Krafty's call to arms to revitalise tourism industry


Wayne “Krafty” Kraft (pictured), Honourary Ambassador for Alice Springs, passionate Central Australian and mine host at the Overlanders Steakhouse has made a call to arms to the flagging tourism industry of the region.
He recalls past community efforts to promote it – and deplores the “progressive transfer of ownership away from our control.
“I am challenging us, as a vibrant and proud community to find a pathway forward so that The Alice can regain ownership of its own marketing destiny.”
He puts up in lights the names of local pioneers:-
• Len Tuit, the first tour operator to provide regular tours to Ayers Rock.
• Peter Severin, from Curtin Springs Station, who helped build the track to Ayers Rock and the chain that continues to assist people to climb it.
• Keith Castle, foundation member of the Central Australian Tourism Association (CATIA).
• The Cotterill Family, who opened the track to Kings Canyon via Wallara Ranch.
• Reg Ansett, Serpentine Chalet, Ansett Pioneer, Ansett Airlines.
• The Kilgariff Family. Amongst their many achievements was transforming their Gap Road farm and orchard to build the Oasis Motel, and the many earlier construction efforts of Bernie’s Uncle Joe.
• Tour Operator, Bill King, AAT Kings Tours.
• The Centralian Staff coach franchise.
The Northern Territory achieved self-government on July 1, 1978.
Prior to this historic event, Alice Springs and The Centre were enjoying a growing tourism industry.
Coach travel and the beginnings of the grey nomad movement, whilst seasonal, were the driving forces behind increasing visitor numbers and subsequent tourism investments.
There were four motels at Ayers Rock and humble – but very important – investments in accommodations at Curtin Springs and Mt Ebenezer (Erldunda Roadhouse was non-existent at this stage).
There was an increasing investment in motel rooms and caravan park sites in The Alice.
Self government provided a massive catalyst to assist in moving our industry forward.
The upgrading of roads infrastructure, the issuing of a casino license, the Sheraton Hotels deal which included the construction of five star hotels at both Alice Springs and Ayers Rock, and the ambitious Yulara Development in the early 1980s heralded a new dawn for tourism in The Centre.
Domestic tourism promotion arguably reached its highest activity levels (not necessarily by dollar value) over this decade.
The precursor to Tourism NT (the Northern Territory Tourist Commission) had its head office in Todd Street. Yes, in Alice Springs.
A small but professionally aggressive team of tourism personalities oversaw a budget where, by far, the major percentage of their hard-fought dollars was directly invested in tourism promotion around Australia and the world.
Alice Springs continued its own Destination Alice marketing campaigns.
Who remembers the See Alice While She’s Hot campaign?
Introduced about 20 to 25 years ago, this short lived campaign, underwritten by a host of stake-holders including the airline TAA, successfully enticed, with extra special and exciting deals, “southerners” to visit The Alice in December to March when we suffered from minimal tourist numbers.
“Come and enjoy the friendly locals, enjoy our swimming pools, natural water holes, air-conditioned accommodations, and the piercingly cold beer. Have we got a deal from you!”
The results were astounding.
Mr Kraft’s recollection is that this hugely successful campaign lasted only a short number of years.
Sadly, the modern era of tourism marketing was upon us!
Alice Springs happily and progressively handed marketing responsibilities to the Northern Territory Tourist Commission as the Northern Territory Government increased funding for marketing activities.
“Expert advice” (they are cleverer people over there!) from eastern seaboard based advertising and marketing agencies suggested that our highly successful See Alice While She’s Hot campaign sent out the wrong signals.
That was that. No more funding.
Were they confusing “Alice‟ as some scantily clad young lady, or simply unable to understand Alice meant Alice Springs and yes, it does get a tad warm over the summer months?
Or couldn’t they see the challenge in “selling the sizzle” (forgive the pun) to real Aussies who might be able to handle Aussie summer conditions in the Real Australia?
“Please forgive both my confusion and cynicism,” says Mr Kraft.
“Unfortunately, we have allowed ourselves to lose control of both our identity and our marketing energies and directions.
“We must understand that we can effectively market The Alice.
“We are not talking about Central Australia in broad terms: It’s our town, our responsibility.
“If we want that elusive second airline flying into Alice Springs, we have to create the desire for potential airline passengers to want to come here in the first place.
“We have to create the demand.
“For those of you who are business owners (not necessarily tourism based), you will understand that the three tenets of any successful business are product, management and marketing.
“The pro-active and aggressive combination of all of the above should provide the foundations for a successful enterprise.
“Alice Springs has the product, we have the management, and with the support of the Alice Springs Town Council, members of the Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Central Australia, and the many positive residents of The Alice, we can embark on our own long term marketing strategies.
“It’s NOT time for us to switch off now.
“It’s NOT time for us to suggest that it’s Darwin’s responsibility.
“It’s NOT time for us to suggest that because our business does not directly look after the visitor (tourist) market – it’s not our problem or responsibility.
“NOW is the time for us to get excited about the fun and excitement we can introduce into our marketing strategies.
“NOW is the time for positive dialogue amongst our community.
“NOW is the time to support the concept for a Tourism Alice or Destination Alice or whatever “vehicle‟ our marketing strategies might be called.
“Should it be structured under the umbrella of the Alice Springs Town Council?
“Personally, I think so, but without another costly and unnecessary “mini bureaucracy” devoid of administration costs, full time wages, office structures and the like.
“Perhaps a small, passionate, and market savvy group – maximum five – of non-government locals who do have a vested interest in the future growth of visitor (tourism) numbers into The Alice.
“This group would be directly responsible to a sub-committee of the duly elected aldermen of the Alice Springs Town Council.
“Understandably, there will be some administration costs involved in pursuing various marketing initiatives along with implementing the agreed marketing strategies.
“Should there be a marketing levy applied to ALL commercial and industrial properties via council rates?
“I hear you say: ‘Whoa. Ease up. Not my rates mate! Why should I pay or contribute?’
“I invite you to come up with a fairer compromise.
“Forget Darwin though – it’s our future, our responsibility.
“Let’s roll our sleeves up and dig ourselves out of the bog. Let’s have some fun.
“Alice, where the hell is Alice?
“Answer: ‘Right here mate, come and say g’day!”
Krafty says his manifesto isn’t Darwin bashing. To make this point he’s brandishing a Darwin Stubby, a beer for a big thirst.


