Concern grows as NT visitor numbers continue to slump

Published: October 10, 2023

The comparatively low number of visitors to the Northern Territory this year is a growing cause of concern for tourism authorities, and government.

Parks Australia data shows just how sluggish visitation to the iconic Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park has been in 2023.

The figures, seen by the ABC, show year-to-date visitor numbers at Uluru are 164,678, compared with more than 300,000 in 2017.

The national park saw a massive spike in visitors prior to the closure of the Uluru climb, Parks Australia documents show, with 406,821 tourists travelling to the region in 2019. With high fuel prices, a cost-of-living crisis, a lot of negative publicity about crime levels, and fewer more expensive flights, it is feared it could be a long time until NT tourism figures get back to their pre-pandemic levels.

However, the NT’s Tourism Minister, Nicole Manison told the ABC that there was a ‘social responsibility for all Australians to make sure they are travelling to the Northern Territory’ to help improve economic outcomes for the jurisdiction.

She also criticised airlines for reducing flight numbers to the NT.

“Territorians aren’t getting the level of service they deserve” in relation to the choice and cost of air travel to Uluru, she said.

And Tourism Central Australia chief executive, Danial Rochford, told the ABC that the loss of visitors and income was having a big impact on the business community.

“We are still very fragile,” he said.

Opposition NT tourism minister Marie-Clare Boothby told the ABC that part of the problem was that Australians were spoiled for choice on travel destinations.

“I think Australians want to travel all over Australia, but they need to be given a reason to come here, and that is for a great experience,” Ms Boothby said. “We have the most amazing destinations here in the Northern Territory, but unless you can make those destinations safe, then people will not come here … and that is why we need to fix the law and order in our towns and in our regions, and then that’ll repair the reputational damage that we’ve had across Australia.”

  • Have you given the NT a miss this year? Will you be going there next year? Comment below.

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Price of Fuel and Food. Could be a Starting point

The price of everything to do with the rock is well overpriced

It sure is an absolute rip off.

Not to mention downright dangerous to enter Alice Springs et al!

The major problem with visiting the Territory would be the cost of travel (including fuel).

I’m going next year, I’m always fairly vigilant about my safety being a solo female, and I might be a bit more careful this time around including about which C.P. to stay at. But the reality is theft, or other issues can happen anywhere, anytime.
I never leave my keys by the door at home and I always lock up at night, even though if I left my door wide open it would only be wildlife that got in. Because I’ve always been a better be safe than sorry kind of a girl.

I never climbed the rock when I went there even though it was still allowed.

The cost of fuel is what it is, but me and my car are not getting any younger, so YOLO

We visited NT this year and really enjoyed it. However having to purchase multiple national parks passes is ridiculous and expensive.

It is pretty greedy of NTG and Federal to make so many passes for visitors and no doubt these fuel and food costs are why there is a slump. I work in tourism and numbers for most of the season was down with some larger groups early Oct.

Agree. To stay at The Devils Marbles now a couple must pay $12 for a pass & then a further $20/night for a site. That $32 for no power or water.

That is a rip off.
I will be spending my money over sea’s.
Luckthat I have seen it when it was free.

hi guy,Have plenty to see in WA.
cannot see me getting there.
all about the dollar.

It is Not our “Social Responsibility” to visit the NT.

Whoever said that is completely out of touch with reality. She is probably responsible for all the increased restrictions and rules, areas of “our” land locked away for ever and the high cost of travel to remote areas.

Instead she should be removing the recent pay to swim fee for the rest of Australia but not Locals insult.

She needs to encourage people to travel Not insult them with Restrictions, Rules and Fees.

Agreed. Saying this is our social responsibility is complete rubbish from an overpaid beareaucrat. As for the rock, I have given to the place in spades. I lived at Yulara, took many visitors around the area, I have climbed it 5 times and ridden around the base. I always said that closing the climb would adversely affect the area and now it is. Plus there are other issues. NT politicians need to remove their ochre coloured glasses and consider the realities. Ofcourse this will never happen.

