Rottnest Island business owners have thrown down the gauntlet to the State Government, urging it to consider a subsidy on the growing cost of a ferry ticket to attract more people to the holiday island.
In a move that opens a can of worms on the State Government's control of the island, Rottnest's small group of business owners say cost is the number one issue holding back visitors.
Celebrity chef Aaron (Aristos) Papandroulakis, who operates a restaurant on the island, said pushing a same-day return ticket down to $30 in winter, with the help of a State Government subsidy, was a simple measure that would automatically improve patronage.
"If that was the price wouldn't you say: 'Let's not go to Hillarys or somewhere else in Perth, let's go to Rotto have a beer and lunch and come back at five o'clock'," he said.
The current day trip for an adult is $75 return from Fremantle with Rottnest Express. A day return trip from Hillarys on Rottnest Fast Ferries comes in at $84.
The prices include a $16.50 landing fee, which blows out to $21.50 for an extended stay.
The fee, long a bone of contention for holidaymakers and Rottnest business owners, goes straight to the State Government-controlled Rottnest Island Authority for upkeep of the island and its facilities.
Although the authority declined to confirm how much the fee contributed to its coffers, it is estimated to be more than $5 million annually.
Mr Papandroulakis said he had informal talks with Premier Colin Barnett on the subsidy issue.
Tourism Minister Kim Hames effectively ruled out a blanket winter subsidy, saying the Government already subsidised the landing fee at various times to attract visitors.
Rottnest Express director Glenn Gaynor said his company offered 40,000 heavily discounted tickets per year, at prices that often left them operating the ferry service at a loss.