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

Sharing Kokoda with Great Australians – Dick Smith and Dr Charlie Teo

Charlie Lynn Kokoda WebOver the past month I have been privileged to spend time on Kokoda with two great Australian’s – Dick Smith and Dr Charlie Teo – one in a helicopter and one on foot.

After arriving back from my helicopter safari with Dick Smith I received my copy of ‘Lion’ where he was featured donating a $1 million cheque to Lions Australia – Dick was Australian of the Year in 1986 and is one of our most generous philanthropists. He is certainly fit enough to do Kokoda without his helicopter and hopefully our safari might also turn out to be a ‘reconnaissance’ for the real thing!

A week after our trek with Dr Charlie Teo he was featured on Channel 7 for his work in trying to save orangutans from extinction in the jungles of Borneo –

Charlie is a remarkable man. He sets aside three months each year to provide pro-bono neurosurgery in Third World nations, heads up his ‘Cure for Life Foundation’ which aims to find a cure for brain cancer within 10 years. He was recently invited to address the US Congress to encourage President Obama to include brain cancer in the US $100 million project to map the human brain. He became the first non-politician in Australia to be accorded this honour. [Read more…]

Perpetuating the spirit of Kokoda

Anzac Day was first proclaimed by Acting Prime Minister, George Pearce, soon after the first anniversary of the landing of ANZAC troops on the Gallipoli Peninsula on 25 April 1915.

In the early 1920s all Australian States designated Anzac Day as a public holiday. In the 1940s, Second World War veterans joined parades around the country. In the ensuing decades, returned servicemen and women from conflicts in Korea, and Malaya, Indonesia, Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan, together with veterans from allied countries and peacekeepers, joined the parades.

It was initially a day of solemn commemoration for veterans and Australia shut down for the day as a mark of respect.

The Vietnam War broke the cycle of remembrance as it had been observed until then.  Radical protestors from the left saw the ceremony as a glorification of war and did their best to mock and denigrate it. Rather than vent their collective spleens against the political class that committed us to the conflict they attacked the soldiers, sailors and airmen who were dispatched to fight on their behalf.  It was the first time returning veterans had been so openly betrayed by their own countrymen. [Read more…]

The 70th Anniversary of the Battle of Crete and Greek Campaign by Charlie Lynn

I am privileged to attend today a Symposium which will enhance knowledge and encourage further scholarship and research into the Second World War unique conflicts known as the Battle of Crete and Greek campaigns.

Australia has been a destination for immigrants from Greece since colonial times but our shared experience during the campaigns of 1941 added a new dimension to that relationship, a bond that we see in the faces of veterans when they return to Greece and Crete, and in the lives of Greek families who have made Australia their home.

The Allied campaign to prevent the German invasions of Greece and Crete in 1941 was marred by mismanagement, mistrust and misunderstandings.  However, the legacy of the campaign has cemented the ties of friendship between the peoples of Greece and Australia that will last for as long as there is a memory.

In 1941 Greece was the last country in mainland Europe holding out against the fascist invasion.  Since the Italian invasion in 1940 the forces of the British Empire, including Australia, had been supporting the gallant Greek resistance.

In this early phase of the war the people of this city were swept up in the enthusiasm of celebrating the victory at sea of Cape Spada, Crete, when the Australian cruiser HMAS Sydney sunk a more powerful Italian cruiser and damaged another in July 1940.

Eight months later the RAN was again in action between the Peloponnese and Crete, part of the victorious British fleet that defeated the Italians at Cape Matapan.

While Australian sailors were in action in Greek waters and Australian airmen were serving in RAF squadrons supporting the Greek army on the Albanian frontier, the decision had already been made to send an expeditionary force of Australian, New Zealand and British troops to strengthen Greek defences as the threat of German invasion grew. [Read more…]

Loss of HMAS Sydney – Speech by Charlie Lynn at the Cenotaph, Sydney

71 years ago today HMAS Sydney died fighting.

The Australian light cruiser HMAS Sydney and her gallant crew were lost shortly after sunset on 19 November 1942 off the Western Australian coast.  The ultimate fate of HMAS Sydney remained a mystery until 2008. Today we know that the shattered hull of HMAS Sydney lies on the bed of the Indian Ocean 1n 2500 metres of water, 240 off Shark Bay.

Nine months before the ship and her crew met their fate they marched past this very cenotaph. They had just returned from distinguished service in the Mediterranean in which she had inflicted disproportionate loss on enemy navies.

One of those who marched through Sydney on his return from the Mediterranean was Stoker James Stuart of Redfern.  He had acquired a bosun’s call from HMAS Sydney and left the instrument with his family. He never returned to collect his souvenir and today it is in the collection of the Hornsby RSL.

