The escalating decline in visitor numbers into Alice is not …

Comment on After years of under-achieving, tourism promoters say they are getting cracking by Steve Brown.

The escalating decline in visitor numbers into Alice is not entirely due to world economic downturn. The decline can also be blamed very much on the continued emphasis by Government and favoured operators on the concentrated advertising of Ayers Rock/Uluru as the single great attraction of the Centre. The beautiful places on display in your article are virtually unknown to the rest of the World, even within our own Country.
When Tourism was in its infancy in the Centre, the Rock was a vague, distant, hard to get to, pretty well unknown attraction. Tourism began around the spectacular scenery, the sheer isolation, the frontier feel of the MacDonell Ranges, with Alice offering a comfortable, interesting base from which to view it all.
Too much Government interference and bureaucracy put an end to all that. Emphasis by Government, an emphasis that continues to this day, on promoting and pushing the interests of the Rock at the expense of the rest of the industry, compensating for a ridiculous over commitment at the Yulara Resort. The extra promotion eventually resulted in massively increasing numbers at the Resort, numbers increasing by up to 20% per annum.
Over confidence and arrogance brought about by the sheer weight of willing visitors and the lack of any competition for the Resort gave birth to a “meat market” style approach to tourism there, “get them in, take their money, kick them out”, attitude. At the same time local bureaucracy, Park Management developed its own special kind of resentful, couldn’t care less arrogance towards Park Visitors, a growing contempt for their wishes which has resulted over a considerable number of years in much anger and dissatisfaction with the product on offer.
Many visitors to the Centre after firstly being bruised by the Rock experience also find that they have missed out on much of what could, and should, have been offered to them for very little extra expense, leaving them disappointed, angry and feeling cheated by virtue of not having been made aware of all that was on offer in a Region they had gone to a great deal of expense to reach. Not advertising and selling the whole product, making sure visitors are aware of all that is available clearly demonstrates a level of disregard for their experience that they are not going to remember with affection when recounting their stories to others – still the most effective or disastrous form of advertising!
How do we counteract the now very negative perception of our product and the Rock??? I think it’s time Alice saw the Rock as a direct competitor, it’s time we worked very hard at selling the vastly superior product we have to offer. If we are successful in this it will also have the added benefit of forcing the Rock into lifting their game. Keep in mind Tourism at the Rock grew on the back of daily flights and bus trips out of Alice with visitors making our town their destination point. It’s time to recreate that market, light aircraft and buses from Alice to the Rock listed and promoted as only one of the hundreds of attraction on offer from our Town. It is time to actively compete with the Yulara Resort in providing accommodation for visitors to the Rock. Show the world the infinitely superior product we can offer with a fly in fly out, bus in bus out service.
Along with the competition for the Rock visitors, it is absolutely beyond time that we turned our attentions to our ‘Tourism Roots’. What we began with is still there! Nothing has changed! Only the belief and the vision have gone missing. How do we regain that? I believe we can.
It’s time to widen the Centralian Experience by opening up the MacDonnell Ranges to everyone, make the beautiful places within them accessible to the drive market, families, caravans, buses, campers. Open up our Parks, improve the access, encourage the development of facilities providing accommodation service and entertainment throughout the length and breadth of the Ranges. Actively encourage development of this kind by communities and pastoralists and any other interested parties, make available development sites at the various attractions on National Parks. Open up the magnificent Western Macs, actively encourage Aboriginal interest at Haasts Bluff, Papunya, Mt Liebig, Gosse’s Bluff and everywhere in between to open up and offer access to this extraordinary country that quite frankly leaves the Rock experience for dead!
Tourism dead in the Centre! No Future! Bullshit! We haven’t even begun! We’ve just been set back awhile by really lousy Government. We can change it! Just as soon as we’ve completed step ONE! Cleaning up this town, keeping it clean and making sure the rest of the world knows it!

