The Northern Territory’s tourism industry is a standout performer and its success was on show late last week when Territory tour operators cleaned up at the Qantas Australian Tourism Awards.
Ayers Rock Resort – owned and operated by Voyages Indigenous Tourism Australia, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Indigenous Land Corporation – whose Indigenous staff make up 36 per cent of the workforce, was recognised for the third year in a row, securing the Qantas Award for Excellence in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Tourism.
I congratulate Voyages and the other Territory award winners – Alice Springs Visitor Information Centre (Visitor Information Services), Kakadu National Park (Major Tourist Attractions), Venture North Australia (Cultural Tourism), Uluru Camel Tours (Adventure Tourism; Tour and Transport Operators) and the Darwin Convention Centre (Business Events Venue) – for being honoured at such a prestigious awards ceremony.
Tourism is growing in the Territory and we should celebrate its success.
In 2015-16, one-and-half-million Australians enjoyed a getaway up here – up 52 per cent on the figure three years before. This is remarkable growth and a testament to the marketing and quality of tourism products on offer up here.
And according to the National Visitor Survey, domestic tourists spent more time and money in the Territory in 2015-2016 than anywhere else in the country. On average, Australian tourists stayed almost a week up here, with each interstate visitor spending on average almost $1400 – an outcome that resulted in more than $1.8 billion being injected into the local economy.
It was great to have my colleague, the Commonwealth Minister for Tourism, Steve Ciobo, in Darwin on Friday to see firsthand the importance of the industry to Territorians.
It was particularly positive to be able to show Minister Ciobo around the Adina Vibe Hotel on the Darwin Waterfront. The Darwin Waterfront has transformed remarkably over the past four years into a precinct full of life and vibrancy featuring hotels, cafes and restaurants. It is one of the lasting legacies of the vision, policy reform and investment of former Chief Minister Adam Giles and his Country Liberals government.
As an aside, I am particularly pleased that the Adina Vibe, which was partially purchased by the Commonwealth’s Indigenous Business Australia to support Indigenous employment, now has an Indigenous workforce of 17 per cent.
I hope the Gunner-Manison Labor Government is able to take advantage of this platform and continue the positive work that the Country Liberals delivered over the past four years.
Early indications are positive, with the Chief Minister quickly realising the silliness of a proposal by the Member for Katherine to cut $10 million from local tourism investment in her own community. I welcome this move.
I am keen to work with the Minister for Tourism, Lauren Moss, to ensure all tourists to the Top End have a great experience and that as many local Territorians are employed in the tourism industry as possible.
I do not want to see cruise ships coming into Darwin without a strategy to engage local businesses and grow Territory jobs and I have written to Minister Moss to get her thoughts on this important issue.
Tourism is already a key part of our economy and employs more than 15,000 Territorians, either directly or indirectly.
And the Territory has all the assets we need to grow it even further – an amazing natural environment, a unique cultural heritage and Indigenous history, and a highly skilled workforce and business community capable of servicing our incoming tourists.
It is for this reason that tourism is too important to be used as a political football.
I ask the Chief Minister to speak to his federal Labor colleagues about the importance of our tourism industry, especially the Member for Solomon, Luke Gosling, who raced to put out an irresponsible and inaccurate media release last week running down our great tourism industry.
Mr Gosling claimed international tourist numbers to the Northern Territory dropped by 2.9 per cent, but the most recent figures from the International Visitor Survey by Tourism Research Australia show they actually increased by 5 per cent (in the year to September 2016) and added almost $440 million to the local economy.
Territorians rightfully expect the Commonwealth and NT Governments to work together to encourage as many tourists to visit the Top End as possible and at the same time, make it as easy as possible for tour operators to get on with their business.
I ask Territorians to get out there as well – see what our great towns and regions have to offer.
See you around the Territory.