OpEd by DANIAL ROCHFORD
The Destination Management Plans just released are our key road maps to the future. In Central Australia they are broken into three documents: Barkly, Lasseter and Alice and MacDonnells.
The DMPs were developed after a robust consultation process led by Tourism Northern Territory and supported through agencies like Tourism Central Australia, local Governments and other key stakeholders.
In fact, the Central Australian Tourism Summit that TCA hosted in August was pivotal in generating ideas from the tourism industry that linked into the final DMPs.
The important decision we need to make as a region, our fork in the road moment, is either do nothing and hope for change.
Alternatively we can work together under a plan to be proactive around driving change and new results to see tourism grow again.
The DMP gives us that plan and now it is up to us collectively to work together to see these projects implemented.
We are pleased that the two big ticket projects we see as critical in driving tourism in Central Australia are in this plan, these being the National Aboriginal Art Gallery and the Mereenie Loop.
Both of these projects were also recognised in the recently released Territory Economic Reconstruction Commission’s final report. They are core to the long-term vision.
I can certainly see a day when someone flies into Alice Springs, visits the National Aboriginal Art Gallery and the many other great attractions in Alice Springs, then gets in their car or tour bus to goes through the West Macs and visits an array of indigenous owned tourism experiences and accommodation for a day or two.
Then it’s on to King’s Canyon culminating in a visit to Uluru.
This will not only re-connect Uluru back with Alice Springs, but it will ensure we see greater regional dispersal and visitor expenditure right across the wider region.
It is easy to focus on this big picture, but the DMP also identifies a raft of other key projects.
One that TCA is particularly keen on is to see the growth of the Education Tourism market.
As a region we have already a lot of operators who provide great experiences in this space, but there is a huge room for growth.
As a region we should own this market. New experiences, an investment in more accommodation and combining forces to market Central Australia together will be critical.
The DMP also recognises the importance of the private sector investing in tourism.
It is not all back to the Government to be making these changes. That said, it is important that Government and the private sector work together to take advantage of opportunities.
I know there would be natural cynicism around “another plan” being developed for the region.
I go back to my earlier comments that if we do nothing, we should expect the same result, but if we only see 10% of the DMP delivered we will see a major shift forward for our region.
Tourism is a jobs factory for any economy and now more than ever we need to get behind the industry to make some of these projects come to fruition.
[Mr Rochford is the CEO of Tourism Central Australia.]