By ERWIN CHLANDA
COVID-19 is giving Central Australia has a “once in 50 years” opportunity to capture Australian tourists who – for a limited time – cannot go overseas.
This morning 70 operators are meeting in Alice Springs to work out how they can make this happen.
They will be deciding on five major projects to add to the national Aboriginal art gallery and the sealing of the Mereenie Loop – part of the east-west Outback Way – both of which have already been identified.
The loop was on on former Chief Minister Clare Martin’s list of promises 30 years ago, one speaker said, but it doesn’t seem to have made it onto any candidate’s list for the election this week.
The operators, big and small, are members or intending members of Tourism Central Australia, the industry lobby under new management by chairman Patrick Bedford (Emu Run) and CEO Danial Rochford.
For a period that will end no-one knows when, Aussies looking for the “great ancient Anglo Saxon tour of Europe” are missing out but they “can do the Red Centre,” said Tony Edmonstone, CEO of NT Airports at the opening of the summit.
Competition for that market around Australia will be fierce, he said, from the reef to the Kimberleys, and cooperation by the operators will be vital, cobbling together five to seven day tours, aiming for outstanding quality of accommodation and experiences.
Mr Bedford said the objective is to entice people going to The Rock – now inevitably the main attraction – to make their way via the West MacDonnells to Alice Springs instead turning back after visiting King’s Canyon.
Mr Rochford said the whole industry will need to “hunt as a pack in marketing and advocating” avoiding a “fractured” approach, and making it clear to the government that this will be a bottom-up initiative.
The decisions will be made by the members and there won’t be any consultants.