COMMENT: Alice is not sad, Alice is real


This is just what we need: the traveling bible Lonely Planet calling Alice “a bit sad”.
Empty shop fronts in Todd Mall are given as an example. While Europe and the USA are falling apart in an ongoing economic crisis, those who still can afford to travel are warned against empty shop windows. That makes me mad.
Empty shop windows are a sign of our times, not only in Australia, but also in Europe and the USA.  It has to do with a rapidly changing world.
In many towns and city centres all over the world shops are now rented at very low prices or given for free to artists, who traditionally cannot afford CBS based premises to show their work, or to other non-profit based community enhancing organisations.
It’s happening in Broken Hill for example as we speak. It has been happening for a long time in Amsterdam, London, and even in Washington DC. This trend or another one to solve the problem will eventually find its way to Alice, I have no doubt about that.
The era of boutique shopping streets is over. It is not what tourists want anymore.  Boutique streets are disappearing everywhere.
Shopping is out, boutique streets are out. Nature is in. And of that we have plenty. Our backyard is one of the best in the world. You can’t beat the weather either. So why complain about empty shop windows?
Because you have to actually search for a little cozy venue such as the IAD cafe? Is that not what makes being a tourist fun? Do tourists want to scuffle along streets that sell stuff?
No. Because everybody has too much stuff at home as it is. “Consume less, experience more” has been the motto for quite some time now. And backpackers have no room for stuff in their backpacks anyway.
What the Lonely Planet has neglected to notice is that Alice is real. It is full of people from all over the world, including a large Indigenous population. This is the real Australia. Those who want to go pit-a-pat along shops full of stuffed koalas and boomerangs made in China will not be satisfied with Alice.
Let’s keep it that way please and let’s establish a think tank on what to do about these empty shops. Apartments? Studio’ s for artists? Affordable child care? Starting businesses that would otherwise not stand a chance? Conservation Centres for disappearing crafts? Table d’hote restaurants?
Suzanne Visser


  1. Please don’t focus on the one comment. There was much praise for the positive aspects of the town and region. The writer explored the town extensively in the relatively short time he was here and, I believe, covered more than most travel guide update writers because he had local contacts and had been here several times.

  2. Looking from the outside, I believe The Alice that I knew in the 1970s early 80s period was a far better place than it is today, and in fact it appears from what I gather from friends and the media today’s Alice is not somewhere I would want to live and bring up a young family as I did back then. The question I ask myself is “why”, and the only answer I see is Government mismanagement, both Federal and Local. Alice sad? Absolutely.

  3. Spot on, Terry. Alice Springs is definitely “on the nose” to so many from outside of the town. To deny this is to hide one’s head in the sand.
    That said, however, The Alice does have many “hidden gems” and remains for those of us that live here a town full of the most interesting characters, in an environmental setting that most towns would kill for.
    Unfortunately, just like the the old joke about God putting Aussies in charge of the “lucky country”, we are severely let down by our political decision-makers.
    The distinctive Territorian character that you could practically cut with a knife back in the mid-1980s, that took decades to evolve, has been obliterated by greed-led, insensitive development.
    The destruction continues, with the loss of the last of the places that made us unique, that made us the kind of place that travelers would want to visit.

  4. I have been doing a bit of road traveling lately and the grey nomad grapevine is alive and well with negative comments regarding Alice. The general opinion is to only stop in town long enough to stock up with supplies and leave. Safety, or should I say the feeling of a lack of safety, is always cited as the reason to keep on moving.
    And I would reckon that what they see around the supermarkets would confirm this impression.


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