By ERWIN CHLANDA
The fabric of our tourism needs to be like a patchwork quilt, with many patterns, “a big fabric which defines itself” in the world of competition.
We’re not short of patches: The “tactile” experiences ranging from eco tourism to getting to know the locals, from fresh air to the lack of ambient light displaying the night sky “that is so rich,” the wide open spaces, the MacDonnell Ranges.
And the national news reporting of the latest crime wave in The Alice is unlikely to make much of a difference, says Brendan McKenna, COO for Australia and New Zealand of the JUCY Group, a camper car hire business from across the ditch that’s been in Australia for 12 years.
He sees the town as a hub from which to strike out into the landscape where safety isn’t an issue.
There are “challenges” elsewhere: “There are shootings in the USA,” he says.
Some parts of Sydney are unsafe. You wouldn’t go for a lonely walk in the African jungle at night.
And besides, people will travel to see for themselves what the trouble is, including floods and fires, where obvious caution is required.
But we need to make it easier for tourists to get here, seal roads and fix the airline “hit and miss,” says Mr McKenna.
Access is the key. For example, full sealing of the Outback Way, which would cut 500 kms off the all-bitumen east-west trip from Brisbane to Perth, will make a “substantial” difference to The Centre’s tourism industry, now relying a lot on the north-south Stuart Highway.
Camper vehicles, unless they are 4WD, are not permitted off sealed roads.
Aussies don’t mind long road trips but they don’t want to waste their time.
Will electric cars be suitable for dirt roads? They would certainly make the long trips more comfortable. Infrastructure, such as charging stations, are critical.
Tourism by 2030, the subject of a convention in Alice Springs later this month, will need to look at access beyond transportation, says Mr McKenna.
The “young at heart” – aka grey nomads – may well be looking for uninterrupted access to their stock broker via high-speed Starlink.
Time poor professionals may be looking for a working holiday, and pack their design studio – no bigger than a laptop.
GenZs may be content with a rooftop tent and cook out.
Others will look for an onboard kitchen and facilities.
Holiday workers are as much tourists as family groups and the “fly and flop” clientele.
“Slow tourism” – staying longer – is increasing but needs further promotion, says Mr McKenna.
“We know a lot of customers go through Alice Springs.”
The pandemic has led to a re-discovery of Aussie holidays. This means keen observation of the market is necessary, making the necessary adaptions, and cater for the rich variety of emerging visitors.
Mr McKenna says there needs to be more co-operation between tourism industries in the states. More joint planning is necessary.