A staggering 50% drop in caravan park bookings in the Northern Territory (Australia) has triggered concerns for the upcoming tourism season.
This decline has been attributed to recent negative coverage of crime and social issues in Central Australia, as well as increased airfare and living costs, according to a report by ABC News Australia.
Brendan Heenan, president of the Caravan Parks Association NT and owner of an Alice Springs caravan park, commented on the disappointing start to the tourism season, stating, “Compared to last year, which was very good, sites are down around 50% and 25% on the cabins. We’re all in the same boat — we’re all suffering from the downturn.”
Heenan also noted that the region’s negative publicity appears to be affecting tourist numbers, saying, “Alice seems to cop the bad publicity Australia-wide. It just shows you that something’s in the wind. Visitors seem hesitant to visit the region for various reasons.”
The Easter weekend usually marks the unofficial beginning of the tourism season in Alice Springs. This year, it coincided with the launch of the renowned Indigenous light festival, Parrtjima.
However, Lee Donald, general manager of Ross River Resort in the East MacDonnell Ranges, observed that there were fewer visitors than usual and a higher proportion of locals attending the event.
Donald also shared anecdotal reports from travelers suggesting that many tourists are bypassing Alice Springs’ town center and heading straight to the surrounding attractions. She remarked, “It’s really disappointing.”
The impact of decreasing numbers extends across the industry, including the hospitality sector. Alex Bruce, Hospitality NT chief executive, mentioned that while February and March showed promise, April’s figures have significantly dropped below expectations.
Bruce acknowledged that the downturn in the caravan park sector was not as severe as in the hospitality sector, but it was still “significant.” He attributed the declining “drive” market to the cost of living pressures and recent national coverage of the region’s issues.
“Crime is one of the factors that has resonated across the country. It impacts how often and how long tourists stay in Alice Springs,” he said.
Addressing the factors contributing to the downturn and restoring confidence in the region’s tourism offerings is crucial for the Northern Territory’s outdoor hospitality industry as it faces ongoing challenges.