No more public money for Rock promotion


p2064stevebrownRecent commentary and recent closures, or impending closures of hotel and motel accommodation is a worrying trend, one that needs to be faced up to and dealt with before we lose any more of our tourism infrastructure.
While the announcement by Minster Conlan in the past few days spruiking a 9.5% increase in numbers at the Rock is obviously good news at the Rock, it is not necessarily good news for the region.
We must face up to the inarguable fact that the concentrated effort over a 30 year time span to both establish and promote tourism at the Rock above everything else in the Territory has been an unmitigated disaster.
It astounds me that there are any left at all that still believe tourism at the Rock is good for the Alice. Nothing could be further from the truth.
The Rock offers a sterile fly in fly out two day maximum, experience of being ripped off, treated in meat market fashion then hurriedly kicked out the door to make way for the next mug. When you add this to not much to see or do you end up with rather unhappy customers with no intention of exploring further and usually no intention of ever coming back.
The damage that this does to the reputation of the Territory’s tourism product is simply enormous. We have become an extremely expensive drop-in destination for those few on the planet wanting to tick the world’s wonders off their bucket list. “Been to the Rock? Yep, done that, let’s go!” No further engagement sought or wanted. The entire industry now thinks of Central Australia, if not the whole Territory, in that way!
If Tourism is going to survive and grow in Central Australia outside of the Rock, we have to find a way to change that perception. How do we get rid of a perception we’ve invested a fortune in creating?
How do we get back to being a fun family holiday destination, a destination that appeals to 90% percent of the market as opposed to the top 10%? An affordable, active, adventurous, fun holiday of around 10 to 14 days’ duration, delivering such an experience, creating such an impression that visitors wish to return again and again?
Believe it or not, that’s where we started from. That’s what has been lost.  Step by stupid step as we cut our own collective throats by pouring a fortune into the development of one sterile destination at the expense of a once rich, broad based tourism product that covered the whole of the Territory. What are we going to do about it?
We have to recreate belief in the industry’s future, get out there take up the opportunities, and fight like hell for our share of the tourism dollar.
The very first part of that fight must be to demand that the Territory Government stop spending millions every year in marketing a private organisation at the Rock. No funding unless that advertising is for regional products. Holiday packages that have their entry point through Territory centres other than the Rock.
It is essential that we reconstruct Central Australia’s product to a large degree in isolation from the Rock, with the ideal scenario becoming as it was once was, the Rock visit being seen by the industry as just another add-on to the Territory experience! The last couple of days in a “Territory”, Holiday. That, ironically enough, was the original intention when we set out to develop the Rock
The good news is that the first tentative steps towards recreating that product have been made with Minster Bess Price calling for interested parties to develop various opportunities offered by our Parks, many of which contain infinitely more interesting and spectacular country side than that offered by the Rock.
Many are also offering fantastic opportunities for the development of cultural tourism. Let’s hope that when the Minister comes to asses possible projects that she avoids like the plague anything that smacks of the sterile experience that the Rock has become.
We must maintain a level of adventure, freedom, and interaction that once made us such a popular destination. We should remember that while the King’s Canyon visit was always spectacular, it was Wallera Ranch that created the outback adventure and spirit that people loved and remember so fondly to this day.
Rebirthing our tourist industry requires the recreation of that kind of interaction fun and adventure, small vibrant and fun places to be hopefully spread throughout our parks. The general idea and approach from the Minister is very welcome however it needs to be driven with a great deal of energy and enthusiasm, advertised widely at both a local and national level.
The Industry along with the whole region is in desperate need of a confidence boost. Handled properly I believe the park development concept can offer the kind of inspiration and belief necessary to drive new investment into a jaded Industry.
The development of a few vital roads is also essential to the development of our tourism product.  This makes the recent comments of Minister Peter Styles rather disappointing.
Perhaps our local MLAs can get together and whisper not all that quietly in his ear about the absolute necessity of this kind of regional road development! Not at some point of time far off in the future. Now. After all every one of you rode into Government on the back of years of protest to the previous Labour Government about its continual de-funding of these projects.
We are now years behind where we should have been. And, yes, along with the Rock this lack of infrastructure development is very much responsible for the deterioration of the industry. MLAs need to work urgently at leveraging funding for not one, but at least two loop roads and possibly more, roads that along with the parks will open up the Centralian experience.
The rather disappointing comments coming from Minister Styles apparently caving to bureaucracy, bemoaning the cost of this kind of infrastructure development, simply doesn’t cut it. This is essential development. This is the kind of vision that brought the CLP to government.
This is development that will eventually produce wealth far beyond what it costs to establish, making those costs irrelevant  Borrow and get on with it. It is up to our local members to be very hard and firm in the face of their bureaucrats, win us back a share of revenue spending in this end of the Territory. That’s the whole goal for the Centre isn’t it? A fair share.


