PORT Fairy Folk Festival recorded an operating deficit for the first time this year and is pushing for Moyne Shire Council to cut its caravan park fees to act on criticisms from a falling patronage.
The festival's Bernie Waixel and John Young fronted councillors at a pre-budget hearing this week to request the council abolish separate festival fees at its Port Fairy caravan parks.
They told the meeting that "for the first time in history" the festival had an operating deficit despite cutting costs by more than $300,000 over the past three years.
Mr Young would not reveal the deficit amount to The Standard but said it "wasn't large" and would not affect the community grants fund that the festival's investments generated.
"It demonstrates the changing viability of festivals, we have gone from making substantial profits to virtually none," he said.
Adult patronage has fallen from about 11,500 to 9300 in the past three festivals, the meeting heard.
Mr Waixel said a four-year trend continued in this year's annual patron survey of complaints about "exorbitant" accommodation fees at both public and private providers.
Fees at Southcombe Park are between $119 and $145 higher for the three-day festival than peak season prices. The festival committee wants those lowered to peak season rates.
But Moyne Shire mayor Daniel Meade has previously said the council had a responsibility to ensure site charges remained competitive to not adversely affect the market.
The council's draft 2020-21 budget proposes to lower caravan parking fees at Southcombe Park for the festival weekend by reducing a vehicle charge by $26.
But Mr Waixel questioned why the fee for vehicles was needed. "It's a caravan park not a car and caravan park," Mr Waixel said.
Mr Young said the committee was willing to meet "again" with the town's private accommodation providers ahead of next year's festival to urge lower fees.
He said the 2021 festival was particularly uncertain following the coronavirus pandemic.
"There will be anxiety around financial security and health concerns. It may be difficult for clientele to put together their weekend spend," Mr Young said.
"Our responsibility is to attract a new audience, with our new program director ... we hope to amend and make sure that deficit is a one off."
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