COMMENT by ERWIN CHLANDA
The media are sometimes blamed for harming our tourism industry by reporting “bad” news. This blame often comes from people who’d rather shoot the messenger than deal with the message.
For our part, the Alice Springs News Online has extolled the lifestyle in The Centre, and the magnificence of our landscape, in hundreds stories and pictures, and our team, over nearly four decades, has produced thousands of TV news, current affairs, magazine and documentary pieces which put our region on the world map – better than any advertising agency could ever dream of doing.
But when we become aware of a “bad” news story that is poignant and whose publication may lead to positive changes, we’ll also publish it – and this is one of those occasions.
An Australian tourist emailed Mayor Damien Ryan and all councillors, saying he would be “embarrassed to recommend Alice Springs and Uluru to anyone”.
That email was forwarded to us by Cr Steve Brown, who said the public needs to know about the fears and disgust experienced by this group of people who came to Alice Springs for a great time and left disappointed.
We sought permission from the author to publish his email. He granted it but asked for his name – supplied to the council members and known to us – to be withheld. Here then is that visitor’s unabridged message:
A group of us have just visited your city and have had a wonderful week sightseeing Alice to Uluru and much in-between. There are a few things I think you should know, some of which I am sure you already do. We all agreed that we would never recommend anyone visit Alice Springs. To be specific, we were very disappointed because:
• As Australians, we would be embarrassed by the behaviour of the indigenous population. We were warned not to go certain places at certain times by your locals. We feared for our safety many times.
• We did walk and shop in Alice only to be sometimes hassled by the local Aborigines.
• I know I am speaking in generalities, and you may be used to it, but the smell of many of the locals was unbearable. We left shopping, and we left the Casino because we could not bear the smell of some the people. Before you declare us racist, we would be concerned by any people with these issues.
• Uluru, the Olgas, Standleys, Simpsons Gap etc etc etc – all great. One thing was missing – the people supposedly caring for these wonderful pieces of nature. We spoke to many other tourists who simply could not believe there were no Aborigines around at these wonderful places to really promote their culture. The only culture we saw was NOT what we would want the world to see.
• Cafe and restaurant services were generally quite poor. We rarely received good service at still very high prices.
• Hotels were fair to average – nothing stood out.
I guess the Alice Springs Town Council can do little in these matters. But we thought, as fellow Australians, you should at least know why we feel the way we do. The bottom-line is that we would be embarrassed to recommend Alice / Uluru to anyone. I am sorry to be so vocal, but what nature has given us in and around Alice / Uluru should be shared worldwide!
Photo: Drinking and fighting in the town centre.