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Modest fee increases for NZ’s Great Walks

Modest fee increases for NZ’s Great Walks

The Department of Conservation (DOC) is introducing modest increases for some Great Walks hut and campsite fees. These increases are part of the Department’s first review of its Great Walks pricing in five years. They are designed to increase revenue from the walks by about $880,000 per year, without significantly reducing demand or participation.

“New Zealand’s nine Great Walks are our flagship walking experiences. Tracks like the Milford, Routeburn and Kepler are internationally famous and globally rank as some of the great ‘must do’ outdoor experiences,” says DOC’s director of recreation, tourism and heritage, Gavin Walker, in a media release.

“Increasingly more and more visitors to the Great Walks are international (about 60 percent) and the feedback we often get is how amazing they are and how cheap. The reality is we are charging $54 a night for the Milford Track – arguably the greatest walk in the world and this is well below the value that we are delivering for visitors. In comparison, the ‘Three Capes Track’ in Tasmania works out at roughly $180 per night.

“These price changes are based around each walk’s demand profile, with our highest-use tracks seeing the largest increase. Our more popular Great Walks are now operating at over 90 percent capacity over the summer period. We want to encourage visitors to explore the wider range of equally spectacular tracks in the network and, for Kiwis in particular, to take advantage of tracks suitable for quieter times of year.”

Over the last three years there has been a 35 percent increase in use in the Great Walks.  With higher numbers, the gap between what the department spends and earns from these walks is closing. However overall the department has a $1.2 million shortfall per year on its Great Walks. On top of the high cost of removing all waste from these remote and unspoiled destinations, these tracks are well-formed and have higher standard huts and facilities making them more expensive to build and maintain.

“User fees are an important contribution towards providing outstanding experiences on these tracks without drawing from DOC’s other work. Any revenue earned above what is needed to sustain the Great Walk experience will be reinvested back into the conservation and recreation priorities of the department,” says Walker.

“With the current mix of accommodation options (from camping to private lodges) the Great Walk network continues to cater for all budgets. The department is also maintaining its kids go free policy aimed at making Great Walks accessible for Kiwi families.”

Changes to Great Walks accommodation fees:

  1. A general price increase for the huts on seven of the nine Great Walks’ (excluding the Whanganui Journey and Lake Waikaremoana). The recommended price increase ranges from 6-30 percent (from $2 to $16 more per night) depending on the track’s demand profile. The Milford track has the highest increase of 30 percent (from $54 to $70 per night).
  2. An increase in the campsite fees of four of the eight tracks that have campsites. The recommended price increases range from 7 -11 percent (from $1 to $2 more per night) again depending on track use.
  3. The introduction of seasonal pricing for huts on two of the Great Walks tracks, Abel Tasman and Rakiura.

These changes are being rolled out in the coming weeks with the expectation that the new fee structure will be fully in place by 16 May 2017 when the first Great Walks bookings open. Visit www.doc.govt.nz/greatwalks for details of when bookings open for each Great Walk.

“The Department is working to accommodate outstanding natural experiences for greater visitor numbers across New Zealand. These price changes form part of our strategy around this,” says  Walker.

“DOC will continue to invest in New Zealand’s extensive network of huts and tracks offering fantastic, lesser-known multi-day walks for those seeking quieter, lower-cost experiences.”

IMAGE: Luxmore Hut,  copyright Daniel Deans

Posted: Wednesday 3 May 2017