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.”
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