By OSCAR PERRI
The Central Australian tourism industry has not been in worse shape since the pandemic started, and is desperate for assistance to save businesses from going under.
There was hope at the start of the year as domestic travel became possible again, but Tourism Central Australia’S (TCA) Danial Rochford says that since the lockdowns in Victoria and NSW began, the Territory’s tourism sector has had $1.5 billion “wiped off the books. 2020 was bad, but 2021 has been disastrous for the tourism industry, we’re on our knees. and we’re seeing the industry go backwards.
“We’re facing down the darkest days of our industry at the moment and we are looking for real leadership across all tiers of government to provide that support to our sector, especially at this time.”
The TCA have seen a 30% to 40% drop in bookings in their office, compared to 2019 numbers.
Mr Rochford says he has no issues with the strength of the relationship between his organisation and Alice Springs Town Council, but due to these dark days in the sector there needs to be an increase in support to ensure the survival of tourism businesses.
“Can we do more? Absolutely, our industry expects governments at all levels to be doing more.”
With over 450 members, TCA is the largest business association in the region.
TCA, along with the Chamber of Commerce, hosted a mayoral candidate Q&A session, and have reached out to all candidates about their position on the tourism industry.
Mr Rochford says he is “heartened” that all candidates have shown support, and have ideas on how to help.
He says multiple candidates have said they will advocate for Jetstar to begin flying out of Alice Springs Airport, which would be a “massive game changer” for the industry, as well as the wider community.
Standley Chasm kiosk
“Everyone understands the importance of tourism and the role it plays, so that certainly gives us great heart that the new council, once elected, will certainly take tourism, and the issues of our industry to heart and work collaboratively with us to grow and prosper the sector.”
Mr Rochford says that advocacy on behalf of struggling local tourism businesses is an important role for elected members to play, in the short term, he wants them to lobby Canberra and Darwin to provide economic support to get these businesses through to the other side of the pandemic.
It’s not all doom and gloom though, Mr Rochford says that with support from the new council and mayor, the development of attractions like the National Aboriginal Art Gallery and the Mereenie Loop Road could see a boom in the industry once borders open up again.
“I can certainly see a day when someone flies into Alice Springs, does the amazing experiences here, goes to the gallery, gets in a car or a bus through the West MacDonnell Ranges to visit a raft of different indigenous owned and managed tourism experiences, through to Watarrka [National Park] and then culminating obviously at the Rock.
“If we can’t sell that to the world as one of the premier and preeminent driving tourism destinations in the world then we should give up our day jobs right now.
“But we are on our knees at the moment, and without the support of our local government leaders and our other governmental partners, we’re not going to be able to see those opportunities.”
PHOTO at top: Larapinta Trail above Standley Chasm.