$10m of taxpayers’ money, what’s it doing for us?

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PHOTO: Tourism NT’s convention advertising on the web – what “culture” might that be? Drinking culture? Oh, that blob in the background is Uluru. Conventions at the Ayers Rock Resort are competing with the Alice Springs Convention Centre.

 

By ERWIN CHLANDA

 

Q: What contribution does the convention centre make to our tourist industry?

 

A: That depends on whom you ask.

 

The centre was built in 2000 with a Territory Government contribution of $9.1m, plus $700,000 for pre-opening marketing and a periodic operational subsidy.

 

By one calculation the centre is today running at capacity of under 6%.

 

But sales and marketing manager Kylie Mansfield has quite a different story: “2015 is looking promising, with our peak season of August / September / October already solidly booked,” she says.

 

She suggests checking the website for more information. But when you do the only booking you’ll find for all of 2015 is a three day rangeland convention for 200 people in April.

 

Tourism Central Australia’s Jaclyn Thorne chimes in brightly.

 

Speaking to the ABC she says tourism promoters are now targeting the higher market end, as the backpacker business is in trouble with several hostels closing their doors: “We’ve had some large conferences around town in the last couple of weeks … that’s great and they tend to stay in the four, four-and-a-half star properties … so that end of the market is looking [strong].”

 

When we wanted her to substantiate her claims she did not agree to an interview.

 

These are the facts, according to Ms Mansfield: “In the 2013/14 financial year [the convention centre] welcomed more than 33,800 visitors – 37,000 in 2012/13 and 41,000 in 2011/12.”

 

That’s a drop of 18% over three years.

 

It’s also unclear how many of these “visitors” are high rollers from interstate and overseas.

 

How many are locals attending such events as Bogan Bingo or Alice’s Biggest Christmas Party?

 

Using the information we have been given, a simple calculation can be made: The centre has two large rooms (which can be split up into several smaller ones): The MacDonnell Room has a maximum of 1200 seats and the Ellery Room has 450.

 

That is a total 1650 seats. Times that with 365 days you get  620,250 seats a year.

 

At the 2013-14 numbers provided by Ms Mansfield the centre is running at a capacity of 5.5%.

 

FOOTNOTE: The current rage with media advisors is demand all questions by email. We declined to do that – for the following reasons, as we explained to Ms Mansfield:-   “It’s not fruitful to have this exchange [which would take 15 minute on the ‘phone] via email because every reply will beg another question and I have neither time nor inclination to drag this out over days. For example, yesterday I left a message for you and you didn’t get back.”

 

I told Ms Mansfield we would go ahead with the details she provided so far.

 

“I’m happy to discuss it with you in a phone call. It’s your call (pardon the pun).

 

“As you will know from previous experiences with us, we’re happy to send story drafts ahead of publication, provided the contact engages with us in a way generally accepted in news gathering. These drafts are never an invitation to censor but to point up errors and omissions. Hardly any other journalists afford such a privilege to their sources.”

 

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  1. Hal Duell
    Posted October 11, 2014 at 1:03 pm

    It’s spin, Erwin. That’s why e-mails are preferred to face-to-face interviews.
    The time-lapse format gives a greater opportunity to spin. And to consult. One-on-one and being on the spot, someone might actually say something attributable, the ultimate bureaucratic sin.
    The only wonder is they don’t all get dizzy and fall down.

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