Saturday, July 20, 2024

Tourism: Need to turn figures from target to real

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It’s enough to make your heart beat faster: Dollars and visitor numbers graphs shooting skywards, heading for $5.3 billion (yes – with a “b”) in earnings from 2.7 million visitors. Wow.

Before your blood pressure too goes through the roof, note that the numbers are demand targets, as operators were told by the Department of Tourism last week, in an update of what’s snappily called the T2030 Strategy.

How those targets will be achieved isn’t very clear. Alice Springs and MacDonnell, which includes The Rock, in 2022 had 303,000 visitors spending $340m.

Adele Labine-Romain, from Deloitte, told the 30-odd people attending the briefing in The Alice, that at the end of 2030 “we could be” at 919,000 visitors forking out $967m.

Both figures are a three-fold increase over the next seven years. Wow.

Interstate tourism is about half our business. Intrastate tourism (within the NT) is substantial, about half as many as interstate.

If we judge the importance of tourism by the amount of money it attracts from outside the NT, taking out the intrastate tourism business would leave quite a big hole.

Tourism Central Australia CEO Danial Rochford said he is fond of optimistic predictions. The National Aboriginal Art Gallery (NAAG) is tipped to increase visitation by 50,000 – “product development is critical” – but where will the rest come from?

A few things “would have to align” for this to happen, he said.

The industry has returned roughly to the levels before the pandemic during which the focus was intra-Territory marketing, including a voucher program to support local businesses.

The following were the other T2030 “key achievements” since 2019. Mr Rochford is commenting to the Alice Springs News.

These initiatives are slotted to carry on in one way or another but detail is sparse: If you’re looking for three new wilderness lodges in the West MacDonnells and two in the East, don’t hold your breath.

  • Launch of the “Different in every sense” brand platform. Mr Rochford: “We’ve seen an increase in visitation in 2022. That is very positive.”
  • Secured funding for the sealing of the Mereenie Loop Road to link Alice Springs to Kings Canyon: “132km are to be sealed. The Outer Mereenie Road has not yet been worked on, but that project is now fully funded. It is a Project of Regional Significance. We’re in the government’s hands on the timeline but we’re hopeful it will start next year and finish later in the decade. The corridor between Uluru and Alice Springs via Watarrka (King’s Canyon) is critical to the industry, the opportunity to re-connect to Alice Springs, like it used to be.”
  • A Qantas Embraer 190 Qantaslink staff base in Darwin: “Narrow body jets give us fewer seats but more frequency. We need to encourage greater competition and look for carriers in addition to Qantas.”
  • Engagement with local councils and government officials: “We need to hunt as a pack. We are collaborating but still need to do more.”
  • The Aboriginal Tourism Committee (ATC) was established: A woman from Parks NT, who declined to answer questions from the [Alice Springs] News, told the meeting that negotiations were still under way between the land council and traditional owners about the Red Centre Mountain Bike Trail.
  • A business events bid fund: “Business events have been impacted by Covid. This is a marathon not a 100 metre sprint.”

Steve Shearer said “skinny aeroplanes” fill up quicker, yet it costs you more to fly in them: “That’s great for airlines but not so good when you’re on the ground,” he said.

“However, we should encourage more and more of it because aside of two flights to Darwin and two flights to Adelaide a day during summer you just go down to one.”

He said it is extremely expensive “if you want to get out of town quickly”.

What would the NT need if the T2030 Update target figures are achieved?

  • Aviation: 1,825,905 inbound seats or 340,205 additional interstate seats will be required from 2019 levels, this translates to 5.2 additional narrow body interstate flights per day.
  • 10,290 tourism jobs will need to be filled or 3,390 additional tourism jobs compared to 2021-22, taking into account productivity gains.
  • Over the next seven years to 2030, the equivalent of five new 250 room hotels at 75% average occupancy.

This article appeared on Alice Springs News on 21 August 2023.


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