Mind the Gap as visitors buck fees

Saskia AdystiAlbany Advertiser
The popularity of Albany's Gap and Natural Bridge have declined in recent months.
Camera IconThe popularity of Albany's Gap and Natural Bridge have declined in recent months. Credit: Laurie Benson/Albany Advertiser, Laurie Benson Albany Advertiser

Visitor numbers at The Gap dropped almost 10 per cent in the last financial year, while many sightseers have been reluctant to pay the $13 entrance fee.

Albany’s famous rock formation in Torndirrup National Park attracted more than 86,000 vehicles in 2016-17 after its $6.1 million upgrade was completed in April, 2016.

But that figure dropped to 78,000 in 2017-18 — a 9.2 per cent decline.

Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions regional leader Mike Shephard said the drop in visitor numbers was not related to the park’s entrance fee.

He said the initial spike in visitors after the upgrade was to be expected and it was normal for numbers to drop in the following year. “There were a lot of people coming to see what had been done and to experience the new infrastructure at The Gap,” he said.

The popularity of Albany's Gap and Natural Bridge have declined in recent months.
Camera IconThe popularity of Albany's Gap and Natural Bridge have declined in recent months. Credit: Laurie Benson/Pictures: Laurie Benson, Laurie Benson Albany Advertiser

“It’s not unusual to have a spike of people coming through to see what’s happening — and then things dropped down.

“I’m sure you will see something similar with the Anzac centre when it’s first opened.”

But recent comments on the website TripAdvisor showed several visitors were unhappy to learn about the $13 fee when they arrived at the carpark.

“I can’t understand how they can ask for $13 fee just to leave the car (for) 10 minutes ... a natural thing like this should be free,” one visitor said.

“Not sure about the access fee of $13 — you will realistically only spend an hour here. Even the parking in Perth CBD is half that price. We won’t be coming again while these fees are in place,” another visitor post said.

On the other hand, some visitors defended the fee and said they were willing to pay if it helped maintain a safe viewing platform and other facilities.

Mr Shephard said he was aware of complaints about the fee, but he said most national parks charged for entry.

“I have spoken to people who in principle do not like to pay fees,” he said. “(But) 99.9 per cent of these people will then pay the fee once we explain why we put the fee in the first place.

“To maintain a national park, we need people to pay a fee.”

Mr Shephard said visitors who did not pay could be penalised, but rangers had not issued any fines to date. He said he was confident the number of visitors at The Gap would gradually rise over the next couple of years.

“There is a general upward trend here in our region,” he said.

“The towns at the south coast are bucking the Statewide trend of decreased tourism.”

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