THE Kokoda Track Authority (KTA) has announced a set of new rules for tour operators taking people along the Kokoda Track, after a Queensland man last month became the third Australian to die on the track this year.
Thousands of tourists place their faith and lives in trekking companies every year, but up until now, there has only been a voluntary code of conduct to ensure service standards.
The death of Paul Bradfield from a suspected heart attack again raised questions about the safety of PNG’s trekking industry.
Currently, it is governed by a voluntary code of conduct – one that only around 15 trekking companies profess to adhere to.
But the KTA has announced that from next year, operators will need a commercial licence to run tours in the area.
“What we’re trying to do there is to provide a better experience for the trekkers themselves,” KTA chief executive Rod Hillman said at the weekend.
“The licences will address things such as training requirements, first aid details, insurance, conditions for the porters and a range of issues such as this.”
Simon Cartwright, a tourist who had just completed walking the gruelling 96km track, agrees that standards for tour operators are important, especially for people’s physical preparation for the trek.
“We chose this one because they particularly went into giving us details of what would be required to carry out in terms of training, what the track would demand of our body,” he said.
Glynn Iruru, from the Kokoda Trekking Operators Association, a group representing local tour companies, says licences will help local operators compete with the Australian companies who dominate the market.
“Once you have a standard in place, then the consumers look at that and the operators actually look at that again,” he said.
“So when the consumers try to book with the local operators, they have that confidence in the local operators.” – ABC