Visitors who have boned up on Central Australia are likely to be expecting workers with black faces at the airport. They did – but none of these four were indigenous: Taxi drivers Harpreet Singh (from India) and Bruce Mahiangu (Zimbabwe), and security guards Gladys (from South Sudan but now – when asked where she's from – proudly saying "Australia") and Sam (Liberia). The town's cosmopolitan character has been enhanced by an injection of nearly 2,000 overseas migrants who had arrived in Australia during 2006 to 2011. They found The Alice to be a great place to find a job, a forum was told this week.
The population of Alice Springs, after a slow growth between 2001 and 2009, is now declining.
Old people are leaving. The proportion of working age people is on the way up.
There are gains in education. Many people from overseas are now working here.
Small bush towns seem doomed and the uncertain prognosis for our region is to have a non-indigenous population of just under 30,000 and an indigenous one of 20,000 by 2025. It's a mixed bag, reports ERWIN CHLANDA.
The tourism industry in Alice Springs has had two sharp consecutive drops in annual earnings.
The total spend by visitors dropped 16% from $300m in calendar year
2009 to $252m in 2010, and 26% from $360m in financial year 2010 to
$265m in 2011, according to figures from the Territory Government's
The amounts are not adjusted for inflation.
There was a sharp drop in visitor nights and a small rise in the spend per visitor (see graph).
The industry has been flat since at least 2004 with small peaks in 2006
and 2009, and the string of unfortunate events this year – Tiger flights
halt, global recession reverberations, strong Aussie dollar – are a
wake-up call to provide better and more appropriate "product", says the
industry. ERWIN CHLANDA reports.
Photo above: Local woman Doreen Nakamarra is hunting for witchetty grubs with tourist Jade Yang, from Shanghai. She
was in a group with prominent Chinese art dealer, Sun Kongyang, in The
Centre recently for the Desert Mob art fair, and hosted by tourism
operator Steve Strike.
This week Tourism NT is seeking to get the NT
tourism industry to provide timely information on visitation levels and a
forward looking business outlook as part of its quarterly industry online poll.
Offering more for visitors to do: nocturnal tours are regularly booking out at the Desert Park. A guide helps visitors spot any of the following creatures of the desert night: the Bilby, Mala, Spectacled Hare-wallaby, Burrowing Bettong, Brush-tailed Bettong, Stick-nest Rat, Short-beaked Echidna, Bush Stone-curlew, Golden Bandicoot. Photo courtesy Desert Park.
By KIERAN FINNANE
The current tourist season may be "a bit flat" but it's a cyclical business and it will "come back".
That's the view of Michael Toomey, manager of commercial and retail operations at the Royal Flying Doctor Service in Alice.
He believes big picture national and international factors are a much greater influence on the current flattening than specific factors such as the Tiger grounding and negative publicity about the town's social problems. Violent incidents and anti-social behavior in town get "blown out of all proportion" in the media, says Mr Toomey, and are "insignificant" compared to what happens in the capital cities.
There must be two airlines into Alice Springs and Mr Toomey wants to see the NT Government working on persuading another operator to service the town. But if people were intending to visit, the Tiger grounding would not have been enough to stop them coming, he says.