By ERWIN CHLANDA
Extreme heat and water scarcity will trouble the tourist industry in The Centre, which by 2030 could experience more than 100 days above 35°C every year, 19 days more than the current average.
And by 2090, there could be more than 160 days per year over 35°C, says a report released today by the Climate Council which describes itself an “an independent, crowd-funded organisation providing quality information on climate change to the Australian public”.
It says the tourism industry is both the most vulnerable and one of the least prepared for the impacts of climate change.
Most vulnerable will be the Great Barrier Reef, “Australia’s most valuable tourist icon, contributing $6b to the Australian economy.
“Record hot ocean temperatures in 2016-17 resulted in the most catastrophic bleaching of the reef system on record.”
It is clear that the reef’s tragic decline is an opportunity for diverting the massive eco tourism spend from the reef to The Centre.
The report, quoting Tourism Australia, says Ayers Rock Resort has become an “Australian showcase for ecotourism. 15% of the resort’s average electricity demand is powered by a solar PV system [reducing] reliance on compressed natural gas which must be transported 450 km from Alice Springs.
“The Uluru – Kata Tjuta National Park received more than 300,000 visitors in the 2015-16 financial year.
“A survey conducted among more than 500 visitors to central Australia in 2011 found that 69% of visitors were domestic and 31% international.
“Among these visitors Uluru was the most popular attraction, with 86% of those that visited it also travelling to Alice Springs,” says the report, but gives no details about duration of stay or spend.
“In the last three years, 62% of international tourists visited Uluru between October and March, the hottest months” – clearly a glaring example of the region’s inept promotion.
The report says “climbing Uluru is now banned for cultural reasons”.
This is incorrect. The ban will begin on October 26, 2019 to coincide with the 34th anniversary of the return of Uluru to traditional owners.
The report says: “Settlements in the Red Centre, such as Uluru and Alice Springs, also face potential declines in water security. These settlements depend on groundwater extraction for their water supply and are thus, especially when combined with increasing extraction.
“Water being extracted from the Amadeus Basin Aquifers is estimated to be between 10,000 and 30,000 years old, and the contemporary recharge is considered minimal.
“The Alice Springs Water Allocation Plan 2016 to 2026 acknowledges that this water resource should be considered non-renewable, and that it is effectively being mined to sustain the settlements.
“The plan also acknowledges that the net impacts of climate change on this resource are uncertain; increasing temperatures and evaporation are likely to reduce recharge rates even further, but any increased intensity of storm events may counteract this impact.
The report says Australia received 8.6 million international visitors in 2016-17, an increase of 8.1% on the same period in the previous year.
• In 2016-17, Australia’s tourism industry recorded $40.6 billion expenditure, a rise of 7% compared to the previous year.
• Tourism is now Australia’s second most valuable export earner after iron ore.
• Australia’s tourism sector employs 580,000 people, accounting for about 5% of the workforce. Tourism employs around 15 times more people in Australia than coal mining.
IMAGE from the report: “Field of Light” installation by artist Bruce Munro in Yulara.
By ERWIN CHLANDA