Well said Gordon couldn’t agree more

100% I live here full time, love the place but agree with everything you said. And fix the crime. Sick of being broken into and worrying if I drive my car down the street I’ll have smashed windows!

Well said.

Places we had previously visited near Darwin to swim now attracts over the top fees.

agreed! perfectly true!

Well said, fees for us poor plebs who don’t live in the NT are crap, Who ever made that statement about “social responsibility” should be sacked, disgraceful comment

Previously a resident of NT (nearly 40 years). Returned this year after a few years and while enjoyed, the extra imposition of paying the “Visitor Tax” to visit National Parks etc is mean spirited – as it ONLY applies to those from out of the NT – ie NT residents do not have to pay! I do not see this as a “Welcome to the Territory”. It is another couple of hundred dollars on top of an already expensive area to visit, and over and above the “safety” concerns evident in the once brilliant towns along the Stuart Highway. We are unlikely to return.

Someone has to pay for the misappropriation by nt government ministers of taxpayer’s money….

Yes, the visitor tax is killing them.

Discrimination, Damned Discrimination! Do Northern Territorians have to pay a tax to swim at Bondi? Hum; now there’s an idea!

Unfortunately banning the Climbing of this wonderful rock has certainly put a great many people off… one third of tourists (also overseas visitors) would visit not just to see this Wonder, but to experience it in climbing it…I travelled Australia for 8 years, climbed the Rock twice, experienced the Spiritual touch it gave back willingly, not allowing this now is a Big mistake…people can go elsewhere and freely walk, hike and is sad that so many younger people are not interested in Uluru, they are not interested in “just a walk”…

100% agreed

100% agree. They have close Mt Warning for the same reasons. It also is a big tourist attraction. Beautiful 4.5km rainforest walk to an 1150m summit that is the first to see dawn in Oz. There are many more also. Victorias Mt Arapalies and Millennium caves were a big draw card for rock climbers across the world. All the Glasshouse mountains, including Mt Coolum and Mt Cooroora are under siege for closure from local tribes and native title

Shooting in the foot experience for the owners

Yes the restrictions are coming back to bite them on the bum now.

The SPIRITUALITY is Not Climbing the Rock ABORIGINALS didn’t Climb the Rock ,the Dreamtime is all around the Base Go to the Visitors Centre First then Explore the Rock

We are ALL Australian! I’m sick of this them and us! My family has been here at least 4 generations. I’m as Australian and belong here as much as any aboriginal who is alive now. Cut out this devisive crud!!

Well said couldnt agree more!


Agree entirely, yes the NP fees are over the top, but unfortunately very few “Australians” are willing to acknowledge that our Indigineous population actually have any rights – ownership or otherwise.
This despite the fact that they’ve lived here for thousands of years compared to our 250 years. It’s these “Australians” that are causing the divide but they’ll never understand that because it doesn’t suit their narrative. A sad reflection on how far we haven’t come as a nation.


Have always wanted to go to Uluru and Alice Springs but am not prepared to pay extra costs to enjoy my own country! I have never received a cent from the Oz Govt but believe in a democratic society where my tax dollars have been supporting millions of people that cannot work but not happy giving to those who don’t want to work! We should all be part of a community and be prepared to help each other, both ways.

Also Agree

Gippsland really suffered after those terrible fires, nicole boothby. We all took empty eskies to help business owners recover after the devastation. When did you encourage everyone to visit Gippsland?
You might want to look at options for people who may think of visiting Yulara. Most “tourist options” are very expense. Tours, flights etc extra park fees as well.
I would recommend a review of the tourist industry to make itaffordable and fabulous options for those that don’t want to spend thousands.
We have visited many times over a long period of time but we have chosen not to go to Yulara again as the money grabbing is awful.

Last edited 1 month ago by Julie McKay

I’ve been to Yulara a few times but when all my money was stolen from inside my resort room, while I was in the shower, I declared it (2022) would be the last time. Resort staff implied it was my fault for having cash!

What a reply.
You need cash in the out back, as a lot of merchants dont have internet for transactions.

Its safer to visit Gaza than Alice Springs, the crime in the NT is an embarrassment to our country. And the most popular attraction Ayers Rock has been closed. Who else to blame but the NT government.

