REMOVING the National Park status from a small part of Maria Island would enable commercial infrastructure development and attract more tourists, Glamorgan-Spring Bay Mayor Bertrand Cadart said.
An eco-tourism study of Maria Island found that a sole fit-for-purpose ferry service could lift day-visitor numbers from 12,000 to 30,000 in a six-year period, and also recommended a greater marketing push, better experiences, provision of food and beverages, and water, sewerage and power upgrades.
Cr Cadart said an official ferry service, offering up to three trips a day, could only raise visitor numbers if commercial business opportunity and activities on the island were improved.
He said removing Maria Island's National Park status from a small area could be a possible solution among others, such as setting up a protection authority for Maria Island similar to that of Port Arthur.
``If we are to fill a ferry of 100 seats and make it a viable operation, we have to lift our act and find ways to make it more attractive as a tourist destination in terms of the activities that are available for your average person,'' Cr Cadart said.
``Right now it is attractive to people who want to walk and climb the mountains but to do that you need to be fit, young and willing . . . (we need to) attract people who will actually spend a quid or two.
``We could probably find a compromise somewhere . . . to have a second part of the island with some commercial interest, but it would not be at the expense of preserving the National Park.''
East Coast Regional Organisation chairman David Reed said to transform Maria Island into a must-see tourism destination, and encourage business along the East Coast, marketable experiences were critical. ``Just because the island is here is not good enough: there has to be an exciting trigger or a reason for people to visit,'' Mr Reed said.
Two ferry operators currently offer services to Maria Island. Both Maria Island Ferry and East Coast Cruises said they would be interested in business expansion and becoming the sole ferry operator.