VISITOR numbers to the Kokoda Track have dropped by more than a quarter in a horror year that included the deaths of four Australian trail walkers and a fatal plane crash, reports AAP.
Visitor numbers to the have fallen 27%, Kokoda Track Authority (KTA) chief executive Rod Hillman said yesterday.
Mr Hillman told the Global Eco Conference in Alice Springs, Australia, that 4,200 people had attempted the walk so far this year, compared with more than 5,600 last year.
The decline in numbers comes after four Australians – three men aged 55, 38 and 26, and a 36-year-old woman – have died since April this year while undertaking the gruelling walk.
On Aug 11, a light plane transporting walkers to the track crashed in the Owen Stanley Ranges, claiming the lives of 13 people – nine Australians, three Papua New Guineans and a Japanese.
Mr Hillman said it was too early to tell whether the deaths had had an impact on bookings, and that it was thought the global financial crisis was behind the drop in numbers.
“So, hopefully that’s (the financial crisis) the reason. (But) it’s certainly not going to help having the plane crash and the deaths,” he said.
“It is too early, but we’ll wait and see.”
But he said much had been done to re-assure trekkers.
Track safety and upgrades had been addressed, tour operator licensing brought in, air strips were being audited and improved and roads upgraded, he said.
Tour operator licensing ensured groups had a first-aid officer, satellite phones and weight restrictions for porters. – AAP