  1. Our tourism industry needs to market itself much more effectively. Also, smaller operations need to collaborate and package accommodation and experiences that will attract more visitors. The councils need to work with day / night patrol to manage and enforce by-laws, thereby keeping the town cleaner and safer for visitors and locals alike!

  2. Reg Harris and Ted Egan, with different skills, also pioneered the Tourism Way in Alice Springs. In Ted’s case he worked to inform and entertain as the only professional act in town, with no grants or government help. Initiative is always the name of the game. Niche marketing makes it easier and Alice is a Niche of its own.
    Hornsby’s winery needs to be mentioned. It was a fantastic enterprise important to tourism and to local social life, but probably too dependent on the difficulties of dealing with a remote Darwin Government.

  3. I agree that it’s time for a sober evaluation of the town’s value proposition. Unfortunately, too many amongst us are prepared to gloss over the fault lines that undermine our “marketability”.
    Stop the grog.

  4. Stop the BS. You don’t want to drink the grog don’t. Simple solution to it. Don’t stand up and say no one else can either. I will do what I want. When I want. Grog is not the issue, it is about mental well being. And social inclusion. Something you David know nothing about. We need to put on the brakes and turn this place around. And we will do that at the next election. Local and territory. We are a marketable town and with support not restrictions we can be a great town.

