The Outback brand which is sacred to the Northern Territory has been lost to savvy interstate marketers, a Charles Darwin University tourism researcher claims.
Speaking at the Alice Springs Desert Knowledge Symposium, CDU’s Dr Dean Carson said successive NT Government and industry figures let “brochure writers” dominate the marketing agenda with a rosy picture of the Territory that is irrelevant to the desires of tourists.
“It’s reflected in typical homogenous marketing with the couple standing on the rock staring into the stars and pushing the myth that the NT’s unique flora and fauna was a key selling point,” he said.
Dr Carson’s research suggested travellers came to the Northern Territory for the experience, not purely nature and culture.
“It’s why the Australian Outback Spectacular on the Gold Coast fills that gap, thrilling audiences with a taste of the Territory who then don’t need to travel west,” he said.
The Outback show is wedged next to Warner Brothers Movie World and features yards in which stock are handled, and complementary stockman’s hats.
He went further to suggest that international crises such as the attack on the World Trade Centre towers in 2001, the SARS epidemic and the global economic downturn could not account for the regular downturns in NT’s tourism figures.
“These forces have affected tourism all over Australia, but the Outback has suffered the most,” he said. “My research has shown we have failed to understand how the market is changing and what people really want from their trips."
Dr Carson referred to research presented at the symposium which showed that domestic travellers and self-drive tourists dominated the market in central Australia.
“Meanwhile, government marketers continue to throw money at international travellers and package tourists and encourage local businesses to gear the wrong products to the wrong markets,” he said.
“That’s why we have failed to adapt to these crises over the past 10 years."
But he said it was not all bad news with the growth of the adventure seeking, self-driving baby boomer market presenting big opportunities for the NT desert regions.
“I don’t think petrol prices will slow the boom of this market over the next 10 years and businesses that understand these discerning, independent baby boomers will reap the rewards.
“We’ve got to get out of this mindset that tourism is everybody’s business to share around and start to pick some winners. Outside of Uluru and Alice Springs, self-drive is the only market,” he said.