PS: Might be time Editor took a trip west to bring back some shots of the extraordinary places that could and should be on offer. Great excuse for a trip, Erwin.

Steve Brown Also Commented

After years of under-achieving, tourism promoters say they are getting cracking
If the “Passionate Local Operator” would like to know what’s gone so horribly wrong with our Tourist Industry, stand in front of the mirror, put what you see together with the Management of Yulara and the Rock over the past 30 years and the the answer will be right in front of you. Back again today from another round trip through Glen Helen across the rough to Haasts Bluff then on to Papunya and back on the top road past Narwietooma, Milton Park, Hamilton Downs ect, even though I was in a rush as usual, doing the whole run in a few short hours, the country side flitting by outside the window at a pretty scary rate still awe inspiring, never ceasing to amaze. Sunrise across the face of Haasts Bluff capped by some early morning mist quite simply indescribably breath taking. Yet not a tourist in sight. How many years have we been developing our product, promoting our Region?? How much effort have we put into developing our infrastructure?? If we were to seal this Loop Road and open up gravel access roads into the many beautiful hidden and intriguing places within the mountains, adding camping places, walking trails, the occasional lodge, restaurant, hotel, motel what an astounding product we would have to sell the World! A product that certainly would warrant an International Airport. But you have to begin at the beginning, first build the product, then comes increasing numbers, flights, International Airports and the rest. It takes vision, guts, capital, hard work and a Government willing to provide the basic infrastructure whilst maintaining an appropriate non stifling distance from the developing industry. Let’s get on with it!


Recent Comments by Steve Brown

Wakefield insists on Anzac Oval, ignores majority
The longer this process goes on the more likely we are to lose it altogether. That’s a loss of $150m into our economy, just on build!
The government has made up its mind on the site. That’s their right! That’s what we elect them for, to make what they see as the best decision, on our behalf!
So, while about 4% of the population whinge about it, and try to foil the process, keep this in mind.
If it doesn’t go ahead at Anzac there will be no new rugby grounds! Another $20m to $30m.
There will be no amphitheatre or the CBD space to put one. Another $3m to $4m.
We will miss out on an expansion of CBD parking. Millions more!
And we will miss the opportunity to create much increased foot traffic into the CBD and the resulting growth in small business. Millions more.
There is now very little chance of it going anywhere else. It will either go at the Anzac Hill site or we will lose it altogether!
Federal Politicians looking for an excuse to fund it in South Australia have been handed exactly what they want, local dissent!
It shouldn’t take much more to tip the scales, if the damage hasn’t already been done.
If we believe in our community, if we want to grow our economy, create opportunity for ourselves and our children into the future we have to be prepared to accept change, to put our petty likes and dislikes along with what often amounts to rather shallow competitive political viewpoints aside for the greater good.
To put it bluntly, “suck it up and stand aside in support of the best obtainable outcome for our community!
Let’s not cut off our nose to spite our face!


The millions and the misery
Interesting article that this may be, I would not like to see discussion centred around the ins and out of funding to various Aboriginal organisations being conflated in anyway with our discussions around funding and locating our proposed youth centre.
We are attempting to get a whole of community approach to this!
That approach, if it is to be successful, will most certainly include the organisations mentioned.
While we clearly share everyone’s enthusiasm for the Old Memo Club as an ideal site for our centre and have said so publicly on a number of occasions, the fact remains that this is the legally owned property of Centercorp and the only way that we could possibly acquire it for the centre is if these organisations believe in our cause and choose to come on board, something that I very much encourage them to do.
My apologies Centrecorp and Congress if we have caused inconvenience, we were “dreaming” our best possible options for getting something off the ground, ASAP.
We fervently hope in the interests of this community’s children you will give the promoted concept some very serious consideration and come to understand as many already have, the true value to the community, and all your investment in it
It is having a happy, healthy, united community where kids know they are cared for and see exciting future prospects in front of them, with staff, volunteers and mentors from our new centre showing the way.


