New low cost air fares to the Red Centre are expected to revive declining tourism numbers to the destination, with families to be a key focus.
State minister for tourism and major events, Matt Conlan, told Travel Today that although some growth has been seen in visitation to the Northern Territory’s Top End, the Red Centre has been “in decline for some time”.
International numbers have been hit by the global financial crisis and the impact of the strong Australian dollar with core markets the UK and Germany particularly down.
However, the strong dollar has had the opposite effect on domestic numbers which Conlan described as “not too bad”.
“Australians are having a love affair with their backyard all over again,” he said.
However, the start of new air services by Jetstar to Ayers Rock Airport yesterday and by Tiger to Alice Springs in April is expected to help drive that trend.
“The Northern Territory is at the top of people’s bucket lists but it’s always been a case of ‘how do I get there affordably?’“ Conlan said. “Now we’ve got a real opportunity to bring families to the centre.”
He is hopeful the four times weekly Jetstar service which adds 1400 weekly seats to the route, will soon be increased to daily.
Jetstar chief executive, David Hall, confirmed the carrier is “cautiously optimistic” about the route.
‘If the demand is there, we’ll look at increasing it either seasonally or permanently,” he told Travel Today, adding a Melbourne service may also be considered.
He revealed load factors on the route over the coming months are "very encouraging", averaging around 80%.
“We think our low fares will certainly stimulate interest,” Hall said. He predicted families would be a major market for the new service due to its affordability.
“It opens up the destination to a whole new demographic.”
Meanwhile, Koos Klein, managing director of Voyages Indigenous Tourism which manages Ayers Rock Resort, was optimistic the new services’ impact would be felt across the property’s five hotels.
“They are being quite aggressive in their marketing and pricing so we think that’s going to be very helpful,” he said, predicting any uplift will not be confined to its lower and mid-market offerings.
“As we’ve seen in Europe, a lot that people that have money to spend still go to a destination with a low cost carrier and then spend more on hotels or activities.”
While the resort finished the 2012/13 financial year one percentage point lower than the previous year, Klein stressed that was a strong performance in the face of declining tourism numbers to the region.
"Visitation to Uluru dropped over 10% in 2012/13 so, relatively, we did extraordinarily well,” he said.