Last edited 1 month ago by Roger

You’re 100 % correct. I couldn’t see where the voice to Parliment was going to fix this issue???

I see it too.

spot on guy

It’s definitely NOT our “social responsibility to visit NT” This “holier than thou” attitude that is a turn off for most Australians.
I visited the NT three times in the last 12 months and was impressed with what the Territory has to offer however it’s an overpriced exercise in anyone’s budget and the necessary emphasis on “security” from theft and personal safety is quite disappointing to have to be aware of in Australia.

I work in one of NT’s Nat Parks I often here tourists comment on the cost of visitors permits and how unwelcoming it all is in relation to Gov regs and the high cost of everything. Many say though they have enjoyed it they will not return. Unfortunately some say due to “ridiculous” permits and high costs they would not recommend the NT to others.

I pre booked a site at the Devils Marbles site in Dec 2022 before the extra cost increases in April 2023. I paid my $12 but to my surprise a Ranger told us we should have also paid the extra $20 park entry fee. We were never contacted about this increase despite the parks having our email details. For $32/night for no power or water & toilets that are never maintained we shall not return to this park.

Stay at the Devils Marbles Hotel camping area instead. Gravel surface (no red dirt) old but well maintained facilities power if you need it and a great beer garden and pool with good meals and friendly staff and a short drive to the Devils Marbles. A far better alternative.

so expensive to fly there same as flight to Europe if you drive your car there good chances of rocks thrown at you.
very dangerous day or night roaming gangs looking to steal your car and your property just a very scary dangerous place to holiday

Play silly games win stupid prices…we all knew this

With the Australian dollar slumping I’m guessing the overseas visitord may pick up the slack. Australians are struggling to live in their own homes, travelling is becoming a luxury and not a necessity for some. The price increase of accommodation and national parks passes could also be a reason as well as the cost of fuel to get there.

I think closing Ayers rock would be partially to blame, my wife won’t visit NT because of the high crime rate.

Security people on guard against delinquents and drunks even in supermarkets not a good vibe.

dead right.

The cost of visiting any park in the N.T. now is outrageous. $60 park pass then on top of that you have camping fees. But N.T. residents don’t have to pay the park pass. Been going to the N.T. for 10 years but disgusted this year as some park were very untidy and not maintained like they used to be. Too dear to visit the N.T.

Agree, outrageous prices and online bookings only, NT needs to change thrir high opinion of themselves. Outback NSW and Qld have just as much to offer in my opinion, a lot of the small towns now offer free or cheap camping to attract the money on wheels mob, (grey nomads)

With the continuing rate of crime in the NT in general there are better destinations to visit. I have just been to WA and didn’t have to fear for my life or the safety of my vehicle or my belongings. The price of fuel is rising throughout Australia. Until the NT Government addresses crime particularly in Alice Springs and at Ayers Rock, then people will not visit those destinations.

crime is the major deterrent

I recently travelled the NT for 5 weeks. Thoroughly enjoyed it.
However the cost of anything to do with Uluru is an absolute rip off.
I paid $40 per night to park my car on a bit of red dirt so i could legally sleep somewhere.
Price of food & drinks at the Cafe / Souvenir Shop was ridiculous.
Free cultural tour at Uluru….. by a white girl! Seriously get some local indigenous people to do the tours.

The stats tell the story, why don’t spell it out. Huge spike just before closing the climb, open the climb and they will come! I will not visit again unless I can again take in that vast amazing view from the summit of The Rock. Cultural (religious) beliefs should not be a reason to close public places.

My bet is that the climb will reopen some time, but that there will be a fee to cover alleged “costs”. HaHaHa.

Why would I visit a Rock in the desert that I’ve got to pay for the “privilege”? The same applies to Kakadu. I’m not visiting to pay for something that should come from our taxes. Aboriginal organisations are ripping us off and are not our landlords.

Allow climbing again and you will solve this issue overnight.

Paying for Nat Parks was the straw that broke the camels back. Better fun value overseas sadly.

