LETTER: Alice second best in two speed tourism economy, says Minister


Sir – Figures released [yesterday] show the Northern Territory now has a two speed tourism economy, with the Top End remaining strong while Central Australia is faltering.
Central Australia failed to attract visitors despite the Northern Territory recording a year on year increase of domestic visitors in Australia by 21 per cent, or 1.08 million visitors.
Figures released by Tourism Research Australia for the year ending September 2012 show that, while places in the Top End like Darwin, Kakadu and Arnhem have enjoyed increases of 13% and 29%, the majority of regions within Central Australia had recorded significant declines in visitation.
The former Labor Government’s concentration was mostly across the Top End, with an absolute failure to address issues which could have prevented a double digit decline to visitor numbers in the Alice Springs region, which are down 13 per cent.
I am confident that a new marketing strategy for the first six months of next year is a solid step towards righting this situation.
The Northern Territory is one product and for the industry to really receive a boost, it must flourish in all regions.
Despite the Northern Territory welcoming both more interstate (up 15%) and Territorian (up 31%) travelers, a fall in international visitation over the period is a cause for concern in the tourism industry.
In an attempt to turn this around, Tourism NT has reviewed its direction and introduced new short and long term strategies.
An additional $2 million from within the existing Tourism NT Budget will be directed towards conversion-focussed international marketing activity including digital and social media programs and a Northern Territory stopover campaign to attract young people and working holiday makers.
The new board of commissioners will set a new direction for tourism in the Territory with a vision to create a more prosperous industry.
Matt Conlan
Minister for Tourism and Major Events


  1. 30 years of concentrated marketing featuring the Rock and very little else has created a view in the minds of many that Central Australia has but one attraction and a very expensive one to reach.
    That, together with the commercially indifferent paternalistic philosophy of National Parks management, the monopoly ownership of the Yulara resort and you have as I’ve said many times before, a recipe for disaster!
    The word is out there! All across the globe, 30 years of lousy service and indifferent treatment leaves potential visitors knowing how they are likely to be received at the Rock. Ripped off at the resort and treated like an unwanted intruder in the park!
    Not too many are keen to fork out the big bucks for that! How do we turn it around? This year brings a federal election that will see another incompetent Labor Government bite the dust.
    That will create an opportunity for the Territory to regain control of the park, our pollies and lobbyists should be working hard with that in mind.
    The monopoly ownership of the Yulara Resort has to be broken by whatever means it takes, including if necessary the establishment of another resort.
    Advertising of the Central Australian product has to become just that, “Central Australian”, no more Rock focussed / biased advertising campaigns.
    Potential tourists tossing up on whether to spend the big dollars that it takes to get to and from our region have to know, have to be informed of the much broader, higher quality, better serviced products, that are available in The Centre awaiting their visitation.
    Further to that, concentrate tourism dollars on making sure our infrastructure is up to speed improve our access roads and actively encourage the establishment of new business by removing red tape establishing a business development body speeding up and even being preemptive with the excisions of developable land parcels throughout the region, offering eventual ownership of some of those parcels under development licence agreements to enthusiastic entrepreneurs. Let their enthusiasm drive a rebirth of our badly jaded industry, in just the same way it started out. Guts, hard work and risk, nothing ventured, nothing gained!

  2. To Steve Brown (Steve Brown Posted December 13, 2012 at 4:13 pm ):
    What a load of extraordinary codswallop you manage to spew out Councillor Brown!
    Steve, if you stopped for a moment to think, you would realise that most of what you propose here is just more pie-in-the-sky silliness (reminiscent of your preposterous pre-election publicity stunt, the pipedream proposal for a $30 million plus, taxpayer funded acquisition and redevelopment of the Memo Club as a Taj Mahal-like super youth centre).
    A second resort at Uluru? Would that have a price tag on it of $1 billion, $2 billion or $3 billion Steve, in a dramatically receded international tourism market, and when it looks like the high Australian dollar will persist for many years?
    Just who do you think might be interested in sinking those kinds of sums into a resort ghost-town?
    You don’t really think that the CLP could be persuaded to stump up billions in taxpayer dollars to do it again do you? Surely they have learnt some lessons from their previous 23 years of squandering precious capital on white elephants up and down the Territory?
    If you stopped for another moment, the penny might drop for you, reminding you that Aboriginal traditional owners have title to the Uluru area, as well as Native Title rights to adjoining areas, and have contracted the ANPWS under a very long term lease to manage the National Park in consultation with them. No government could change this, unless it also had control of the Senate, as it would need to be able to pass laws that interfere with these arrangements, and this would be extremely unlikely to occur.
    If a government did manage to force its way through that impasse, massive compensation payments to those whose property and business rights are infringed would make it an exceedingly bleak business deal.
    You and your fellow travellers would just be wasting your breath, and everybody’s time, developing a crusade to change any of these facts.
    Anyway, that is all fantasy, as the Federal Coalition and Labor are both strongly committed to maintaining the integrity of the Land Rights Act.
    So Steve, your tirade is really nothing except more hyperbolic bilge, the kind we normally only expect to hear from a manic hustler.
    Is this all really just about attracting attention to yourself Steve?
    Stop trying to fool yourself. You are not cutting a figure as a visionary big thinker, you are just making yourself a target of ridicule by persisting in this grandiose foolishness. All you are likely to achieve by this demagogic chatter is to further alienate the traditional owners and moderate Territorians, whilst raising unrealistic expectations amongst the naive.

