lay ahead. Alex’s English was unintelligible and my Pidgin was non-existent. Our only map was an old sketch of the trail and there were no signs. There was no chance of resupply so everything we needed, plus stuff we might have needed, were loaded into our army A-frame backpacks which hit the scales around 35 kg.

It called for a large measure of trust between two blokes who couldn’t understand each other.

The jungle swallowed us up in seconds and we obviously disturbed the spirits because rain soon pelted down which turned the track into a slithering mudslope.  Within the first half-hour I passed Alex at least three times on my back looking helplessly up at him.  It set the tone for the next few days as we were enveloped by our surroundings. [Read more…]

Kokoda comes to Sydney . . .

juffaKokoda was represented at the highest level recently when the Governor or Oro Province, Gary Juffa MP, and Mr Benjamin Ijumi flew to Sydney to pay their last respects to former RSL State President, Rusty Priest AM.  Rusty was a strong advocate for Kokoda and was the driving force behind the establishment of the Kokoda Track Memorial Walkway in Sydney.  He became good friends with Benjamin Ijumi who represented his people at many commemorative services at the Kokoda Track Memorial Walkway over the years.

During the Governor’s visit we hosted a function for the PNG High Commissioner, H.E. Charlies Lepani, the PNG Consul-General, Sumasy Singin at Parliament House to welcome PNG sailors visiting Sydney for the Naval Review.

NSW Premier, Barry O’Farrell accorded a State Funeral for Rusty and invited the PNG Consul General in Sydney, Mr Sumasy Singin and Governor Juffa to represent their people through reading the prayers for the service which was held in St Mary’s Cathedral and concluded at the Anzac Memorial in Hyde Park. [Read more…]

Kokoda Pilgrimages for Schools

 Our Kokoda pilgrimages for schools incorporate:

  • Student-Parent Treks,
  • Historical Treks tailored to suit school curriculum, and
  • Youth Leadership treks.

Student-Parent Treks

There is no greater bond of mateship, or commitment to one another, than that developed between soldiers in the crucible of war. Barry and Tom OFarrell Isurava April 2008Shared adversity, extreme conditions, privation, reliance on each other and the dry humour that develops in such situations combine to forge lasting personal bonds.

In a similar way, the Kokoda Trail offers the unique opportunity to experience elements of this bonding and relationship building for students and parents in a way that cannot be replicated in normal society.  The Kokoda Trail is wilderness trekking in its most pristine form. The pilgrimage is free of the distractions of everyday life that so hinder relationships in today’s busy world.

The relentless terrain, testing climate, perceived dangers (all carefully managed) of unfamiliar jungle, river crossings and grinding climbs will challenge the mental and physical tenacity of participants as they conquer their own self-doubts and replace them with self-confidence. The awe of walking in the very footsteps of our heroic ‘diggers’ who fought and died along the trail will put their own struggle into perspective and inspire them to conquer whatever obstacles they will inevitably face.

For the diggers Kokoda was a profound personal experience that established lifetime bonds: for student-parent groups it offers a similar opportunity to experience the power of a shared struggle in a unique learning environment. [Read more…]

Panthers prowl across Kokoda . . .

Panthers logoPenrith Panthers NRL club recently prowled across the Kokoda Trail with a group of young leaders from local schools and their own ‘Panthers on the Prowl’ program.  They took the challenge head-on and elected to complete our 10-day trek in 6 days.  This required a couple of 0330 hour bugle calls for reveille and a few hours trekking before the first hint of dawn appeared over the Owen Stanley Ranges.  The program was orchestrated by former Panther, Brad Waugh, and included Coach, Ivan Cleary and State of Origin players Tim Grant and Jamie Soward.  A young Giant from the AFL GWS squad, provided some cross-code balance. 

The trek will feature in a television program early next year – you can view a preview at

Network Kokoda – Protecting our wartime heritage and honouring the legacy of PNGs Wartime Carriers

Network Kokoda LogoNetwork Kokoda is a not-for-profit organisation established to protect our wartime heritage along the Kokoda Trail and honour the legacy of Papua New Guinea’s Wartime Carriers. We have applied for tax-deductibility status and hope to have it approved early in the New Year.

The organisation subscribes to the principles developed by the PNG Department of Community Development which, according to former Minister, Dame Carol Kidu, is based on local communities working together to develop sustainable initiatives which generate income to invest in their future.

Network Kokoda is registered in Australia and Papua New Guinea.

The Australian body is chaired by Brigadier Phil McNamara AM (RL).  The Executive Officer is Lieutenant Colonel Rowan Tracey (RL).  Both served as officers with the Pacific Islands Regiment during their army careers and are fluent in Tok Pisin.

The PNG body is chaired by Major Charlie Lynn (RL).  The Board of Directors includes Dame Carol Kidu, former Minister for Community Development; Brigadier Ken Noga, former Chief of the PNG Defence Force and High Commissioner to Australia; and Marianna Ellingson, Secretary to the Office of Tourism, Arts and Culture. [Read more…]