TRAVELLERS looking to stay at free campsites around Townsville may soon be forced to pay to access the popular sites.
Townsville City Council has developed an RV and camping strategy to better accommodate an increase in visitors, which includes a recommendation to introduce a fee to six council managed parks.
An online booking system is being developed to prevent overcrowding in the parks, which could also be used to charge a $10 to $15 per night booking fee. Patrols would also be rammed up to ensure visitors were not over staying the 48 hour maximum time frame.
The report states that there was no recovery of operating costs for the free council managed campgrounds.
"This is not a sustainable outcome for council.
"For the long-term sustainability of these campgrounds, it is recommended that council introduce a fee for camping, collected through the online booking system.
"The facilities offered fit within the category of a 'basic campground' on the camping options matrix, and a fee in the order of $10 - 15 is considered appropriate.
"Calculation of the appropriate fee would consider market rates for other campgrounds with similar facilities, balanced with the need to provide ratepayers with an acceptable recovery of costs spent on the campgrounds."
The report said the introduction of a fee was no likely to significantly impact on the occupancy of the campgrounds.
"While a small proportion of travellers prefer to only stay in free sites, the majority of travellers are willing to pay a small fee to contribute to the upkeep of facilities such as toilets, rubbish bins and potable water, which are provided at all council campgrounds."
The move comes after Southern Queensland Country Tourism chief executive officer Peter Homan earlier this month said low or no cost camp sites could provide a boost to rural and outback tourism.
Townsville Mayor Jenny Hill said recreational vehicle and camping travel was one of Australia's fastest growing tourism sectors with visitation to Townsville doubling over the last 10 years.
She said the strategy was developed to ensure the city benefited from the expanding industry.
"Council has developed this strategy using the feedback we received from a variety of groups that have an interest in improving our RV and camping opportunities in the region," Cr Hill said.
"That feedback showed that both Australians and international visitors are using RVs and camping as affordable ways to travel and see the country.
"This information gives us a valuable insight into what we can do to increase visitation to Townsville and keep people here longer while spending money locally and supporting local businesses."
The key objectives of the strategy are to provide affordable camping options to a range of tourists, support local business, grow tourism in the region and connect visitors with a range of experiences to make the stop in Townsville memorable.
To have your say on the RV and camping strategy, visit the website here.