Tiger leaves town – and so do the backpackers
TTN, 27th July 2015: For months, tourism operators have noticed a decline in business due to one airline – Tiger – ceasing flights to Alice Springs. Now an Alice Springs mainstay, Toddy’s backpackers, is closing its doors, and taking history with it – and flight prices are back up at near-Qantas prices.
Of most concern is first minister Adam Giles’ promise that the government will ‘keep lobbying airlines’. Adam Giles admitted that the ruling government, his Country Liberal party, has no policies. Literally, a CLP function, Giles is quoted:
” … there’s very little policies on what we agree on. We need to have a greater level of policy backbone about the party so that the politicians can stand up for those policies. So if I stand up now and say what’s the policy on this from the party, there is none … there’s no aboriginal affairs policy, there’s no policy on CAL, there’s no policy on local contracting or the Department of Infrastructure, people are still complaining that contracts go outside, but there’s no policy.”
So how can the tourism industry expect that Giles, or anyone up north, is capable of putting demands on billion dollar businesses like airlines? They’re not capable of it. They won’t do it. And the tourism industry will underperform indefinitely whilst the giant land mass that is the Northern Territory – that which encompasses pivotal Australian cultural icons like Uluru, Kakadu and a great number of Australia’s first peoples – continues to be mismanaged.
See below the article on Alice Springs’ tourism decline, and below that, Crikey.com’s recount of Adam Giles’ casual behaviour and fairly casual management of the territory.
Tourism operators in Alice springs are concerned flight prices to Uluru are stealing visitors from town
From the NT News, 26th June 2015
WELL-heeled Japanese tourists can fly direct to Uluru for about the same as it costs an Australian to fly to Alice Springs — prompting concern visitors to the red centre are increasingly bypassing the town.
Alice has always been considered the gateway to the rock and thrived on the strength of numbers of backpackers and other tourists launching trips into the unique Centralian bush.
But tourism operators say numbers are dropping steadily and some are even closing their doors.
The last beers will be poured at Toddy’s Backpackers this weekend as the longstanding Alice Springs tourism establishment prepares to give up the good fight.
Business owner Rob Cowan blames the high cost of airfares and a dwindling number of backpackers for the closure.
For the last two years the property has been leased and managed by Mr Cowan, who also owns and runs the Rock Tour and Rock Bar.
Mr Cowan estimates the site has been used as an accommodation facility for 30 years.
“We had to make a decision whether to continue with the purchase of the property,” he said.
“When we bought the place it was a matter of leasing it for two years and seeing if it was still a viable business.
“And with tourist numbers dropping so remarkably it was an easy decision.”
Toddy’s, on Gap Road, is the latest backpacker hostel to nosedive following the departure of Tigerair and the end of cheap budget flights last year.
Outgoing general manager of Tourism Central Australia Stuart Ord confirmed “anecdotally backpackers numbers have been dropping since Tigerair ceased to fly into Alice Springs”.
In March, Virgin Australia began flying into the town, raising hope of reduced fares.
Mr Cowan said while Virgin’s entry into the market had been a positive start it was “disappointing” in terms of the flight prices offered.
“Their rates are basically just slightly south of what Qantas is charging,” Mr Cowan said.
“But you can get from Tokyo to Ayers Rock for just $500 one way on Jetstar.”
Without a reduction in flight prices to Alice Springs, and with the ever-decreasing costs of getting to Uluru, the backpacker market will continue to diminish.
Mr Ord said any reduction in airfares to Alice Springs either by Qantas or Virgin Australia would boost visitor numbers.
“The backpacker market is more highly price sensitive than other sections of the tourism market,” he said.
Tourism minister Adam Giles said the government planned to “keep lobbying airlines to introduce more flights and bring in more competition”.
“I am disappointed to hear that Toddy’s Backpackers is closing as it will be a significant loss for the town,” Mr Giles said.
A spokesman for Virgin Australia said the company had “introduced competition and choice” into the region.
“A range of factors affect pricing such as capacity, demand and seasonal variances,” the spokesman said.
A lawn sale will be held at Toddy’s from 7am Saturday to sell of their furniture before the gates are shut on June 30.