An overall increase in DOC hut fees and differentially priced Great Walks’ fees for international visitors are expected to bring in up to $3.2m and the Great Walks could actually turn a profit if international visitors return, but the changes are only expected to make a small dent in recovering the overall costs of the hut network.
Last month, DOC announced it was increasing hut fees for the most popular huts and introducing weekend and seasonal rates at 11 bookable huts, where prices will increase by $5.
The price rises mostly range from $1 to $5, while international fees on seven Great Walks have been set at 1.5 times the Kiwi rate. The biggest increase is for Brewster Hut, which increases from $20 to $30 per adult.
The price of the Backcountry Hut Pass has also increased by $22 to $144 and the huts where the pass can be used has changed, with some huts added to the system (notably Cape Brett Hut and Crosbies Hut), while others have been excluded for the upcoming summer (including Liverpool Hut and Siberia Hut).
DOC heritage and visitors director Steve Taylor said the changes were expected to bring in $800,000 a year without the return of international visitors, raising the cost recovery from accommodation facilities from 31 per cent to 34 per cent. If international visitors return, the price hike could bring in $3.2m, increasing cost recovery to 41 per cent, mainly due to the higher tourist price on the Great Walks.
He said it costs about $8m a year to run the Great Walks and the international rate could see cost recovery on the walks rise from 90 per cent to actually returning a profit, at 128 per cent.
“Without international visitors we expect cost recovery to be in the order of 80 per cent, due to lower overall occupancy levels on the Great Walks and little or no revenue from differential pricing,” Taylor said.
Taylor said it costs about $46m a year to run the non-Great Walk network of huts, campsites, cottages and lodges.
“Currently, the user charges contribute to about a quarter of this annual cost,” Taylor said.