HMAS Sydney had been launched in 1934, one of three light cruisers ordered by the Australian government as part of an expansion of the Royal Australian Navy. The others were HMAS Perth (sunk in Sunda Strait in 1942) and HMAS Hobart (badly damaged but survived the war) and the heavy cruiser HMAS Canberra (sunk near Sabo Island at Guadalcanal). [Read more…]

KOKODA: A paper on the Kokoda Trekking Industry by Charlie Lynn

In September 2012, the Australian War Memorial convened a major international conference to mark the 70th anniversary of the Kokoda and Papuan campaigns in 1942.  Kokoda now dominates Australia’s popular memory of the Second World War and has become the focus for the war’s commemoration. Popular narratives of Kokoda, however, rarely discuss the campaign in the war’s broader context or pose new questions concerning its conduct. Bringing together military historians and emerging scholars from the world, the conference reassessed the principal battles fought in Papua and discussed the campaign from both an Allied and Japanese perspective.

Adventure Kokoda trek leaders, Rowan Tracey and Charlie Lynn were invited to speak at the conference – an abstract of all speakers can be found at this link:

Following is the presentation by Charlie Lynn on the Kokoda Trekking Industry:

“Kokoda is a powerful word.  According to the Orokaiva ‘koko’ means place of skulls – ‘da’ is village.  The combination of syllables’ conjures up ‘adventure’ in the minds of sedentary beings. It makes sense.  Many early explorers and missionaries searching for gold in the Yodda valley ended up in cooking pots.

“Then came the war.  Kokoda was the first pitched battle fought against the Japanese.  It signalled the beginning of a campaign where Australia’s fate hung in the balance as our diggers fought a fanatical enemy, treacherous terrain, legions of deadly mites, malarial mosquitoes, venomous snakes, hunger – and fear.  [Read more…]

‘The Kokoda Trail’ – it’s about respect for Papua New Guinea and the men who fought across it!

 ‘The acceptance of the official name of the Kokoda Trail is a keenly contested point of debate in Australia.  Does it belong to the nation which retains sovereign ownership of the land between McDonald’s Corner and Kokoda i.e. Papua New Guinea?  Or to the 10 Australian Battalions and the Papuan Infantry Battalion whose battle honours are emblazoned with the name ‘Kokoda Trail’?  Or to modern day commentators who dislike the name ‘trail’ because of its American connotation?’

During the 50th anniversary of the Kokoda campaign, Prime Minister Paul Keating, kissed the ground at Kokoda and awakened Australians to the significance of the Kokoda campaign.  His action generated much talkback noise about whether it was a ‘trail’ or a ‘track’.  The noise increased as anti-American sentiment grew amongst the commentariat after the invasion of Iraq in 2003.  The voices eventually prevailed and, on the 60th anniversary of the Kokoda campaign, Prime Ministers’ John Howard and Sir Michael Somare opened the Isurava Memorial which had the word ‘Kokoda Track’ embedded into it.

This was in spite of the fact that all signage between McDonald’s Corner and Kokoda since the end of the war has referred to the ‘Kokoda Trail’.

The 70th anniversary offers an opportunity for a sober review of the debate. [Read more…]

Tribute to Warrant Officer Wally Thompson OAM

Warrant Officer Wally Thompson AO, the inaugural Regimental Sergeant Major of the Australian Army, passed away peacefully at Bankstown Hospital on Thursday 19 April 2012.

I had the honour of serving with Warrant Officer Wally Thompson when he was the Brigade Sergeant Major of the 1st Brigade at Holsworthy in 1982. [Read more…]

Wartime Tourism: University of Papua New Guinea Conference

Retired army major, Charlie Lynn, has been invited to give a keynote address on the potential for wartime tourism at the 3rd Annual Tourism and Hospitality Conference in Port Moresby on Thursday, 22nd September. The conference is hosted by the University of Papua New Guinea.

Charlie has trekked Kokoda 61 times over the past 20 years and has climbed Mt Wilhelm twice. He is a leading advocate for wartime tourism and was instrumental in establishing the Kokoda Track Authority to ensure villages along the trail received shared benefits from the emerging trekking industry. [Read more…]

‘McArches’ on Kokoda

The debate about any American connotation of the name  ‘Kokoda Trail’ is about to warm up with the construction of a set of ‘golden arches’ at the entrance to the trail/track at Kokoda.

Anzac trekkers coming of the trail/track were almost reaching for their wallets as they spied the Kokoda ‘McArches‘ looming in the mist towards the end of their fast-food deprivation across the Owen Stanley Ranges. They could almost hear the young Orokaiva cashier asking if they would like fries with their bully beef.

A bronze plaque on the ‘McArches’ is dedicated to Japan and Kokoda.  It talks erroneously about an Australian ‘retreat’ (which is not a phase of war) and describes how ‘six thousand Japanese fought bravely during their southerly advance’.

[Read more…]