The PNG Kokoda Track Authority (KTA) has announced a licensing system for trek operators. This is effectively an accreditation system – something we at Adventure Kokoda have been advocating for many years. We obviously support this initiative and commend the KTA for the work they have done to bring it about.

We also appreciate that many of our trekkers have experienced other world class trekking adventures in Nepal, South America, New Zealand, etc and could provide valuable input into the proposed KTA licensing system which is explained below.

THE KOKODA TRACK AUTHORITY LICENCING SYSTEM FOR TREK OPERATORS

Background and Context

On the 24th September 2009 the Kokoda Track Authority (KTA) Management Committee passed a resolution that Commercial Tourism Licences (CTL) will be in force for commercial tourism operations as of the start of the 2010 trekking season.

The purpose of the licences is to provide:

• An enhanced experience for trekkers
• Increased certainty for tour operators
• Compliance with PNG laws and regulations
• Respect for local culture and land owners
• Environmental sustainability
• A safer environment, and
• Fairness to workers

The KTA Management Committee will consult with stakeholders to ensure that the licence system is well designed and promotes beneficial outcomes. The schedule of consultation will include an Issues Paper, Tour Operator Forum in Port Moresby on 20th November 2009, and individual discussions with interested parties.

The CTL is not a revenue raising exercise. A fee will be set as a cost recovery measure.  A CTL is intended to set minimum standards. Higher standards will be promoted through the Code of Conduct and Certification programs.

Key Questions

1. What will be covered in a licence?

It is expected that a CTL will cover the areas listed in the table below.  Additional requirements will be determined through consultation.

Proposed conditions below:

Requirement:

Training
• Carry a First Aid kit (to be determined with assistance from medical authorities)
• Have at least one Tour Guide per party to have a current Senior First Aid Certificate
Checked by KTA Rangers on the Track

Legal
• Hold a PNG Company registration, or contract engaging a PNG registered company
• Adhere to relevant PNG laws and regulations
Photocopy of registration or contract with CTL application (no financial or commercial in confidence details required)

Insurance
• Hold current company public liability insurance
Photocopy of policy

Communications
• Carry a tuned VHF radio and/or satellite phone
Checked by KTA Rangers on the Track

Group size
• Clearly advertise maximum group size to prospective clients on company marketing materials
KTA will check websites and promotional material

Trekking Fees
• Must purchase a KTA trekking permit
Checked by KTA Rangers on the Track

Respect for culture and land ownership
• Sabbath (to be negotiated with communities)
• Alcohol
• Modesty
Statement to intent to respect the wishes of the communities

Porters
• Ensure maximum pack weight is (suggestion) no more than 25 kgs
• Supply of adequate food, equipment & accommodation to Porters whilst on Track
Checked by KTA Rangers on the Track

KTA reporting
• Medivac reporting [compulsory] (Information to be shared in monthly newsletter – Tour operator will not be identified)
• Track condition reports [optional]

2. How long will a CTL last?

It is expected that a CTL will be issued for three years on a “use it or lose it” basis. If an operator does not use their licence during a calendar year then it will be revoked and a new CTL application required.

3. What will a CTL cost?

The CTL is not a revenue raising exercise and the fee will be set as cost recovery measure. It is estimated that the fee will be between K50 and K100.

4. How will licences be enforced?

Kokoda Track permits will only be issued to Licenced operators. KTA Rangers will continue to check permits along the Track and will weigh porter’s packs. Campsites administrators will record tour operator’s license number/name when any group stays.

The expected compliance regime is as follows:

Penalties for non-compliance:

1. Operating without a license:
a. Financial penalty (subject to revised regulations)
b. Posting of non-compliant operator’s names on the KTA website and KTA notice-boards along the Track

2. Licensed operator not complying with license conditions
a. Serious breach – cancel license
b. First minor breach – official written warning
c. Second minor breach – official second written warning
d. Third minor breach – cancellation of license for at least one year

5. When will the requirements of the Licence be finalized?

Licence conditions will be finalized and communicated to stakeholders before
Christmas 2009. The aim is to have licences in place by 30th March 2009.

6. How will smaller operators be protected?

The CTL is not designed to prevent new operators joining the Industry or to make it impossible for existing operators to continue. Costly requirements such as the need for radios and/or satellite phones can be managed through an operator co-operative and other initiatives that the KTA is willing to explore in consultation with tour operators.

7. What about work permits for non-PNG tour leaders?

Currently there is conflicting advice on what work permits are required for a non-PNG national tour leader. The KTA is currently liaising with relevant government departments to determine whether there is a case for seeking a new work permit category that allows multiple entries over a specific period of time. The KTA will continue to explore this issue and provide feedback as further information becomes
available.

8. How will CTLs be processed?

CTLs will have a simple application form that will be processed in the KTA office. Once a CTL has been granted the licenced operator will be entered into a permit database so permits can be processed quickly and easily.

9. Why not a voluntary system?

The KTA Management Committee believes there is a need for a properly regulated industry where the Authority has the power to prevent operators who fail to deliver on basic requirements from jeopardizing the future of the Industry. A voluntary code does not enable the KTA to prevent operators who continue to undertake unsafe or illegal activities from conducting treks.

The KTA encourages the creation of voluntary codes of conduct, certification and/or accreditation schemes to provide opportunities for tour operators to operate at higher standards and to promote themselves to clients in this way. However, it is not common for the regulator to operate certification or accreditation schemes. These are normally operated by Industry Associations or private companies.

10. Why are medical checks for trekkers not included in the Licence?

This is a difficult issue in that medical checks do not provide a full-proof system that guarantee that serious injury and/or death will not occur. Doctors involved in this field have advised the KTA that they can (and have) produced guidelines and a simple checklist for family doctors to utilize but caution that this will not guarantee that problems will not occur while trekkers are on the Track.

At this stage we believe medical checks fit more appropriately in a Code of Conduct but we are willing to discuss this further and, perhaps, make it a CTL condition that tour operators must ensure each client has a recent medical certificate. This could well be a challenge for local operators and those managing the PNG elements of overseas treks as the clients are booked by others and arrive in country, often, to start trekking the same day.

11. How do I provide feedback?

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