Wanted: big fresh tourism ideas


Out of a lot of ideas put on the table there were no new major ones at a poorly attended meeting on Tuesday.
It was called by the government’s Tourism NT, in the lead-up to its new strategic plan.
Tourism in Alice Springs mostly dropped from 2009/10 to 2010/11, according to figures released this week by Tourism Research Australia.
Domestic visitor nights declined 5.9% although visitor numbers rose 6.3%.
International visitor nights declined a massive 21.3%, and visitor numbers, 5.7%.
Long-time industry figure Ren Kelly, who attended the meeting, says the 20-odd people present put forward a national indigenous culture centre, an idea raised many times before.
It was suggested it may be located at the western side of The Gap, at the base of the northern flank of the ranges.
People attending deplored the loss of Alice Springs’ outback character and suggested suitable architecture should be mandated when new building permits are issued in the CBD.
And “adventure tourism” should be enhanced, offering such sports as abseiling, mountain bike riding and skydiving.
Mr Kelly says the idea of a cultural festival, similar to the one staged to mark the centenary of federation, was raised again.
The spectacular event featured hundreds of corroborre dancers from across Australia, performing on simple sand stages, and stealing the show from stars including Christine Anu, who were performing on a vast stage some of which was flown in by cargo aircraft at massive expense.
Meanwhile the Fair Work Ombudsman has recovered almost $50,000 back-pay for 136 hospitality workers in Alice Springs.
Fair Work inspectors recently door-knocked 11 hospitality businesses in Alice Springs to ensure their compliance with record-keeping and time and wages obligations.
Six of the 11 were fully compliant, while five businesses recorded contraventions relating to the underpayment of minimum hourly rates of pay and penalty rates.
Pictured: Arrernte men doing Alice proud at the Yeperenye Festival in 2001. From our archive.


  1. I’d like to see Tourism NT perhaps talk less with the industry itself and talk more with actual visitors to our town, to gauge THEIR expectations and find out whether THEY were satisfied with their experience. Was it worthwhile? Would they recommend a visit to The Centre to friends? What could we do to improve things?
    Nevertheless, some ideas seem obvious: we should re-claim the Yeperenye Festival as our own; we should create an easily accessible Cultural Centre (not “out in the sticks”); and we should look after our few remaining places of heritage value, both natural and cultural. Begin by protecting and creating places and events that make this town and region UNIQUE, as this are the only reason anyone would want to come here in the first place.

  2. Couldn’t agree more Domenico that, where tourism is concerned, it really is all about expectations and making sure we meet them. Just wanted to make some comments …
    Our organisation puts out a simple eight question survey to all our visitors in July every year asking simple things like how they heard of us, why they came to Alice Springs, how they came to Alice Springs, was our museum what they expected, what do they think we can do to improve their visit etc etc.
    We use these surveys for everything from gauging where to direct our limited marketing budget the following year to placements of seating around the facility. I know Brendan Heenan from the Big Four Caravan Park also actively surveys his market. I don’t know if other tourism businesses also do it. Several times over the last few years Tourism NT have left questionnaires here and had people come out and interview our visitors for statistical data. I would imagine these stats are used to identify declining and emerging markets among other things.
    I am sure that the CMCA (Campervan and Motor Home Club of Australia) have done another survey since but I have a copy of one here that determined recently the three top things that their membership (62,000 grey nomads and growing at 15% per annum) look for most in a destination are 1) history and culture and 2) local markets and 3) Museums. This market sector is a major growth market and set to dominate tourism activity in regional Australia. Anything we do in the future we would be wise to heed their expectations. It is not just tourism that benefits and there are some interesting statistics on their website about what they spend on fuel, groceries, activities, repairs, medical expenses etc. Tourism really is every-ones business.
    Another interesting trend working in southern and eastern regional Australia is the clustering of events so that grey nomands can prop for a few weeks, replenish their pension coffers, and enjoy several events and activities. This has been particularly successful in wine and gourmet food areas and there is absolutely no reason we can’t do that here too. We have some fantastic events here and should be cross promoting and clustering them to the self drive market.
    The most common comment we get about where Alice Springs failed is the lack of indigenous cultural experiences – a Yeperenye like Festival would be a fantastic addition not only as a festival with economic benefits for tourism festival but as an socially inclusive experience that knits the diversity of our currently divided community.
    The CMCA also have two great programs that I’d like to see in Alice Springs. These are the LNT (Leave No Trace) initiative for fully self contained vehicles that do not negatively impact environmentally sensitive areas, and the RV Friendly Town Scheme which has been specifically designed to assist local councils in attracting their membership to their towns.
    This is something I have been working on for a while and would like to bring to fruition irrespective if I am elected for another term. Alice Springs already meets most of the requirements. Any-one who wants to know more about this organisation or these initiatives, check them out on http://www.cmca.net.au. I will be lobbying both Tourism NT and Tourism Central Australia to get involved in both these programs.

