10 May 2023

Cape York tourist 'toll' could help region

| Matt Nicholls
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Talking tourism at the Western Cape Futures Symposium were: Fraser Nai from Strait Experience, TTNQ chief executive Mark Olsen, Dr Tammie Matson, Bill Ferguson from Australia Zoo and Member for Cairns Michael Healy.

TWO of Far North Queensland’s most influential figures in the tourism industry have supported local calls for a “toll” to help Cape York cope with the infrastructure demands of growing visitation.

Member for Cairns and Assistant Minister for Tourism Industry Development Michael Healy and Mark Olsen, chief executive of Tropical Tourism North Queensland, say that something needs to be done to support cash-strapped councils deal with the influx of tourists to the Cape.

A lack of public toilets and the resources to manage popular off-road tracks has put pressure on the local environment.

The issue was raised at the symposium by Weipa Town Authority’s Jaime Gane, as well as Cook Shire mayor Peter Scott and even Australia Zoo’s Bill Ferguson.

Mr Healy, who has a different view to some of his state government colleagues, said there was a need to start looking at localised tariffs to support regional areas.

“Having spent 35 years in the tourism industry in Cairns and seeing the amount of visitors that we have, what I do know is that the industry, the regional tourism bodies and regional councils, are all screaming out for new forms of revenue,” he said.

“I think it’s incumbent upon the state to be able to sit down with the industry and start to identify potential new sources of revenue.

“Now, having said that, I also want to give the Palaszczuk government a plug because we have allocated literally hundreds of millions of dollars through a wide variety of initiatives out to regional councils.

“However, when it comes to tourism, I think that we need to have that discussion.

“I believe it’ll need to have bipartisan support. The beneficiaries of this are going to be the communities like Weipa.”

Mr Olsen said the future of Cape York tourism was not necessarily about bringing in more numbers, but attracting a different type of tourist – a higher-spending visitor.

He said some kind of toll that was allocated for infrastructure would benefit the whole region.

“I think what we’ve learned from the last couple of days, is that the time is right, with the Traditional Owners in the communities, to make the leap from attracting any visitor who will come to really curating the customer that you really want,” he said.

“Underpinning that is the need for some sort of management regime in place, a user-pays system – something that stops people from free-wheeling out on the Cape and creating problems for councils.”

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