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HomeIssue 2One-woman activism to get more visitors to Alice

One-woman activism to get more visitors to Alice

p2319-Bev-Keegan-2It’s a novel way to save your letter of complaint and your ideas for solutions from being buried: use public question time at the Town Council meeting to read it onto the record and, who knows, capture broader attention.
Local resident Beverley Keegan (pictured on microphone at right) did just that last night, presenting her analysis of why Alice is in a slump – particularly in regards to tourism – and what could be done about it.
Mayor Damien Ryan told her council would forward the letter to Tourism Central Australia. In the meantime, we present it to our readers in full.

– Kieran Finnane

I would like the Town Council to approach the Central Australian Tourist Board [Tourism Central Australia] to start advertising Alice Springs and surrounding tourist spots.
There is no advertising for Alice Springs. The NT tourist board [Tourism NT] only puts adverts in from Darwin down to Tennant Creek, but totally misses out on Alice. The last one I saw showed Katherine Gorge, Kakadu, Pine Creek, Mataraka and Tennant Creek, but nothing but a DOT for Alice Springs.
Why aren’t our lovely gorges shown so everyone in Australia knows how beautiful we are?
When Wicked Kneads Coffee shop was in Coles Complex I often ate there, and if I saw visitors I always spoke to them, “Hello – how do you like Alice? How long are you stopping?” The answers were amazing.
“We’re only here for a day as we go up to Darwin by train. We stopped five days in Yulara. If we had known how pretty Alice Springs was and all the things to do here we would have stayed here longer.”
I have relatives in country Queensland and NSW and they have to use VAST Decoders [to access television via satellite]. They all get Imparja – so if we advertise Alice Springs and surrounding countryside we would hope to get more visitors.
2319-Red-Centre-YouTubeThe only place people would want to go THESE DAYS is Mount Isa or Uluru because that’s all they see on television.
And as for Yulara, they are taking away all our special things like Our Camel Cup and anyone would believe Ayers Rock is the only thing worth seeing in the southern area.
At left: The perennial image of the Red Centre. In this 45 second TV spot there is a glimpse of Alice Springs: locals will recognise the jacarandas in bloom in Todd Mall behind the dominant image of a tourist holding up a dazzling Aboriginal painting. 
So, my idea is that we ramp up the advertising in our area. With Alice Springs, Western and Eastern MacDonnells and pools like Ellery Big Hole there could be an amazing amount of advertising forthcoming.
Also, I found the organisation of Yulara was superior to here.
They have organised trips to sunset with nibbles and wine. The buses picks clients up from their motel. Why couldn’t we have half day trips to places, eg The Telegraph Station, with nibbles and wine? Simpson’s Gap is another one. I’m sure that if approached the tour people could arrange it, or why not the Council? We have plenty of buses which are never used! The food they served was just cut up fruit and capsicum and carrot etc and wine.
The people on the Ghan have organised trips to the Telegraph Station for a couple of hours of the train and they give them lunch – I’ve seen them several times when walking out there.
Anyway, I get sick and tired of seeing shops close down. People lose their jobs and leave town and another shop closes down. The rents are too high and too many of our jobs are going to outside visitors.
So, I think we need more organisation, more advertising and more people coming to stay in Alice Springs.
Beverley Keegan
Alice Springs

Below: Visitors at Ellery Creek Big Hole on Easter Monday.



  1. Thanks to Ms Keegan for her letter – I read it with great interest.
    It sounds like Ms Keegan is a passionate advocate for Alice Springs and the Red Centre, which is fantastic. Her help is definitely welcome at the Alice Springs Visitor Information Centre, where our wonderful volunteer ambassadors help our staff promote the region. We would love to have her come and join our volunteer team!
    Ms Keegan may also be interested in our social media feeds, that promote the Red Centre to tens of thousands of people every year (Visit Central Australia on Facebook, @visitcentralaus on Twitter and Instagram). Our revamped website will be released in a few days’ time and the thousands of people who view it every year will be able to find even more information about our region when it is released (
    Recently we have been promoting Alice Springs and the region at the Caravan and Camping Shows in Melbourne and Adelaide, and we are about to exhibit at the caravan and camping shows in Sydney and Brisbane. The response has been very positive and we look forward to seeing the interest in the region continue.
    Ms Keegan may be interested to know that visitation to Alice Springs has been growing in the last 12 months. In fact, Alice Springs receives over 400,000 domestic overnight visitors per annum. This doesn’t mean we can be complacent – as Ms Keegan points out there is always more to be done to attract more visitors to the area.
    Once again thanks to Ms Keegan for her letter, and I hope she comes and volunteers at the Visitor Information Centre in Todd Mall to continue to spread the word about how great Alice Springs is to visit! Of course, we always welcome locals to come and see what we do at the centre, as well as volunteer to help the many tourists who visit each year.
    Warm regards,
    Stephen Schwer
    CEO, Tourism Central Australia

