Ayers Rock Resort: what’s in it for us?

By ERWIN CHLANDA

 

“There will never be any direct flights to Ayers Rock.” This quote, spoken very slowly, is from the Territory’s first Chief Minister, Paul Everingham.

 

He was talking about direct flights from anywhere but Alice Springs which, he said, would remain the gateway to the nation’s greatest natural tourist attraction.

 

Today, 40 years later, the tail is surely wagging the dog: There are 25 flights a week to The Rock from Alice Springs, Sydney and Cairns, increasing to 32 in June when Melbourne will also be added.

 

The Territory Government’s Tourism NT, which is heavily promoting The Rock, makes the point that half the tourists going there also visit Alice Springs. Is this a glass half full or half empty?

 

“Porky” Everingham spent half a billion dollars creating a superb tourist resort. It was commercial venture not matched by any of his successors. Compare this with that other Chief Minister called Paul – Henderson – who committed half a billion dollars to build a jail.

 

Regrettably, the resort was run by Territory bureaucrats not up to the task. After a string of management fiascoes over the decades, costing the taxpayer hundreds of millions of dollars, the resort was sold to private enterprise.

 

In 2010 it was acquired for $300m by the Indigenous Land Corporation (ILC), a Commonwealth government statutory authority based in Adelaide. The ILC is unique in that it doesn’t receive money through the government’s annual budget process.

 

The ILC was founded in 1995. Until the 2003-04 financial year government funds totaling $942m were put into a capital fund called the Land Account. Since July 2004 the ILC has derived its income from interest generated and the ILC programs are funded by the interest from that fund.

 

PHOTO: Tourism NT gives the resort prominence in its promotion of Central Australia.

 

So, what’s the Ayers Rock Resort doing for us in Central Australia? Its number of visitors is pretty close to that of Alice Springs but, per head, the Ayers Rock Resort makes twice as much money out of them.

 

Where does the money go? Says an ILC spokesman: “Some businesses are currently profitable while others are new businesses still in their development phase.

 

“For example, it takes many years to breed and establish a self-sustaining cattle herd as part of an agricultural business.

 

“All profits from businesses are reinvested into the capital infrastructure on the land or used – in the case of Ayers Rock Resort – to assist in the funding of the borrowings undertaken to purchase the resort.”

 

How much profit do the businesses make?

 

“They are run as fully commercial enterprises. Profit information is commercial in confidence.”

 

The ILC has three tourism businesses, Ayers Rock Resort, Home Valley Station, a pastoral tourism business in the Kimberley, and the Mossman Gorge Centre eco-tourism business north of Cairns.

 

They are managed and operated by an ILC subsidiary company, Voyages Indigenous Tourism Australia Pty Ltd.

 

What’s the value of Home Valley and Mossman Gorge? Again, this is commercial in confidence.

 

The Mossman Gorge facility has 240,000 visitors a year. The Home Valley pastoral tourism business had over 4,000 visitors last season. Home Valley is not open to visitors during the wet season.

 

Before the ILC purchased the Ayers Rock resort in 2010 hardly any of the 700 staff were Aboriginal. Now more than 200 of them are (212 as of February 28). About 20% of full time Indigenous employees are local Anangu – that works out to around 40 staff.

 

This is a massive increase: Despite sustained and sincere efforts by the previous owners to employ local Aborigines, the number of locals who took jobs could be counted on the fingers of one hand. Currently 28 Indigenous people from the Mutijulu community are employed at the resort through the ILC’s Real Jobs Program, says the ILC.

 

It has established a National Indigenous Training Academy there, where trainees undertake hospitality courses to Certificate levels 2 and 3 which are nationally accredited.

 

Graduates are assured jobs at the ILC resorts as well as with the national Accor chain of hotels.

 

Since acquiring the resort the ILC has invested $47m to modernise facilities including a $12 million convention centre for up to 425 delegates, establishing the national training academy, and upgrades to dining and bar areas, guest rooms and trainee accommodation.

 

Where does the resort buy its supplies – in Adelaide or Alice Springs?

 

We asked for a break-up in dollars but the ILC provided this answer: “Where possible the resort sources supplies locally.

 

“Around 30% to 40% of regular supplies by volume delivered to the resort are sourced from suppliers in Alice Springs from where the resort receives a road train delivery twice weekly.

 

“Additionally, the resort purchases goods and services from more than 60 Indigenous businesses including guided tours and guest cultural activities, arts and crafts, souvenirs and other products with an annual spend with these Indigenous suppliers alone of around $1.4m.”

 

The power station at the resort is owned by NT Power Water Corporation and the resort purchases its electricity and water from PWC at contracted rates based on consumption.

 

PHOTO: Tourism NT gives the resort prominence in its promotion of Central Australia.

 

Be Sociable, Share!

4 Comments (starting with the most recent)

NB: If you want to reply to a previous comment, start your comment with this notation: @n where n is the number of the comment you want to reply to.
  1. Spot
    Posted March 30, 2014 at 10:00 pm

    What’s in it for us Alice Springs.
    We still need to remember that due to Ayers Rock Resort, Central Australia and the Northern Territory had many very lucrative years.
    This was due to the foresight of those early tourism pioneers and politicians and what they all had in common were ideas, new ones, this is what we are seeing out at the Ayers Rock Resort.
    Now its time for the Alice to do the same. We need to support the changes put in place to make it a safer town, as having tourist assaulted in the street is not good for our image.
    Being able to walk down the Todd Mall without being humbugged by drunks helps as well.
    Having Tourism NT back in the Alice where it belongs is a great start.
    Some more new ideas would be good, it’s not hard, what about Neville Shute, haven’t we bled that for all it’s worth? I haven’t heard a word about the mention of Alice Springs or of the Ghan train by well known adventure writer Clive Cussler, great for the American market, get him over put him on the train bring him to Alice.
    I would even drive him around myself.
    So what is in it for the Alice, everything if we can make it bigger and better.
    You only have to see the examples of the desert race and the masters games ect.

    View Comment
  2. Daniel Davis
    Posted March 29, 2014 at 9:14 am

    Ayers Rock Resort runs at only around 50% occupancy, thanks in part to the extreme expense of staying there. How many additional visitors would we get if it was cheaper to visit Ayers Rock?
    Many visitors limit their trip to Ayers Rock only as it is the number one destination for the NT, but the expense of doing so and the current cost of accommodation in Darwin means they make a financial decision to not visit the rest of the NT.
    It would be good to see the Ayers Rock Resort split up if they are sold again to introduce some competition in the market, an average room rate of $220 is not doing any favours for the rest of the Territory.

    View Comment
  3. Terry
    Posted March 29, 2014 at 12:26 am

    “The Rock” was given away many years ago … no good bitching about it now. The whole concept of NT tourism is a mess, and though I doubt it is possible to fix things now, all I can say is that what happened to tourism and the tourism assets the Territory (The Rock and Alice in particular) is shameful.

    View Comment
  4. Tony Meman
    Posted March 28, 2014 at 6:34 pm

    Running their own “Camel Cup” a week before the Alice Springs event and the $$$ going to business not the community of Alice Springs … and being funded by Tourism NT to do it.

    View Comment

Post a Comment

Your email is never shared. Required fields are marked *

*
*