Citing a fall in tourism numbers to Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park over the past decade, the government and traditional owners are now inviting proposals for new developments in the area.
With numbers having dipped by 20 per cent from 2004 to 2014, National Parks director Sally Barnes has said that just about any idea that attracts more visitors will be considered.
“It could be people who want to do day trips, it could be people who are interested in accommodation, it could be people who want to have food or beverage.”
Barnes also acknowledged the World Heritage status of the area and the necessary limitations that it would place on potential developments, before going on to say that the expressions of interest are being sought internationally as well as locally.
“We’re marketing this globally, so we’re doing some targeted promotion globally … we’re doing some local promotion,” she said.
While the government has identified economic factors as being the principle driver of decline in visitor numbers over the past ten years – roundly blaming the GFC – it’s likely to be a more complicated set of variables causing the fluctuations.
Visitation seems to have peaked around the turn of the millennium, likely as a result of tourism generated by the Sydney Olympics. At that time, annual visitor numbers around 400,000. Since then, that figure continued to drop until 2012 when it bottomed out at around 250,000.
Since that time, numbers have begun to look a little more positive, with 279,000 visiting the park in 2014 – a fact that the government sees as a sign that it’s time for investment.
The concept has the support of the land’s traditional owners, the Anangu people, with their chairman Sammy Wilson saying: “This place has very important culture for us, it has great significance, and the more people understand about that the more they can respect and help us protect its values as well as the environmental values of the wildlife here.”
Expressions of interest will be sought until the 30th of September.