  2. Good on you Bev. It is a sorry state when the Territory tourism advertisers can not have the second largest town on their map.

  3. Promotion of Alice Springs as a tourism destination in its own right is a long-term perennial issue; for example, this was very much at the forefront of public debate in the late 1980s and very early 1990s following the national pilots’ strike and “the recession we had to have”.
    Then, as now, Alice Springs had many empty shop fronts. Some might recall one of the valiant attempts to redress this situation with the “Desert Rose” concept, making Alice Springs the focus of several road loops in the region, like the petals of a flower, to encourage visitors to take in the local sights (I still possess some of that material).
    One can go back much further, such as 1979-80 when the new NT Tourist Commission chairman Eric Poole urged local businesses to do more for promotion of their industry and to be open for longer hours in the evenings, weekends and public holidays, to cater for tourists’ needs. And I can go back much further in time on this topic. It seems we constantly need reminding of ourselves on this issue.
    With regard to Alice Springs missing out on promotion, however, my favourite example comes from politics. In the Federal election campaign of early 1983 the CLP splashed out with double-page spreads in the newspapers pointing out all the places in the NT our busy CLP Federal politicians (the Alice’s own Senator Bernie Kilgariff and MP Grant Tambling, who had relocated his family from Darwin to the Centre) had visited during the course of the previous term of government – virtually every town and settlement in the NT, including Ayers Rock, was listed – except Alice Springs! Woops! Red faces all round (the excuse was that the advertisement had been made up in Sydney…)

  4. If we are to promote Alice Springs with all our might, which I think we should, we also need to make sure that our tourist facilities and venues and national parks are upgraded as I find them very dirty and poorly maintained, especially the national parks.
    I also find the restaurants have very poor food quality.
    As I walk around town I have numerous people ask me where are the supermarkets. Signage around the town showing where the food places, tourist venues such as the flying doctors, and facilities are would be great.
    Where are we going to get the money to fund all this, Federal money? I think the council could do more for this town.

  5. Well done, Bev. I think more of us old locals should be getting out there and sharing our views.
    In the 1980s AAT King buses where calling into Alice Springs everyday, full of senior camping visitors.
    They amazed me how they erected their tents, helped cook their food and packed up early on cold frosty mornings.
    Melanka, which I was told held up to 500 backpackers, was a popular stop-over for backpackers and entertainment.
    So many accommodation facilities have closed now, I do wonder where all the visitors will stay if we increase tourism.
    When we have visitors they are amazed at the facilities we have in town and love the open spaces and sense of freedom. Often wishing they could stay longer.
    But, around 2007 to 2011 the town got a bad wrap, antisocial behaviour and petrol sniffing were rampant.
    Social media soon spread the word and tourism went down. Surely locals remember all the smashed shop windows.
    The town is much better now and there is a positive vibe. It’s expensive to keep eating facilities open late at night because of staff wages.
    But, we do have some amazing musicians in town and it would be lovely to hear more busking in the Mall to bring it alive.
    To the volunteers who support all the events which are held in Alice, we should give them a huge thank you.
    They are out there all around town as ambassadors to our wonderful Central Australia.
    Amelia Missen
    Alice Springs resident

  6. Tourism is more than venues and national parks, it needs accurate information given by guides or agencies loving the Red Center, its past and present inhabitants.
    The best publicity is given by satisfied travelers. I once escorted (unknown to me) two travels reviews critics, pretending to have a poor English language, going to tour agencies to organise a bush trip and accommodation.
    I will not name the winner, not to embarrass anyone, but to highlight the facts that business owners should ensure of the professional performance of their employees.


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