But Alice could sell itself better: A third of visitors would have extended their stay had they been aware of the range of things to see and do.
Anzac Hill at sunset: 57% of visitors to Central Australia make Anzac Hill part of their experience.
By KIERAN FINNANE
Why do visitors want to come to Central Australia? The main reason is that it is seen as an iconic Australian destination and it is made so by its natural attractions. This is the case for the majority of the region’s international and domestic visitors. And nature delivers, exceeding expectations for both categories.
The questions are fundamental and the answers clear in the Central Australia Visitor Profile and Satisfaction (VPS) project, undertaken by Tourism Research Australia in partnership with Tourism NT, with its most recent survey conducted in two waves in May and August 2011, to capture both shoulder and peak season visitors.
The local debate is very attuned to international perceptions and responses, but the majority of our visitors – 75% – continue to be domestic. So while experience of the unique natural environment is important for them, they are more likely than international visitors to have other reasons as well for visiting:
• a variety of things to see and do (29%);
• relaxing (22%);
• spending time with others (14%);
• attending specific events (9%).
It’s interesting to see what counts as a ‘natural’ experience. In Alice it’s a visit to Anzac Hill – 57% of visitors to Central Australia do that. That’s more than visit Watarrka (Kings Canyon) – 47% – but fewer than visit Uluru (Ayers Rock) – 76%.
Natural attractions were the most visited attractions in The Centre, with Uluru/Kata Tjuta National Park the most visited attraction for all visitor types.
Drive visitors (37% of total – 49% arrive by air) were more likely than other visitors to go to the Alice Springs Desert Park and the gorges and waterholes, including Glen Helen Gorge, Ormiston Gorge and Ellery Creek Big Hole, while rail/coach visitors (13%) were significantly more likely than other visitors to go to local attractions such as the Royal Flying Doctor Service, Alice Springs School of the Air and Alice Springs Reptile Centre.
Alice Springs is the most visited town in The Centre – 89% of visitors to the region come here, compared to Yulara (69%) and Kings Canyon (49%), with around 11% of visitors stopping in Yulara for a daytrip.
Alice could definitely ‘sell itself’ better as 26% of visitors said “there was a lot more to do in Alice Springs than I expected”, and 23% said “Alice Springs was better than I expected”. Two in five visitors (40%) had not been aware of the range of things to see and do in Alice Springs prior to their visit, and, importantly, a third of visitors (34%) would have extended their stay had they been aware.
The majority of visitors – 61% – were very satisfied with Central Australia’s attractions, natural and commercial, which is 12 points higher than the VPS benchmark (that is, the average for the other regional tourist destinations surveyed). Attractions were a very important attribute of their visit to two in five visitors (39%) – 21 points higher than the VPS benchmark.
Learning about Aboriginal culture was an important reason for visiting The Centre for 25% of international visitors. It was in their Top 5 expectations of their visit, but did not figure in the list of experiences exceeding expectations.
Increasing the opportunity for “Indigenous Australians to share their culture” is a key recommendation of the project. Another is to improve digital marketing and the online distribution of information about the region.