Memo Club for 24/7 youth centre?
@ Evelyne: No, definitely too far from CBD and don’t think the neighbours would be to keen.
The bed requirement part of the concept is “emergency bed requirement” only, as per “Careful’s” comment probably not a large demand for it. We could manage with temporary facilities and grow after assessing demand.
I imagine that most kids would catch the bus at the cessation of evening activities. The most important part of this centre will be kitchen, dining and activities which would also clearly encompass such things as after school care.
As for existing facilities: This is not a petty competition nor are we interested in the petty politics of those more interested in protecting their own backsides than looking after children.
Let’s deal with the basic facts: Governments of all persuasions have struggled with this issue for 50 years or so. They have funded and de-funded all manner of organisations in the process!
And they have failed.
Yes, there are existing organisation who have cross over interests.
However, we still have the issue.
In fact it is a large growing generational issue, at times literally hundreds of kids hanging about on our streets, growing crime and increasing isolation, increasing division, increasing us and them, increasing have and have not and increasing community anger and resentment.
The concept of bringing kids and community members, not just street kids into a central location, is not just about food and activities, it is about containing the hanging out to a really “cool” location and it is about cross community interaction.
Breaking down the division!
It is about rebuilding a community out of a rapidly growing divide that threatens its very foundations.
The issue is far greater than the petty self interests of a few professional youth workers who feel someone is intruding on their turf!
If your a genuine committed professional youth worker you will know the value of the community interaction too which I refer and you will get on board.
This is not a government initiative, it is a community movement, the only ones in the end who can really make a difference.
And not just for neglected kids, not just for underprivileged kids, but for all the kids in our community, which in the end means a difference for all of us!
We envisage that those centres already working in this area would come on board and work with us, probably moving their services into the central complex or maintain offices there, or doing pick ups and drop offs so that everybody’s together, part of the activity and excitement, of things going on: That is what we want to create.
We have said all along, while we are looking at a community youth centre driven by volunteers it would also incorporate professional management and youth workers.
This is about everybody in the sector putting aside selfish interest and uniting to bring about effective change.
It’s about making a massive difference to a whole lot of young lives and making our community a whole lot happier place to live for everybody.


Memo Club for 24/7 youth centre?
While I share the enthusiasm for getting our priorities right and dealing with our Youth issue first up, projects such as the art gallery are equally important in building a successful community … no economy, no people, no funds or assistance for a centre.
So we aren’t looking to swap one for another, we are looking to do both and more!
Importantly I can report to you that I am running into a great deal of support for the youth centre project from all sectors and I don’t think we are going to have to many issues funding this project, even with the art centre going ahead.
The cross community support I have encountered so far leads me to believe we are going to be successful in getting the project off the ground.
My real concern at this stage is the amount of time it will take to do that!
Obviously if we can’t find an existing facility of the right size and location i.e. the Memo Club there is likely to be a period of at least a couple of years before we can build and be operational.
This is a really urgent issue, requiring immediate action, especially when you think of those two years through the eyes of an eight year old child virtually living on the streets.
Two years is a lifetime, and for that matter for a town being battered by a street kid crime wave, two years is also an eternity!
So clearly we need to act and act now! All ideas are welcome but we must have large open space kitchen and dining, multiple toilets / bathrooms to cater for several hundred kids in a central well lit location.


Memo Club for 24/7 youth centre?
We were always aware that Congress had intentions for the Old Memo Club and our project certainly doesn’t hinge on being able to get our hands on those premises.
I put it forward as a potential location so that everyone would understand the desired CBD location, building size and layout that our proposed Centre requires, large open areas, dining and kitchen facilities – very much like the Memo Club.
This of course would have been ideal if it were available.
So if you change your mind Congress, there’s a lot of kids who would greatly appreciate it.
In the meantime I imagine we will be looking for temporary premises to get things underway while we raise the funds to build to our design.


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