Crime, crime and more crime….
The headlines are nationwide….
Maybe businesses need to look for insurance that allows pursuing the nt government for compensation….

Yes after five years in a row I will be giving the NT a miss next year , a ridiculous online booking system for remote National Parks that requires you to have phone service. Fee’s and permits for so many parks to enter and roads to drive on .
Nice place just too wrapped up in red tape and bureaucracy .

When we went the car queue went for a couple km awaiting the traditional owner to open boom gate in the end police opened it to allow traffic flow.

Cost of fuel can’t be the main reason. People are travelling the outback elsewhere in high numbers

If you want to travel anywhere, you find the money for fuel. But safety for your belongings and self are a priority, so people are avoiding unsafe areas like the NT. Ridiculous visitor fees and charges are not wanted, so again people avoid these areas, like the NT. Outback QLD, NSW and WA have a huge amount to offer with a lot of small country towns offering cheap or low cost spots to stop, not forgetting country pubs are also a great stop over. Let’s all enjoy OUR land.

Ayres Rock, it will always rankle Aussies that the name was changed to something meaningless to 97% of the population and the world at large!
$34 per person just to drive up to the Rock is enough to annoy most people.

Strongly disagree. Who is Ayer? Means absolutely nothing to me. Uluru is far more appropriate, in my opinion.

I don’t mind calling a location by one of its aboriginal names, but I do mind losing my cultural heritage by not also keeping its colonial name. In New Zealand most places have 2 names one Maori and one English. We should do similar in Australia by calling the rock Uluru/Ayers Rock. By the way the explorers Giles and Gosse named the rock after Chief Secretary of SA Sir Henry Ayers in 1873.

Not a bad idea, then every one will know what it’s called.

Cost of fuel, food and entries to NP’s (already paid as a taxpayer). Safety and law and order in outback towns as well as larger regional centres and in addition to fuel queues and supply shortages meant we cancelled our planned 4 month holiday in the top end and went to Qld instead, where we weren’t ripped off left right and centre

Can’t buy a beer either most of the time, as bottle shops closed to try to stop crime. What a joke!

Cashless card will solve the problem.

I’ve just spent five weeks in Darwin and loved every minute. Fuel was the same price as on the Gold Coast. It was more expensive to fly over to Broome but worth it. I loved the absence of traffic jams ( ie Gold Coasts infamous M1), and the roads were very good. I hope to return next year. Could easily live there.

The new NT Park Pass fees, in addition to the Uluru Pass and Kakadu Pass, which for some inexplicable reason are not included in the NT Park Pass make the NT very expensive to visit. It would now cost us $138 per adult. Maybe the NT Government should look at how their various NP fees have contributed to reduction in visitor numbers.

My thoughts, if the locals want places like Ayers Rock, Kakadu etc to be sacred, let them be sacred, close them down to visitation, no source of income then. Know the old saying, you can’t have your cake and eat it to.

Good comment.

Tourists do not plan holidays based on asserted “social responsibility” to prop up ailing economies. Closing national draw cards such as Ayres Rock will inevitably make other destinations relatively more attractive (and welcoming) than the NT. This outcome is sad but inevitable.

Seriously, why would you? The Rock cant be climbed, there is a visitors ‘tax’, expenses are high as it is and tourists are travelling to more rewarding and less expensive attractions. It will fade away in time.

Last edited 1 month ago by Marie

The price of days passes and entrance fee to the National Parks in NT are ridiculous expensive . Give it a miss

As a tour operator the negative media attention does not help, also the cost of accommodation and fuel, airfares from Perth to the NT is killing us, it puts the price of a fare for my passengers out of their reach. This year l had to cancel 4 tours to the NT, as my passengers cancelled in droves, due to bad publicity. Such a shame, l want to support NT, but it makes it very hard to do so. Such a beautiful state with so much to offer.

There is no way we will ever go back to the Rock now you cannot climb it or do a raft of other things without paying exorbitant fees to less than 3% of our population.
Australian attractions are for all Australians to enjoy and the sooner that sinks in, the sooner these sites will be patronised again. If not they will slowly die.

