Updated October 09, 2018 05:50:19
Howard Smith runs a tour operation at Cradle Mountain and should be happy that tourism in Tasmania is booming.
But the prospect of more visitors to Cradle Mountain is keeping him up at night.
Visitor numbers are surging, with 1.26 million people coming from far and wide to visit the island state last year.
Some local operators on Cradle Mountain are worried that the boom could be too much of a good thing.
Rapidly growing visitor numbers - from 200,000 in 2014, to 250,000 in 2017 - has prompted Parks and Wildlife Service to ban private vehicle access to Dove Lake during peak periods, to ease congestion and improve road safety.
Mr Smith fears the mountain could be "loved to death."
"What we have is a brand, part of that is a unique experience, isolation, rugged wilderness," he told the ABC.
"If you have people stepping on each other's toes because there are hundreds of thousands of visitors, you put that at risk.
"Yes I am worried we are loving Cradle to death."
Mr Smith said Tasmania risked losing what made it "so special".
"We need to put a cap on the numbers of visitors to our iconic spots, including Cradle and Freycinet," Mr Smith said.
Those concerns are echoed by fellow tour operator Anthony O'Hern, who runs Cradle Mountain Canyons.
"We do have issues right now when you may have unannounced bus loads of people come and suddenly the six toilets are getting smashed by 3,000 people in a day," he said.
"What we have is a philosophical dilemma; do we focus on bringing in more and more visitors or shift our attention to what you might call high-value visitors, who spend more time on the mountain and have less of an impact as they go to areas less travelled?
"I think a cap should be considered, but then you would have to apply that to Tasmanians too and I don't see that being popular."
At peak times, like the Easter long weekend, there is a steady stream of people heading in both directions around Dove Lake; last Easter some were even attempting to push prams.
Tourists are able to stand on Glacier Rock and take in the view, but it can become overcrowded and precarious to visit.
The state and commonwealth governments have committe d about $86 million to a total overhaul of facilities at Cradle Mountain.
Part of the redevelopment includes a new viewing shelter at Dove Lake, an amenities building, bus shelter, parking and a viewing platform near Glacier Rock.
Mr Smith welcomed the plan but said new toilets and a viewing platform would not limit the impact of tens - or perhaps hundreds - of thousands more visitors.
"We can't lose sight of what makes Tasmania what it is, part of that are moments where you can have isolation. Do we want to lose that?" he said.
Premier Will Hodgman said restrictions on the number of tourists entering Tasmania would "hurt" the state.
"If we send a message to the rest of the world that we no longer want tourists here they'll get it, and that will damage and hurt Tasmanian businesses right across the state, it'll cost jobs, we want to see growth in our tourism industry continue," the Premier said.
"When you look at our rate of growth it's strong but sustainable. Two per cent over the last year has brought a lot of visitors to our state but it is manageable."
Peter McDermott, who manages McDermott's buses on the mountain, welcomed the growing visitor numbers and shot down the notion of a cap on visitors.
"I don't believe there should be any cap", he said.
"We shouldn't restrict what is good for the state. We should keep our eyes on the bigger picture."
Former Greens leader Bob Brown is backing calls for a cap.
Dr Brown said the park could be attracting half a million visitors by 2050 and there needs to be a cap, but with an exemption for Tasmanians.
"I think that MONA [the Museum of Old and New Art] has got the right idea here where they are charging visitors a fee, but not Tasmanians and I think some priority needs to be given to Tasmanians," he said.
Topics:tourism, travel-and-tourism, environmental-management, cradle-mountain-7306
First posted October 09, 2018 05:37:20