Tourists will be forced to pay to visit world-heritage listed rainforests in New South Wales by money-hungry councils.
A tourist tax is proposed for the Blue Mountains, alongside a raft of money-raising plans, including asking travellers to donate to council coffers as well as rolling out more parking meters in popular tourist destinations, The Daily Telegraph reports.
A report produced by the cash-strapped Blue Mountains City Council states that the cost of fixing ageing infrastructure that provides access to the “natural environment” was outstripping council revenue.
“The travel levy concept particularly identifies the day visitor as a group who visit the city’s iconic sites free of charge, utilise public amenities and put pressure on the city’s infrastructure without making any form of direct contribution to the city,” the report states.
A project brief has been given to “a number” of consultants who will advise the council on the best way to introduce any possible levy.
Tourism chiefs warn it will turn travellers away from popular destinations at a time when the economy is recovering after the GFC and a strong Australian dollar has made Australia a less attractive destination for international visitors.
Three Sisters Plaza owner Lesli Berger said the council had long targeted tourists – installing its only $4.40 an hour parking meters at the scenic lookout and proposing to charge buses to park there.
“It’s a huge disincentive for families,” Mr Berger said.
Blue Mountains Tourism Limited chairman Randall Walker said he did not want a tax imposed on travellers.
“In the past, NSW has had a bed tax, a levy on coaches per passenger and even a toll to access certain areas. All those things have the potential to have a negative impact to reduce demand and visitation,” he said.
Claire Rolfe, who is travelling with her family on a year-long camping trip around Australia, said: “We have travelled around Australia and the best things are free.”
Blue Mountains City councillor Daniel Miles does not support a travelling tax but would make tourists pay $2 to get into Echo Point.