There is to much crime in the NT nobody wants to see smashed car windows,shop front windows all boarded up unsafe to go out, and the government wonders why please do something

Did the NT by road in 80,82,86 and 21.In that big gap I was surprised by the now low amount of vehicular traffic and how run down some of the roadhouses are. Understandably they fly to Darwin which I did in that big gap or fly to the Alice.I wouldn’t do Uluru now without the climb. And I would now pick n choose the Parks, rather than leaving no Park unexplored for the full experience and adventure.

Unfortunately there are now more reasons NOT to visit the NT than to visit. And the stupid comments of their Tourism Minister probably best sums it up, about ‘social responsibility’ etc. Yes, the NT is a place full of natural beauty and attractions but overseen by an incompetent, dumb Government that does it’s best to give you reasons not to go. Soaring crime rates, lifting alcohol bans, lock outs of major tourist spots and price gouging to name a few. Even the division created by the ‘Voice’ and the ‘Uluru statement’ would be having an impact. You reap what you sow…

And news just in.. Adelaide River original jumping crocodile tours are set to close because of ‘Government red tape’. The owners claim the Government has ‘failed their business’. And not to mention every other controversy that seems to surround the NT major tourist attractions such as land claims, allegations of mismanagement etc. The place is becoming a basket case..

I’ve just got back and wouldn’t even know where to start. Flights ,2 nights in the crappy camel motel and one 26 minute chopper ride over Uluru and Kata Tjuta. Cost without food and drinks for one $2700 and Jetstar direct from Melbourne. I took carry-on no point , no taxis so you wait 1 hour for everyone to collect luggage. Return worse. Collected at motel 3 hours before flight for a 10 minute ride. Waited in check in line because no auto check in standing up for 1 hour. I’m glad it’s done but it’s 2 days of my life I won’t get back.

I have visited many times but am sick of fees, permits, rules, restrictions etc. Don’t intend returning for some time. Lots of other fantastic places to go in this great country.

The whole place could do with a refresh. The facilities are looking a bit tired.

Stop ripping us of blind and maybe we might return you comment the we have a duty to go there and support the area you have to be kidding lift your game or pay the commences

The federal gov only a few years ago gave that tourists attraction nearly 300 million of rats payers money as you ran it into the ground and once again you want onother hand out I don’t think so.

Plenty of other great places to go in Aus.

Well I read the comments below agree with everyone so expensive an absolute rip off …. We stayed at the sails Uluṟu and and we’re so disappointed the breakfast was $45. And was ineatable a $20 Prosecco from Dan Murphy was $60 really !!!!!!! and then we continued on our 8 week road trip which we enjoyed until we went to Kakadu another expensive rip off neither of those place we will ever revisit….. And why do we have to pay for the national parks in the Northern Territory…. No wonder the numbers are down

We like many of our friends were to travel to the NT,including Uluru, but clearly it is not safe for elderly caravanners.
Get your juvenile crime under control before we will venture to the NT

Since I can’t climb the rock, I’ve lost interest. I understand all tours are conducted by Backpackers who read a script that only provides info on Indigenous issues and no geological, or environmental info, no local knowledge. If the NT Tourism Minister believes ordinary Australians must donate their holiday spending to central Australia, for this type of experience then they need to leave politics.

I have taken off the NT from my travel list. I can’t see much point in travelling out to the rock since climbing the rock has become forbidden…… Glad I have already seen a good part of the NT since first visit in mid 80’s.
It’s the world over now, like a new sport, gutting tourists to get at the dollars…. Even Bali !! Europe!! But be prepared if you want to see what’s spread out around the NT….. Fuel!! Sadly crime and increased delinquency… No thanks

We visited last year. Briefly – 5 weeks. Visible crime, knifings and fights, crowds waiting the 2pm swill, definite feeling of “unsafe” anywhere in town. Top that with Croc warnings at all beaches and most Nat Parks, NPark closures, difficulty with the NT Parks booking system, and on it goes. Then there is the Uluru “fee” that you have to pay to get anywhere near a rock you cant climb. Mt Isa not much better.


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