  3. Liz, Your mention of an eight point survey made my ears prick up.
    If not already on there, would it be possible to include a question about an alcohol takeaway-free day on the next print run? It might be instructive to hear your visitors’ views as to whether or not one day a week without access to bottle shops would adversely impact on their visit, or on any plans to visit again.
    I appreciate the tourism industry is fundamental to the economic well-being of Alice Springs, and no one wants to upset that apple cart. But participating in a day without access to the bottle shops could be presented as a chance to help us find a solution to a situation that any visitor can see all too clearly is one of our major problems.

  4. Hi Hal, I get plenty of feedback from tourists without having to put a specific question into my survey and to be perfectly honest my biggest market (about 80%) is the self drive / grey nomads and they have a very communicative network, know about the restrictions and bring their own grog and some for their mates while they are at it – usually wine casks. My guess, and there are always exceptions, is that an alcohol free day would not impact this sector of tourism much at all. They are casual, not on a stringent time frame and bring it with them anyway. A hell of a lot of locals now buy bulk from interstate as well. No issue with this – but its certainly skews local consumption statistics! Likewise, I also get a hell of a lot of comments and complaints from tourists about not being able to get supplies till 2pm, let alone not at all when they are on a time frame to head north south east or west – and some of it is quite aggressive.
    An alcohol free day would not impact my life at all but it would impact tourism and locals to a degree. I could be convinced of the benefits of an alcohol free day if I hadn’t witnessed first hand the Tennant Creek experience where it put more drunks on the road (travelling to Wauchope, Renner and beyond for grog) endangering not only their own lives but those of other innocent road users.
    And … if I thought the drug of choice would not simply be substituted for another – I still find plenty of evidence out here for marijuana, sniffing and other drug use on a far too regular basis. We should be dealing more effectively with causal issues and not treating the symptom with bandaids or blanket measures.
    And … as the spate of break-ins shows only too clearly, if people desperate for a drink really want one they’ll find it and steal it from your home and mine or any club, hotel or business they think they’ll score. I’ve had the Old Ghan Museum closed for over two weeks now repairing the building from the last break-in which I personally intercepted at 3.00am following an earlier robbery the same day.
    And … is it really okay if you take one day off a week from bashing your wife and kids! Lets stop domestic and other violence happening every day!
    My mind is open, I’m willing to listen and I await convincing.

