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.

Charlie is also the founding Chairman of Network Kokoda and has been a leading advocate for allowing Papua New Guineans access to seasonal work opportunities in Australia.

The 70th Anniversary of the War in the Pacific provides a significant opportunity for Papua New Guinea to focus on the benefits of wartime tourism. Increasing numbers of Australians not only want to know more about our wartime history, they want to experience it.

Charlie’s insights into the Kokoda trekking industry provide the basis of a case study for the sustainable development of wartime tourism in PNG. Over the past decade Kokoda trekkers have generated more than K45 million into village economies via fees, wages and local purchases. A further K55 million has been generated into the PNG economy via hotel accommodation, charter aircraft, ground transport, meals and discretionary purchases. Total GST revenue between Australia and PNG is in the region of K30 million.

Despite this cycle of wealth flushing through the PNG Government and village communities along the Kokoda Trail there is little to show for it.

Millions more have been spent on Australian advisors, consultants and aid projects that threaten to create a culture of welfare dependency.

Whilst the establishment of a Special Purpose Local Government Authority to manage the Kokoda trekking industry has not realised its potential there have been some valuable lessons learned for the development of a wartime tourism based industry.

A new model should reflect the essential relationships between government, tour operators and local communities. Corporate governance, infrastructure development, special legislation, marketing and promotion, safety, cultural sensitivities, environmental protection and local community development are essential features of a sustainable wartime tourism industry.

A PNG Wartime History Foundation established as a National Government Corporation under the Companies Act would provide a national framework for the industry. Special corporations owned by local communities could then be developed to manage each particular area – the Kokoda Trail, Black Cat Track, Shaggy Ridge, Lark Force, etc.

Consultants who are not familiar with Melanesian culture or not fluent in local language should be banned from the process of developing a sustainable wartime tourism model. Non-Government Aid Agencies should also be restricted to limit the impact of welfare dependency.

The benefits of wartime tourism extend far beyond the tourism industry. It provides an empathetic gateway into each others’ culture which will arrest the drift in our relationship over the past three decades.

Charlie’s visit to the UPNG Tourism and Hospitality Conference is sponsored by Air Niugini and Coral Seas Hotels.