Over the weekend, 14,000 people partied it up at Bass in the Grass in Darwin — one of the largest music festivals in the country since the pandemic began.
- A caravan park in Alice Springs says it’s pleasantly surprised by the number of tourists in town
- One tourism operator has had to effectively double its staff to cater for the demand
- Travellers are being advised to book ahead to secure accommodation
It was a sure sign that the Territory tourism season is in full swing after a tough 2020, and it is no different down the track in Alice Springs.
Many a local in town would have noticed the scores of caravans in town at the moment and likely struggled to get a car park.
Early last month, G’Day Mate Caravan Park owner Bill Wilcox was enjoying a tourism sugar-rush over Easter, and a month on business is booming once again.
“We’ve got about 200 people here … 11 kids in as well,” he said.
“We’re pleasantly surprised by the numbers that have arrived from all over Australia and it’s certainly a great improvement on what we went through last year.”
’50-something’ shades of grey nomads
Isabelle Hardinge, an operations manager for World Expeditions in Alice Springs that runs multi-day bushwalks particularly on the famous Larapinta Trail, said they have had a huge demand for tours this year.
“We’ve definitely seen a big boom in the domestic tourism market since international tourism is obviously shut down for now,” she said.
Even hats are in high demand in Alice Springs at the moment.
Bill Wilcox said travellers were coming from all parts of the country, particularly Tasmania.
“Probably the ACT are the people who are still staying home enjoying the cold winters, but they should be up here enjoying our warm winters,” he said.
Mr Wilcox said the majority of his clientele were grey nomads, but more of them are actually not so grey.
With international borders expected to remain closed until at least the middle of next year, Mr Wilcox was not expecting things to let up any time soon.
“There are quite a number of people who are experiencing road travel in Australia for the first time. They’ve normally flown overseas,” he said.
Staffing struggles continue
Staff shortages have been a uniting problem for businesses across the country in the wake of the pandemic.
But Ms Hardinge said they had been lucky to effectively double their number of guides.
“Generally in the past, we’ve had a good team of 20 to 30,” she said.
Mr Wilcox said they were managing but were a bit understaffed for the current demand.
“We’ve brought in reinforcements in the form of our daughter from Victoria to help us out,” he said.
“But we’ve also got four other staff here and that’s keeping us afloat and keeping things shipshape.”
And he had some advice for any first-time road trippers hoping to visit Alice Springs — book ahead.
“We’re getting to the stage where we’d be trying to encourage anybody who is coming to Alice Springs to book accommodation in advance,” he said.