  5. Liz, finally after what feels like six weeks of advocating for take-away alcohol free days – plural – a candidate says that they have an open mind and are willing to listen, albeit, await convincing. I have waited a long time for this, but I’m cynical because of my age and experience, so forgive me if I seem wary of further betrayal.
    I, too, lived in Tennant during some of the years of Thirsty Thursday (TT) and lost many dear friends with whom I’d worked and grown. I’m getting weary of presenting these stats, but the consumption of pure alcohol at the time of TT, reduced by 20%. When the one day restriction was lifted in 2006, it increased by 7.5% and anti-social stats continued to increase (PAAC Senate Standing Committee submission 6/2/12) to the chagrin of local police officers whom I knew.
    I asked for and familiarised myself with these and many other research stats on what I see as the necessity of alcohol reform in Australia. There’s been none, to my knowledge, about road accident increase in the Barkly Region as a result of TT, but I used to watch people loading alcohol into the boot of their cars at Threeways and I’m not discounting what you suggest, but statistically this can be reduced by restricting the supply Territory-wide. Stats reveal that 55% of traffic accidents in the NT are attributable to high-risk consumption.
    Alcohol is, without doubt, a causal factor, among others, in the domestic violence you mention and is associated with, not excluded by marijuana use. I would be interested if you enlarged on what you as other “causal issues”.
    The Central Australian Aboriginal Congress (CAAC, Alice Springs Town Plan, 7/12/09) notes that “a significant proportion of Aboriginal ‘problem drinkers’ in Alice Springs want to achieve safe drinking or sobriety and are seeking support to do so.” Take-away alcohol sales free days would assist them, their families and the community.
    I suggest that it would impact the situation in a big way if given a trial. We have a large, complex problem and it requires a large multi-tasked approach to a solution. Many are in denial, but you at least have come out in the open. The benefits of consecutive take-away sales free days per week, would be an enormous breath of fresh air. Start with Sunday and move into the week.
    Finally, without going into more stats (see Central Australia is perishing for a drink), can I add that the cost of maintaining the status quo is poor management of taxpayer funds. That, of course, is a gross understatement when you consider the economic stats, excluding the preventable human toll.
    The re-direction of the multi-million dollar annual cost to the community in alcohol abuse could be directed into life-sustaining areas that support the re-growth of town planning that Domenico Pecorari speaks of in his “bottom-up” model.

  6. Liz
    Thank you for your answer.
    As I have said in other posts, my advocating an alcohol takeaway-free day has less to do with adding another restriction than it has to do with giving the town a day off, a designated time out.
    I feel a weekly break would benefit us all.
    There may be theft, but nothing new there. Ditto for dickheads on the roads. That’s why we have police, an overworked and under appreciated group if ever there was one!
    And I agree with both your visitors and many in Alice that the current lot of restrictions is a mess. It’s almost necessary to have a graph on the door to check before going out to buy a bit of grog. What’s for sale, when and where takes some study. I am among those who would like to see all that simplified.
    I’m not sure why domestic violence got a mention, except it is often linked to alcohol consumption. It’s inexcusable, no matter when, no matter where.

  7. Russell and Hal,
    As you can imagine I am flat out at the moment, really busy with both work and the council elections, so I’ll be brief;
    YES, Hal – we do need to go back to square one with a more holistic approach, there seems to be a honeymoon period after every new alcohol initiative and then its back to the normal chaos.
    CAUSAL issues Russell? That’s a tall order and as a born and bred Territorian I could write a novel – but how about dispossession, inequality, the welfare mentality, homelessness, health, housing, employment, training, urban drift, gaps in some services and duplication in others for a start.
    I would welcome a coffee with you both one day but in the meantime feel free to attend our “meet the candidates” night (as per advert in this paper) on Thursday 22nd March and chat to prospective Mayors and Councillors about the issues that are important to you.

  8. Thanks for your time, Liz. It’d be easy to get on the wrong side of you at a time like this, but thanks for going on the record about the raft of issues that cause the alcohol-related domestic violence which, among others, prompted my request to you.
    However, I note that take-away alcohol sales free day/s have never been trialled in Alice Springs and that in your haste to move along, it needs to be tabled as an appropriate response.
    The statistical evidence and experience that I presented surrounding Thirsty Thursday is substantial basis for responsible consideration of such a measure in Alice Springs.
    Good luck with the novel.

