Visitor numbers to the Kokoda Track have dropped by more than a quarter in a horror year that included the deaths of trail walkers and a fatal plane crash.
Visitor numbers to the arduous 96km track that crosses from the Oro to Central province - where Australian Diggers fought alongside allied forces against the Japanese during World War 2 - have fallen 27 per cent, the Kokoda Track Authority CEO Rod Hillman has said.
He told the Global Eco Conference in Alice Springs, Australia this week that 4200 people had attempted to walk the track this year, compared with more that 5600 last year.
The decline in numbers comes after four Australians - three men aged 55, 38 & 26, and a 36-year-old woman - have died since April this year while undertaking the gruelling walk.
On August 11, a light plane transporting walkers to the track crashed deep in the Owen Stanley Ranges claiming the lives of 13 people, including nine Australians.
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 (GFC) was also behind the drop in numbers.
"So, hopefully that's the GFC 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."
However he said much had been done to re-assure trekkers. Track safety and upgrades had been addressed, tour operator licensing were introduced, air strips were being audited and improved and roads upgraded.
Tour operators licensing is also ensuring that there are first-aid officers, satellite phones and weight restrictions for porters.