  3. Australian has grown rich on Aboriginal cultural heritage. The many International tourists who come here to see it, don’t see it, wonder at it and try to enter into it, largely through the Non-Aboriginal gate, contribute millions of dollars to our economy.
    It’s now accepted that Indigenous people grew the country through a complex custodianship and the lifestyle they preferred, still do in most cases, was learned over millennia. Land Rights, a recent phenomenon, has given them back a piece of the action.
    Some still begrudge this, but we would do well to consider the relationship, from housing design to water conservation, so that what is left of that heritage is not given to mining or far less destructively, large-scale resorts that promote this heritage though landscape architecture at a formidable price tag.
    Non-Indigenous Australia needs to forge a broader partnership by developing the lifestyle which tourists seeking the Indigenous experience pay, backpacker hordes aside, quite expensively to see.
    The hurdles are worth government interaction on a larger scale than at present and Minister Elferink’s prisoner employment proposal is a step in that direction.
    With a high Australian dollar, and a slowing domestic economy, now is the time to harness tourism to a more sustainable, livable and affordable Indigenous heritage style, buttressing our future health and unemployment budget in many ways.
    I estimate that Indigenous cultures offer at least 4/5ths of the national cultural menu. Australia is extremely blessed to have this treasure, despite the way it was initially acquired. Let’s roll out the carpet together.

  4. A budget airline linking Darwin to Alice Springs and on to a major coastal city will immediately boost Central Australian Tourism – and provide transport for Darwin FIFO workers.

  5. To Jeff Hausler (Posted December 27, 2012 at 8:48 am): presumably then you reckon that the NT CLP government should subsidise a “budget airline” into Alice, as none of these cashed up budget airline outfits are prepared to do it under their own steam and at their own risk.
    This would be the same gang of CLP [members] which has just unjustifiably and hypocritically cried poor, and stomped on youth, education, police and child welfare services in Alice Springs [and] told the most impoverished shires in Australia that they are employing far too many of the poorest people in Australia, and that they won’t be getting any further NTG grants to keep their locally born, front line youth and recreation workers operating in remote bush communities to provide desperately needed activities and care to the most deprived children and young people in Australia.
    Many of us are not against government subsidy for public transport for ordinary Australians, but we are against flagrantly opportunistic … authoritarian “leaders”. We are also totally opposed to the sheer governmental profligacy epitomised by government subsidies for rich international tourists aimed at propping up CLP supporters’ outdated business models.
    We absolutely oppose the NT government [taking] from the poor and simultaneously propping up any wonky aspects of the tourist industry.
    This subsidising of CLP cronies becomes especially obnoxious when Terry and his [mates] are, on the one hand, unfairly and inequitably ripping money out of the pockets of the least well-off Territorians by jacking up flat rate charges for essential services like power and water; whilst on the other hand gifting unbelievably large and virtually untaxable “reimbursement” packages to their … mates to advise them about how to gouge even more from the workers and poor, so they can shift even more dough over to subsidies for their chums … who are consultants and entrepreneurs wanting easy money and investment and operational subsidies for their private business ventures.
    [ED – Bob, provide examples, please.]

  6. Erwin
    We could start with Col Fuller, Gary Nairn and Neil Conn, and work our way down the list of departmental executives and $500,000 per annum consultants whom Terry has scraped up out of the CLP old boys’ barrel.