  9. Liz, you’ve been Deputy Mayor in a town plagued by violence and excessive alcohol consumption where the two pubs sell take-away alcohol seven days a week, primarily to the more impoverished and disadvantaged members of our community. It’s a continuous top-up, drip feed whereby they are hooked to the cheap cask wine and beer.
    Take-away alcohol free day/s would provide a circuit breaker for everyone and allow some meaningful compassionate intervention. Your campaign message spruiks “equality” and you are on record as acknowledging this disadvantage by many social indicators, all of which impact the social gradient in a town like Alice. Last year, it was reported that the two political parties received campaign donations from the liquor industry.
    What is your position on take-away alcohol restrictions? Why haven’t you publicly acknowledged alcohol as an election issue? What are you going to do about it? I’m not real keen in attending any more sausage sizzle talk-fests, but I’d appreciate your answers to these questions.

  10. Hi Russell,
    Here’s your novel 🙂
    To give you some history I am a born and bred Territorian and have lived with the grog debate and the chaos since I was a small child at Top Springs (Kalkaringi and Daguragu area) and have witnessed the many horrors of alcohol abuse and misuse in every place I have lived in the NT since. Unfortunately I have also witnessed restriction after restriction and initiative after initiative continue to fail.
    Alcohol is the business of the NT Liquor Commission and NT Government (or maybe soon the Feds) although applications do come past council for comment or recommendation. I will, as I have always done, judge each such application on its own merits. I agree there are venues in this town that should / could have an injection of moral fibre. I spoke out against the sale of cheap bottled wine (ie Passion Pop) after personally witnessing the alarming increase in consumption by women and young girls in my neighbourhood. I am also currently horrified by Councils “river run stats” and my own observation at the increase in women and young girls roaming our streets at present. No-one has been able to pinpoint a reason for me and until we can identify the reason we can only guess at the solution.
    I also voted against getting rid of wine casks NOT for the same reason as some other elected members but because of my concerns about the glass litter and the very real potential to use it as a weapon as I have also witnessed far too often out here. I have also lodged an objection to the granting of a liquor license in the past (although it was eventually granted) and in other instances I have supported applications – but I agree “no more take-aways”. I support outlets in each area as we have now because it is after all a legal substance and our working families and pensioners can walk there and have rights too. It also keeps drunks off the roads else they go in search of it elsewhere.
    I have spent a lot of time with drinkers of all ages in my area discussing issues with them. Sometimes I am surrounded by up to a dozen drinking camps at once and I would say it is a fair bet that I, more than any other elected member, have been impacted by the resulting crime and anti-social behaviour. This includes everything from having batteries and fuel stolen to waking up with a man holding a chair over my head. To hear another candidate say I am “in denial” over this issue is nothing short of farcical.
    My workplace has taken a lateral position and initiated a good neighbour policy with one of the town camps in our area and have made a concerted effort to engage with the people who reside within. I am thrilled with the results and would welcome the opportunity to discuss this with you elsewhere. This is not for fear that I will be attacked – but out of respect for the amazing indigenous women involved in this relationship whom I will not allow to be denigrated.
    You are right in that this is a whole of community problem. I just don’t believe that Alice Springs has yet come up with a whole of community response. Different groups have produced comprehensive reports that are quite different in content, solutions and projected outcomes. Until we have input from all stakeholders using the same terms of reference I don’t believe we can come up with a whole of community solution. Whatever we do, I do not believe a blanket approach is the solution. This issue is far more complex than most people realise. I believe it needs to be a multi-pronged approach targeted at the different specific groups who grapple with grog for different reasons.
    I believe if you do the crime you do the time. However I also appreciate that there are diverse issues behind our anti-social behaviours and crime most of which are grog or drug related and we need to deal with this at grass roots level. Council needs increased financial support to help it deal with issues caused primarily (not exclusively) by policy of other tiers of government. I could give you hundreds of examples of where my viewpoints have been shaped over the years but here’s a few:
    Most of the youth I have spoken to out here are confused by the concept of a standard drink thinking that one can or bottle of whatever is a standard drink. That’s EDUCATION.
    Another young lady I have dealt with has had several DUIs and is keen for rehabilitation however she has been told she has to go to Darwin and that she has to leave her children behind which she won’t do because she’s scared for their safety. That’s FAMILY REHABILITATION.
    Another old couple lived for months under a sheet of corrugated iron on our property because their “family” took over the house and they were frightened of being there. THAT’S HOUSING.
    A young man I know from an outlying community has no choice but to do his work order in Alice Springs. He has nowhere to live so sleeps rough and inevitably gets himself back into trouble again. THAT’S PROGRAMS.
    And it goes on and on and on.
    I have been fortunate to sit on the Alice Springs Community Action Plan the past year. This group has initiated many successful programs and initiatives including those for youth and children over the past holiday period. Like Damien Ryan I have been accused of being a “labor puppet” for accepting a position on this committee. I don’t care what political party it is – if I am given an opportunity to deal with the hard issues I will take it. For the record, this committee is apolitical, made up of a diverse membership from all persuasions and I have been both impressed and heartened by the compassion, determination and dedication of the group collectively. Somehow we need to transfer that to the wider community.
    I certainly don’t pretend to have all the answers. I don’t even know what some of the questions are! However, like I have said to you before, I am willing to listen and await convincing, albeit, my own experiences have also made me cynical of the whole alcohol debate.
    By the way, while I could hardly be called a drinker, I do enjoy the occasional whiskey or glass of red and believe we should be promoting responsible drinking backed by appropriate programs for those who can’t or won’t drink responsibly.
    Probably not quite the answer you wanted Russell but at least I am honest about my position.

