Australia's Northern Territory Government has embarked on a multi-million dollar investment to upgrade tourism infrastructure in the region, coming at a time when it seeks to woo visitors from neighbouring Asian source markets.
Often perceived as more rough than rugged, the destination is pouring A$2.35 million (US$1.67 million) into promoting its adventure activity hot spots. The funds will go towards upgrading infrastructure across its parks and reserves in regional areas such as Litchfield and Kakadu, improving its visitor and function centres and facilities, said Minister for Tourism & Culture Hon Lauren Moss MLA during an interview on the Singapore-leg of its sales mission.
The region's strong adventure brand hopes to attract visitors who have already experienced the 'Sydneys and Melbournes' and want travel experiences that are "off-the-beaten-track", says Hon Moss.
Room inventory in capital city Darwin is also seeing a positive uptick. Since 2016, 352 new hotel rooms have sprung up. New rooms in the five-star category are also expected to drum up the luxury segment, which includes a Westin along the waterfront that add 398 rooms and a yet-to-be-named development on 84 Mitchell Street.
Investing in tourism
Tourism development in specific areas from arts and adventure will also be backed by investments. A separate A$100 million fund will boost efforts to promote aboriginal arts culture through arts centres across the territory. The government will also be spending A$12 million on developing a multi-day mountain biking ride through central Australia.
Spending will also go to festivals and events, with examples such as the Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair to Parrtjima, a 10-day indigenous light festival.
Experiences such as 'glamping' at Nitmiluk National Park, managed by the Jawoyn people, will also be among the new developments to expect.
While the majority of arrivals come from the domestic market, international arrivals from North America and Europe markets "remain strong", says Hon Moss.
The territory is also attracting "year-on-year growth" in visitor arrivals from Greater China, when nearly 17,000 visited last year. Singapore is also a big focus for the territory.
'Glamping' a new Asian favourite
Camping experiences with softer "luxury" elements are growing in popularity among markets such as China and Singapore, revealed Pieter Bosch, managing director of Outback Tour Services, a tour operator based in Alice Springs.
Bosch believes that it is an exciting time for the destination, which is benefitting from a growing market for "glamping" (or luxury-style camping).
"What is exciting for us is that there is probably now a 10% share that is coming from Asia, compared to 2% nearly five years ago," he said. "What has changed in people's minds is that luxury can be experienced out in nature rather than in hotels."
Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, a world heritage-listed site, is a popular highlight for scores of adventure tourists each year, who visit on day-trips as well as on overnight stays. With a ban on climbing the scared site coming into effect starting next year, Bosch reflected that the move has opened up opportunities to create "more exclusive products". An example includes trekking with an aboriginal guide around a section of the base walk.
Cruising new waves
Cruise tourism is also providing a good source of arrivals. Last year, Darwin welcomed 55 cruises that were carrying nearly 60,000 visitors.
"Cruising will be the catchphrase for the next 10 years of Asian travel to Australia," says Rachel Beaumont-Smith, managing director, Darwin Harbour Cruises. She points to Darwin's potential to become a cruising gateway that mirrors the successes that Singapore has enjoyed as a cruise hub for the region.