The following article appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald on 2 September, 2009:
The Government of Papua New Guinea will crack down on rogue tour operators on the Kokoda Track who are not paying taxes or taking proper safety percautions.
PNG’s Investment Promotion Authority has developed a code of conduct for foreign operators and is talking with them about increasing oversight and a licensing system.
Under PNG law, companies operating for more than 31 days are required to resister with the authority and pay taxes to the Government.
But the authority’s managing director, Ivan Pomelau, told the Herald that monitoring foreign companies to ensure they obtained proper work permits “is quited difficult to enforce given that PNG’s tourism industry is at its infant stage”.
He said a “lot of work needs to be done in terms of regulation and enforcement … [We have] been focusing our effort on marketing and promoting the destination rather than regulating the industry”.
The executive director of the Kokdoa Track Authority, Rod Hillman, said his body was considering a licensing system to help improve safety procedures and standards on the track.
“We’ve gone from 100 people walking along the track a year to a situation where we’ve got around 5000 people walking the track a year. As an industry grows, you want to increase the standard and make the experience for the trekker more reliable and safer experience. A way of doing that is coming in and start licensing operators.”
Mr Hillman said companies and trekking groups sign a code of conduct, but a licensing systems would give authorities the teeth to enforce standards.
“The main problems we’ve had is with independents – people walking without a tour operator. That’s where I’ve had the most troublesome weekends, waiting beside the radio trying to get people out of the track to safety.”