  11. Liz, thanks very much for your considered reply, including history. I worked for CAAMA from 1981 before we moved to Little Sisters Town Camp. I place it on the record without going into the medical detail.
    Numerous people note the failure of “restriction after restriction.” Point: Take-away alcohol sales free days have never been trialled in Alice Springs, despite the ongoing deaths from excessive alcohol consumption. It was successful in this at Tennant Creek. I lived it and I’ve given the stats repeatedly, including the preventable loss of close young friends from misadventure through alcohol abuse.
    It can be successful here for numerous reasons, primarily, assisting the Police so that they may concentrate more on other areas, for which many of those same nay-sayers accuse them of lacking resource. Take-away is a bottomless pit. Let’s plug it, instead of throwing more billions of dollars into it.
    You and I agree that this is a whole of community problem: NT Liquor Commission, NTG and the Feds will respond if the community owns it and calls for assistance. The ASTC election needs to reflect that this week. This is responsible leadership.
    You say “no more take-aways,” but then “no one has been able to pinpoint” a reason for alcohol-related anti-social behaviour. Respected community-based bodies like PAAC are calling for one take-away alcohol free day per week and if you’ve read that CAAC ASTP submission, you’d have seen that what they are saying amounts to the same thing, but the pin-prick appears to be falling on deaf ears, except perhaps for the Senate Standing Committee’s inquiry into Stronger Futures legislation, which the CLP is rumoured to be in favour of dismantling.
    Waiting for “input for stakeholders” in the grog debate in this town is a pipe-dream. It ain’t gonna happen if the last 30 years is anything to go by. You’ve said as much in the opening chapter of your novel.
    I’ve been advocating a multi-pronged approach from the word “go” as has Domenico Pecorari in these posts. There are capable, existing centres and rehabilitative programs standing by. I’ve been informed by medical professionals in Alice that this is correct. Housing, as you identify, is a problem.
    It’s time to get pragmatic about housing, but welfare reform won’t be successful until alcohol reform is tackled. This is, at least, an attempt to answer the core areas associated with responsible drinking and restore some order to chaos.
    I hope your “Meet the Candidate” sausage sizzle goes well. You’re a mover and shaker and a person who values trying to stay out of the smearing campaing – I respect that.
    This week, the survival of Alice desperately needs a show of support for take-away alcohol free days to be trialled and evaluated over a twelve month period.
    I spoke to two candidates, both new, who I ran into in the Mall yesterday and they support alcohol reform as well as law and order.


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