10 May 2023

Fuel price uncertainty hurts drive tourism in Cape York

| Samuel Davis
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Families like the Howes have a great time when they come to the Cape but most operators are reporting fewer numbers than previous seasons.

THE red dirt roads leading to the tip of Cape York have been surprisingly quiet this school holiday season, a Seisia-based tourism operator says.

David Hartwell owns Cape York Adventures and was expecting a flurry of four-wheel drives heading north this month.

But the last gasp of peak tourism has been relatively slow, he said, with just two of his three boats running trips and charters during the first week of holidays.

“It’s funny. I thought it was going to be really flat stick,” Mr Hartwell said.

“Maybe it’s fuel prices. There’s a lot to scare people off at the moment.”

A national 22-cent cut to petrol taxes will end this Thursday, putting more pressure on the drive tourism market.

However, federal Treasurer Jim Chalmers said he didn’t expect to see an immediate jump in fuel prices due to large reserves still being held by suppliers.

“Fuel prices in most parts of the country at the moment are now around 50 cents a litre below the peak recorded in July,” he said.

“Industry estimates that there will be more than 700 million litres of lower excise fuel in the system when the fuel excise is reintroduced.”

Mr Hartwell said fuel remained the biggest expense for his business “by a fair way”.

“If I run both boats it’s about $1000 a day (in petrol),” he said last week.

“We’re pretty lucky. I buy most of my fuel at Seisia. They buy in bulk so their next purchase will likely have the excise on it but prices will hopefully come down.

“It’s about $2.40 up here at the moment.”

Mr Hartwell said he hoped fishing charters would help lure more visitors north this wet season.

“We’re looking at the east coast once the winds drop off and become more northerly and fish the reefs,” he said.

“It’s great fishing.”

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