Tourism operators and Parks Victoria have attempted to hose down criticism of higher-standard accommodation for hikers between Falls Creek and Mount Hotham.
The upgraded crossing between the mountains has been planned for years and, despite some public opposition, a Parks Victoria and Regional Development Victoria report has signaled the intention to push forward with an "iconic" five-day walk for "high-yield" tourists.
The strategy predicted the area could be opened up to 65,500 "walker nights" a year by 2026, compared with just 17,000 now, and increase off-trail spending to $14.3 million per year.
Accommodation would cater for both campers in tents and those wanting to stay in cabins.
A Falls Creek spokesman on Tuesday said staff were excited by the prospect of improving the walk to Mount Hotham.
But Bushwalking Victoria president Peter Campbell said he was concerned about “luxury cabins” near Diamantina Spur, which was the most challenging segment of the walk.
“Commercial development, including building camping platforms and cabins, must not destroy the qualities of natural bush and alpine areas,” he said.
“Bushwalking Victoria seeks to encourage more people to go bushwalking, but we think the restrictions proposed for the Falls to Hotham walk may have the reverse effect.
“We support the concept of icon walks, but are concerned these walks will exclude local recreational bushwalkers in favour of commercial tour groups.”
Parks Victoria planning and policy director Stuart Hughes dismissed the description of “luxury” accommodation, saying the buildings would provide “comfort in nature” with beds, linen and food for tour groups.
He told 3AW it would be a point of difference for those who could not or did not want to carry a tent.
“Where the hiker accommodation may be is in different locations to where camper platforms or designated campgrounds might be, so they’re not located next to each other … about 100 metres from where those places might be,” Mr Hughes said.
“At all times, people would be able to pitch their tent anywhere along the track so for the independent hikers, people who want to have the adventure, they’re still able to walk the track for free.
“Government is investing in improving the track so it’s a better experience for a wide range of people and then if some people, such as those who use a tour operator, want to use that hiker accommodation, they’ve got that choice.”
The strategy has estimated constructing the trail and roofed accommodation would cost $22.4 million.