Rock off to the Red Centre
ACCORDING to a recent survey, more than half of Australians rate a holiday in the Northern Territory high on a ‘‘bucket list’’ of things they would like to do.
Yet research commissioned by the Northern Territory government shows that just 6 per cent of us say we are planning a holiday in the Red Centre this year while nearly one in five will fly straight over the Top End headed to tourism hot spots such as Bali, Singapore or the resorts of southern Thailand. Three per cent of Australians booking a domestic holiday last year chose the Northern Territory. And it gets worse.
We might rate Uluru as our most iconic landmark, with one in four of us ranking it above the Sydney Harbour Bridge, the Great Barrier Reef and the Sydney Opera House, but almost three in four have never been there. Apparently that doesn’t stop most of us from recommending the Northern Territory as a must-go holiday destination to family and friends. A whopping 83 per cent of Tasmanians have never visited the Northern Territory; neither have 68 per cent of Victorians nor 74 per cent of Queenslanders, even though the Northern Territory offers unique activities such as off-road adventures in the World Heritage-listed Kakadu National Park, safari-style camps the equal of African game-park accommodation and elegant dining-under-the-stars experiences at Uluru.
Andrew McEvoy, managing director of Tourism Australia, says Darwin’s hotels are roaring with corporate trade, but on the leisure side Australians are virtually ignoring the Red Centre even though millions of dollars were recently pumped into improving its tourism infrastructure.
‘‘Lassesters [Hotel Casino] at Alice Springs has just done a $30 million makeover and [the owners of] Voyages at Uluru have also spent big,’’ McEvoy says.
He adds that a lack of flights from east coast capitals to the Red Centre could be a significant part of the problem, with Alice Springs and Ayers Rock airports recently losing capacity.
On a brighter note, Tiger Airways will commence direct flights from both Sydney and Melbourne to Alice Springs on April 9. Virgin Australia flies from Sydney to Alice Springs daily and QantasLink from Cairns.
Even the deals are cheap. For example, until April 30, a two-night stay at Voyages Ayers Rock Resort, with daily buffet breakfast, return airport transfers and interpretive indigenous activities, costs $241 a person and children under 12 stay free. Perhaps McEvoy puts it best when he says: ‘‘Do yourself a favour and get on a plane to Darwin or the Red Centre. We have in our backyard one of the world’s best [tourism] experiences.’’