  1. Steve begins his article with an observation that there are hotels and hostels with few guests in the town.
    The lack of visitors to fill the available accommodation could be contrasted with a world of millions of homeless refugees. I note a hint of changing policy in Australia and this may provide an opportunity to fill this accommodation with people who even if on TPV’s will be more permanent than three day holiday visitors.
    In the longer term tourists will come back when the world economy improves and the cost of transport reduces. This will come with technical developments in renewable energy. The challenge for Solar City is to believe it can be a low cost region and then make it happen.

  2. Steve. Your dismissal of Uluru as a sterile destination again betrays your lack of appreciation of the natural environment.
    The vast majority of visitors to Uluru-Kata Tuta find the experience exhilarating. Who could fail to appreciate the red sand dunes, spinifex and desert oaks with an amazing diversity of native plants.
    Then there is Uluru itself, you could spend a week exploring its rock pools, caves and wondrous geology.
    The journey from there to Kata Tjuta is a highlight for any visitor and Kata Tjuta itself is an imposing spectacle, especially at dawn and with fading light chaining changing its colours by the minute.
    And its not so far from Kings Canyon that tourists travel there as well, another wonderland and another unique environment to marvel at.
    There is no comparable experience elsewhere in central Australia and the other destinations you want to promote suffer from tourists coming to Alice Springs.
    Our town doesn’t have a lot to offer, its surounds are environmentally destroyed by buffel, it’s social problems are obvious and it now has a reputation as a dangerous designation.
    Yes a wider range of parks could be developed, but let’s wait and see.
    Forget cultural tourist – a great idea but it won’t happen on any scale.
    While it sounds harsh, also forget a big increase in tourism to Alice Springs, that belongs to the past now.

  3. Why is the NT Government spending so much to advertise and support a private company that has a monopoly and is itself funded by the Federal government? Withdraw all Government funding and see how long the businesses last.

  4. Part of the problem is the difference in cost of flying to Uluru instead of Alice Springs. This weekend you can fly and return from Sydney to Ayers Rock for $733, Sydney to Alice for $972. Ayers Rock has two airlines providing service, Alice one.
    Links are below (current as of Tuesday morning).,to:alice%20springs,departure:19/09/2014TANYT&leg2=from:alice%20springs,to:SYD,departure:21/09/2014TANYT&passengers=children:0,adults:1,seniors:0,infantinlap:Y&options=cabinclass:coach&mode=search&,%20NSW,%20Australia%20(SYD-All%20Airports),to:AYQ,departure:19/09/2014TANYT&leg2=from:AYQ,to:Sydney,%20NSW,%20Australia%20(SYD-All%20Airports),departure:21/09/2014TANYT&passengers=children:0,adults:1,seniors:0,infantinlap:Y&options=cabinclass:coach&mode=search&

  5. @ Physics Bill: You are right of course, however the differential is something that could and should be given attention by Government as per my comment.
    It is in the interests of the entire region, in fact the entire Territory, both to give and to extract the maximum from our visitors.
    I am quite certain a bonus system that levels out the cost differential between the centers can be negotiated with travel agencies, hotels and motels and airports for tourists who buy the whole deal as opposed to the FIFO deals at the Rock.
    Observer: There is so much that is so profoundly wrong in your comment that it’s hard to know where to begin, or for that matter, whether its worthy of a reply.
    It’s the “plasticized Tourism Experience” at the Rock that is killing our tourism not the Rock itself or the environment!
    The Rock is part of the wider Centralian Region. They both have, believe it or not, all the same social issues, the same issues around buffel, they have the same diversity of plants and wildlife, spinifex, red sand and desert oaks and a lot lot more.
    And if you could spend a week exploring Kata Tjuta, you could spend a lifetime exploring the Eastern and Western Macs!
    What you are probably going to find even more astounding, Observer, is that they are both served by the same sun!
    And the same fading light, at the same time! Imagine that! Yeh well, I agree the imagining part of it is beyond your capacity. However what the greater region has to offer is infinitely more complex, than that on offer at the Rock, as well as a greater diversity of the above. It offers a much greater diversity of people, of life, of interaction, of services, culture, history, entertainment and accommodations from which a visitor can explore the surrounding countryside in comfort.
    The town is not the attraction, it’s the resort with added attractions with which the Rock simply cannot compete.
    Yes, it has its social issues, but we are winning the fight on that front.
    Alice is one of Australia’s best known iconic towns. Its potential for tourism is enormous. It just needs further, or more accurately re-development, repackaging, re-marketing.
    It is absolutely in the interest of every Territorian, including those at the Rock, to spread the visitors around, to broaden our product, their experience.
    That’s what earns our economy the maximum dollar! That Observer, is what it is all about.
    Psst, by the way, have the courage of your convictions and put your name to your comments or do us all a favor and do the proverbial.

  6. Alice … overpriced, over-hyped, dysfunctional, violent, aggressive, shysters, bogans galore, under educated, lack of sophistication, insular, dusty, stinks, laughable housing, low service standards, rude, pigheaded and above all WANNA BE QUEENSLANDERS!


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