  5. Notice with interest Wayne Craft’s comments. Can’t recall that he was particularly involved with tourism. Recall that he came to Alice as a finance man, and presume that is how he has ended up with Steakhouse (I am amazed it is still going). Having said that, I fully support his thoughts on Alice Springs tourism future marketing etc requirements. By virtue of its isolation, Central Australia has always been an adventure tourist destination. Not so isolated today access-wise but still basically the same.
    This was recognised in the 80s by various tourism bodies and that market was pursued. It is mistakenly referred to as “backpacker”.
    I have traveled extensively over many years throughout the world and nearly always traveled in that manner. Still at it and approaching 70 years of age.
    In 2008 I traveled overland on a tour between Kathmandu and Lhasa before taking train out to Chengdu.
    On the tour was a couple who talked of recently touring OZ and they had done the Larapinta trail which they thought was magnificent.
    Half the other people on the tour were going to try and do the trail when in OZ as a result of this couple’s account (and – modestly – my promoting the area).
    Calling them backpackers gives people the idea of putting up with visitors who spend little. This is not case, as this type of traveler spends large amounts of money on their travels. We are just tight where accommodation costs are concerned.
    Another area that I think Wayne’s lack of knowledge of the tourism history of Central Australia is in the area of credit for the industru’s founders.
    Whilst Keith Castle was a tireless worker, he was basically employed by TAA to come to Alice and set up a ground tour operation in opposition to the extensive local operations of the day, and of the Ansett organization. Keith was just a paid employee (who did a great job) living in normal suburban surroundings in Alice.
    Bill King also gets a mention. He pioneered (amongst others) a camping style outback touring company based in Melbourne. He only became involved with NT tourism long after he had sold his operation to AAT and later was given a “job for the boys” type role on the board of the NT Tourist Commission under the Everingham government of the day.
    There were plenty with their noses in the trough in the Everingham et al days. The real pioneers are the numerous (too many to list without forgetting so many) who set up as individual operators, most living in appalling conditions out in the bush (Cotterill family for instance at Wallara) and battling to set up tourist facilities out of their own pocket.
    As well as those living out bush, there were many living in town but operating tourism ventures that took them out bush. The early (Pre Yulara Village etc) accommodation operators at the Rock had it tough.
    The establishment of Yulara and the jet capable airstrip was the writing on the wall for Alice’s current tourism doldrums.
    Prior to that most visitors came to Alice before – and after – visiting Ayers Rock. The loss of these stopover visitors has eroded visitor numbers.
    Good luck in getting back on the right track and getting tourism visitor numbers back up.
    Don McKenzie
    Alice resident 1975 – 1995.

  6. I would be interested in hearing from anyone who has information or photos of my late father Boydie Byrne when driving from Alice for either Len Tuit or Baldocks in the 40s or 50s. If there is a story as well I’d love that. You can contact me on Thank you.

  7. I’d like to second Don McKenzie’s comments above, and at the same time wish the Town That Is Alice all the very best success in every way.
    Perhaps Krafty should have remembered Rex Law, who was the first coach tour operator to complete a round trip from Brisbane with a coach load of bushwalkers / tourists to Ayers Rock and the Olgas in 1957.
    His Redline company went on to be perhaps the most prolific coach tour operator from the state capitals into Central Australia, providing camping and accommodated itineraries for the company’s thousands of clients during the ’60s.
    Rex constructed the Redline Chalet at the Rock in 1962 with the upgraded air-conditioned Redline Motel (later becoming the Inland Motel) added in 1967.
    In 1969 Rex also built the original 82 unit Territory Motel, located between Leichardt Terrace and Todd Street in Alice Springs, now known as the Aurora.
    I’m currently researching a book about Rex and his coach business and race car interests, and would particularly like any photos and history about the other four original motels / lodges at Ayers Rock.
    I’ll provide a contact if there’s a positive response.

  8. Love craftiest enthusiasm but the world tourism has changed!
    We tried the Asian market but gave up.
    We are in KOS, Greece, near the airport. Planes coming in ever 10 minutes packed with tourist. So the tourists are there but how to get them to Central Australia?

  9. Costs and the tyranny of distance has always been the main barrier to growth of tourism in the Territuory. Back in the good old days of the 60s to the 80s camping safaris from the Eastern and Southern states were booming and it was a cheap preferred option to see as much as you could for as little as you could. It was certainly a fun way to see this vast country of ours.
    Tenderfoot style meant you weren’t roughing it and deserves to be revived once again, but flying or rail in to Alice or Darwin rather than the epic one night stands and expense of overlanding.
    The See Alice while she is Hot campaign was very clever.
    Packages however need to be short and well priced to succeed. I have been contemplating a revival of camping safari coach tours for sometime. Now might be a good time to get serious about it.

  10. So many photos of Wayne today in Sunday Territorian but then again it was all promoting the great Territory. Tourism is tops with me and many others.
    We turn 40 years young next year 2018, what a chance to have a great bash in all parts of the NT and promote the flag showing the rest of OZ how magic this place is.
    How does NT Government market and promote? Do they liase with tourism bodies?


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