Tourists could pay $5 extra on Byron accommodation
TOURISTS in Byron Shire could soon be paying extra fees on top of their accommodation bookings after councillors voted to initiate a Byron Voluntary Visitor Fund program at a council meeting last night.
The proposed contribution from tourists ranges from $1 to $5 per booking depending on the price of their overall stay, and would be added to their bill if they are staying with an accommodation provider who has agreed to be part of the scheme.
Mayor Simon Richardson said without the option of bed tax, they needed to find a way to raise revenue from tourists through businesses.
"Cars that aren't ours are destroying our infrastructure," he said.
"Aside from heightened business rates, (council) receives nothing (from tourists) and spends millions of dollars to provide extra sewerage capacity, increased road maintenance and toilet upkeep just to name a few costs.
"I think its got a capacity to generate serious dollars. We've got to try.
"I'm sick of people say to me 'why cant we do a bed tax'.
"We have to allocate resources to it. It might be up to three months (fleshing it out)."
Cr Richardson said there was currently no staffing in place for the program and there would be costs involved.
The potential income for the program in year one was estimated at $220,000, with the estimated costs for the period coming to $140,000.
An example of how funding could be raised was inclusive of motels, hotels and resorts, backpacker hostels, apartments/houses, caravan and camping and even festival camping such as Falls and Splendour.
In the report, director Sustainable Environment and Economy Shannon Burt said much of the estimated costs for the first year were fixed.
"There is a potential risk to council that the revenue goal is not reached and council is unable to deliver any projects or cover running costs.
"Currently there are no funds to cover these costs should that occur."
Cr Paul Spooner said he wanted more development on the program before committing council funds.
Cr Cate Coorey said: "We all want tourists to pay more for the impact they have on us".
Cr Sarah Ndiaye said people were "religiously" getting sent to Byron Bay and there was "no infrastructure to support it".
"If we are going to gamble on something, let it be this," Cr Ndiaye said.
"We have to give it a crack."
Cr Richardson said: "Our community wants us to turn over every rock to see if we can get some revenue from the visitors."
A proposed timeline in the report suggested it could be launched as soon as November.
Eight councillors voted for and one, Basil Cameron, voted against.