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Northern Territory Tourism Faces Challenges: High Costs and Declining Numbers Impact Industry

Despite high hopes for a booming 2023 tourist season, recent indicators reveal a downward trend in Northern Territory (Australia) tourism.

Weeks into the peak visitor season in Darwin, ABC News spoke with David Woodrow, a local who is reducing departures for his Darwin Harbour sunset cruise business.

He said they were running lunch cruises three or four times a week, pre-COVID. Now, the frequency has dropped to running them only once a week “if we’re lucky”. Woodrow estimates that his business is down about 25% compared to the record-breaking tourism year in 2022, which saw visitor spending reach $3.1 billion.

In the Top End of Australia, tourism activity peaks between May and October during the dry season and dips significantly during the monsoonal wet season. NT Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive Greg Ireland said this period was a key time for businesses to “stash a few dollars away for the next wet season.” However, he also noted the impacts of high costs of flights to the territory, high costs of accommodation, and even potential safety and security concerns impacting the number of visitors.

Tour operators in the outback destination are facing multiple challenges, with soaring airfares, cost of living pressures, and negative crime coverage as major concerns. 

Ireland said he was aware that hospitality bookings and revenue were “down a considerable amount … around 25 to 30 per cent.” This decline is visible through the business community, as caravan parks and other tourism-related activities are seeing fewer travelers.

In April, it was also reported that Northern Territory caravan park bookings fell 50%. The plummet has been attributed to recent negative coverage of crime and social issues in Central Australia, as well as increased airfare and living costs.

In the report, Brendan Heenan, president of the Caravan Parks Association NT and owner of an Alice Springs caravan park said sites are down around 50% and 25% on the cabins compared to 2022.

Phillip Parnaby, who owns a tourist park in Coolalinga has reduced operating costs to keep campsite fees competitive in a bid to encourage longer stays.

Amid a cost-of-living crisis, Parnaby said the next six months would be critical for operators. “It’s very important because our energy bills are all going to go up and all our fuel, so you got to have a good year because if we don’t, we might not be here next year,” he explained. However, he remains confident that they will have a good year.

The NT government’s budget, handed down in May, allocated $35.6 million for tourism marketing over the next two years. Tourism Minister Nicole Manison said the government’s “Summer Starts Early” campaign had seen “enormous success” in getting tourists to travel in the quieter wet season months.

Michael Johnson, the head of Tourism Accommodation Australia and interim chief of the Accommodation Association, said the hotel occupancy rate in May was sitting at just 56 percent, according to the latest data he had seen. Comparatively, the May occupancy rate for 2019, the year before the COVID pandemic began, was 71 percent.

In light of these challenges facing the Northern Territory tourism industry, caravan park owners and operators may consider exploring innovative strategies to enhance their appeal to potential visitors. Creating unique experiences and offerings, such as tailored events or themed weekends, could help draw in additional guests despite broader tourism downturns.

Furthermore, partnering with other local businesses for promotions or discounts may generate interest and encourage longer stays. A heightened focus on exceptional customer service, as well as leveraging social media and online platforms for targeted marketing, can also contribute toward a positive reputation and attract more domestic travelers.

By proactively adapting to the changing tourism landscape, caravan park owners and operators can better position themselves for success during these uncertain times.


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Hi, you might find this article from Modern Campground interesting: Northern Territory Tourism Faces Challenges: High Costs and Declining Numbers Impact Industry! This is the link: https://moderncampground.com/australia/northern-territory-tourism-faces-challenges-high-costs-and-declining-numbers-impact-industry/