Kokoda Track operators dominated by Aust firms

A local trekking and tour firm is calling on the Government to re-look at the current commercial arrangement of the ‘Kokoda Track’ which is dominated by Australian operators.

Buna Treks and Tours believes the current commercial arrangements favour Australian Operators  more than local trek and tour firms.

Owner and Director, Florence Bunari, told Loop PNG during the Australia-PNG Business Council Forum in Port Moresby that the current arrangement means that PNG misses out significantly both economically and socially.

“We’ve got to take ownership again. So Buna Trek and Tours is one of a handful of local tour operators, properly registered meeting all the requirements of the government,” said Florence.

“So if you want to trek Kokoda, seriously we must trek with Papua New Guinea companies, that’s the only way that we can really see the benefits of the Kokoda Track.

“There a lot of Papua New Guineans who trek with Australian companies so what they do is they pay the Australian businesses and the money is kept in Australia.

Florence says this is further compounded when Australian firms bring their own tour escorts meaning they cut down on the number local trekkers. And they also purchase essentials such equipment and gear, and dehydrated food packs in Australia before heading to PNG.

She acknowledged the support of the Australian Government in funding the upkeep of the trek but said more was needed to support PNG tour operator.

Florence added that they have received good support from the Tourism Promotion Authority (TPA) in terms of visibility but said more Government support was needed.

“I’d like to see a review of the agreement that’s was signed when the trek was commercialised. I’d like for the Government to go back and see that,” she said.

Buna Treks and Tours is a family-owned business employing around 30 experienced guides and porters.

The firm is currently showcasing its business at the Australia-PNG Business Council Forum.

Cedric Patjole