  7. Lord Help us all! It’s not hard to see how Central Australia has ended up well on the way to becoming a sad welfare driven backwater when you read comments like Bob’s. Not so hard to see how Territory Labor was able to take a thriving economy surrounded by great marketable beauty, mining, agriculture, tourism, unlimited space and unlimited opportunity and bring it to its knees in just a few short years of bleak vision-less bureaucratic government. It was backed up by its henchmen and women of narrow, small and bureaucratic mind, spurred on by the politics of self infatuation and envy.
    Bob’s pedigree for being part of that is there as plain as day in this and many other of his profoundly bleak, befuddled and bureaucratically confounded comments.
    I am both appalled and astounded that anyone, even Bob, would find a suggestion that we might build a fantastic new Youth Centre for our town as somehow threatening! Raising false expectations! Are you serious?? How do you imagine we can ever achieve anything as a community if we don’t put up ideas?? Begin the community discussions that may eventually, if pushed long and hard enough, result in a fantastic outcome for our community. “Build something for our kids for the future for tomorrow! How the hell do you think the rest of our infrastructure came about? How do you suppose any one ever built anything like the Opera House, the Harbour Bridge or even just the town of Alice Springs? How? They dared to dream, Bob! They dared to have a go.
    “Errr by the way, what would you do Bob”? “Oh. That’s right”! “You’ve already done it, haven’t you”? I know it’s going to come as quite a shock to you Bob but the Australian nation of which we are a part “Yeh, we are” is a democracy and it is governed by the will of the majority of its citizens. That will is open to good political argument and when that argument is won, anything at all can be changed, no matter how many years and how many poor befuddled and confounded little bureaucrats try to stop it with plaintiff cries of “you can’t do that”!
    You can’t change that! Yes we can, Bob, yes we can! Now I know this is a lot for you to take in at once, Bob, but steel yourself for another shock. “There hasn’t always been a Resort at the Rock”!! “No, it’s quite true”! When locals started touring tourist to the Rock there was nothing there at all!! “Yes Bob the Rock was there, I meant the visitor facilities.” And in fact they actually had to build facilities to their requirement themselves! With no government assistance!! Incredible, hey, Bob? People who actually do things for themselves! Now this is going to come as an even greater shock, Bob, but those people still exist!! And all Government has to do to set them going is make land available and get the hell out of the way.
    Why would we want to do that? Not just to create new and more imaginative business concepts but the competition for the existing resort would force them to lift their game, create a better more acceptable product and in the interest of doing that may even see them bring in new venture partners or to sell, or to split up the resort, all of this would be a very useful very healthy outcome for Central Australian tourism.
    No we can’t do anything at the local level about the high Aussie Dollar. So the only thing left within our control is for us to improve our product to a level where tourists feel its value for the extra money. In tough economic times governments can facilitate the kinds of change required to generate better products, not by paying out enormous sums of money but by getting out of the way of those who are prepared to take a risk and do the hard yards, just as it did to create the original and now sadly declined product.
    While government facilitates the rebirth of Central Australia’s entrepreneurial spirit it would do well to remember that it was “too much government” that stifled our initial development.
    Now what was that other thing you think to be an impediment to change Bob? “Ah, Yes”, Land rights, Native Title, Title and Land Councils all the things that have done so much to lift Aboriginal people from poverty disenfranchisement, despair by replacing them with the fulfillment of dreams, personal wealth, happy successful children in schools, good health, employment and a wonderful rosy future.
    Oops, my mistake. I was thinking about the lives of those involved in the parasitic industry that lives “off”, looking after the things we have paternally granted our Aboriginal population. Just because it’s given them nothing but worsening health, depression, poverty, disempowerment, unemployment, worsening education outcomes and ever deepening isolation.
    Why would they want to change anything, when “you’re” I mean “they’re” on such a good wicket? I don’t know about you, Bob, but I reckon and indeed I know that the seeds for change are right there. And furthermore, Bob, something which will probably only serve to horrify you even further, it might even be Aboriginal people who take up the opportunity to use their own land ownership to do something about creating new opportunities!
    Yeh but don’t worry Bob we all know they’ll have to come and ask you first, after all they couldn’t really make a decision on their own, could they? And obviously they are going to need a bright enthusiastic forward thinking Para- I mean Bureaucrat to assist aren’t they? Should never have fallen off that ladder – hurts to laugh!

  8. Reply to Steve Brown (Posted January 4, 2013 at 4:46 pm): Thanks for taking the time to respond to my comments. Although your rant is garbled and barely intelligible in places, I gather that you neither understand how the original Yulara resort was financed and structured, nor do you care to find out. Similarly, you do not appear to understand or respect Aboriginal land rights and native title interests, nor the legislation under which they were codified.
    You have not addressed any of the financial and economic aspects of your wild proposal, let alone the enormous challenges involved in sinking big money into a declining market which already has excess capacity.
    It is a wonder that anybody is prepared to debate with you under these circumstances, and completely unsurprising that you were disowned by the CLP.


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