19 Apr 2019
Words ResortBrokers Informer Issue 93
Expect to hear a lot about the territory this year. Australia’s dynamic northern region, with its diversified economy, unique characteristics and rich potential, must be considered a compelling tourism investment opportunity.
Maverick, audacious, unconventional. These are characteristics long attributed to our Northern Territory and its inhabitants. And they don’t shy away from such descriptions.
In fact, they’ve embraced them in a bold brand that proudly declares ‘The Territory – Boundless Possible’. This is a place, they say, where anything is possible, a place that attracts and nurtures ambitious entrepreneurs, where thinking big is encouraged and enterprise supported.
It’s also a strategic market for tourism investment, with a well-established reputation as a travel destination, a robust domestic tourism market, and a location closer than any other Australian capital city to the fast-growing markets of Asia.
Recent accommodation property transactions, including the off-market sale of Knotts Crossing Resort in Katherine and Delaware North’s $188 million purchase of SkyCity Darwin Casino, indicate a movement of tourism investment dollars to the Territory.
Now construction of The Westin Darwin Hotel is underway, overlooking Darwin Harbour and adjoining the CBD, providing a significant boost for the tourism industry as a major drawcard for high-end business and leisure visitors.
Consider this. The capital Darwin is as close to Singapore and Manila as it is to Sydney and Melbourne. Eight national capitals, 36 trading ports, 69 international airports and nearly half a billion people are within five hours’ flight of Darwin.
Lonely Planet has named The Territory on its ‘Best in Travel 2019’ list at #4 among the world’s best regions to visit. And why wouldn’t they? The NT spans about 1.35 million square kilometres, more than six times the size of the United Kingdom.
It promises iconic destinations such as Uluru, Kakadu, Kings Canyon, Nitmiluk (Katherine) Gorge and Karlu Karlu (Devils Marbles). Diverse landscapes, waterfalls, wide open spaces, Aboriginal culture and unique wildlife enchant visitors who come to immerse themselves in the natural wonder.
The Territory’s economy is diversified across agribusiness, oil and gas, mining, renewables, international education and tourism, a clear economic pillar.
Visitor data from Tourism NT and Tourism Research Australia (YE Sept 2018) shows the Territory attracted more than 1.8 million visitors who stayed more than 13.2 million visitor nights and spent well over $1.8 billion.
Domestic holiday visitation to the NT in the period was up 13% to 657,000 visitors, the highest level recorded by the National Visitor Survey since in began in 1998.
So why wouldn’t investors too be inspired by the scale of opportunity and richness of possibilities? It can be argued, there is no better time than now to discover and commercialise untapped resources, build infrastructure, grow tourism and expand facilities across the many sectors that drive this burgeoning economy.
Two major government initiatives are supporting that contention: a $103 million NT Government funding package to drive tourism growth and an historic $200 million City Deal for Darwin.
‘Turbocharging Tourism’ underscores the Territory government’s commitment to tourism as a vital economic driver. It is now more than two thirds of the way to achieving its target of 53,000 extra holiday visitors.
“Turbocharging Tourism marketing initiatives have already delivered more than 43,806 holiday bookings with a projected $54.4 million in extra visitor expenditure,” said Minister for Tourism and Culture, Lauren Moss.
This was backed by Tourism NT board member, Mick Burns, who added, “It’s great to see this initiative already delivering positive results. While Turbocharging Tourism was designed as an immediate stimulus package, we are also seeing longer term benefits with new airline services coming on.”
SilkAir has added services to offer daily non-stop flights between Darwin and Singapore. Darwin is now connected with Australia’s fastest growing inbound market, China, with Donghai non-stop services to Shenzhen.
The initiative included an extra $26.5 million for marketing over two years, allowing Tourism NT to deliver some 150 targeted campaigns into key national and international visitor markets in 2018-19, compared to 121 in 2016-17.
These campaigns are being rolled out with key distribution partners such as airlines and holiday agents, including Qantas, Virgin Australia, Jetstar and Tigerair.
$56.24 million is included for new and upgraded infrastructure, with seven significant projects across the Territory enhancing the visitor experience parks and reserves. Additionally, one of Australia’s natural and cultural icons, Kakadu National Park, has received a Federal government commitment of up to $220 million for upgrades supported by a further $135 million from the Territory government.
Arts & events
An additional $20.78 million has also been invested in festivals, events and other tourism experiences, cementing the Territory’s reputation as a vibrant and exciting place.
Record numbers visited the 2018 Darwin Festival, and 34 business events and conferences have been confirmed, mostly to be staged in 2019, bringing a forecast 10,600 business delegates and a return of $25.5 million in estimated visitor expenditure.
Event highlights across the Territory in 2018 included the Triple Crown Supercars and Bassinthgrass music festival in Darwin, Parrtjima 2018 light festival and Red CentreNATS in Alice Springs.
This year will see more exciting initiatives rolled out: a series of Territory Tribute military events, the opening of a $9.9m visitor and event centre at the George Brown Darwin Botanic Gardens, upgrades to facilities in Litchfield and Nitmiluk National Parks, and new visitor facilities at Tennant Creek and Hermannsburg.
A ‘turbocharged’ Territory Arts Trail campaign invests in cultural attractions, cleverly promoting the NT as ‘the world’s biggest art gallery’.
“The world’s biggest art gallery isn’t in New York or Paris, its right here,” said Minister Moss. “The Territory is a living, growing exhibition more than 65,000 years in the making.”
Another major boost for the economy was the signing late last year by all levels of government of an historic $200 million City Deal to cement Darwin’s future.
The revitalisation of Darwin is a key catalyst to tourism investment. Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the deal would boost the local economy, create jobs and support the growth of local small businesses.
“Darwin is already a great place to live and work and our investment in long-term infrastructure will ensure it remains such an attractive destination. The Darwin City Deal builds on our Government’s ongoing commitment to develop northern Australia and infrastructure investments in the Northern Territory which now total more than $1.5 billion.”
Chief Minister of the Territory, Michael Gunner, said the significant investments by governments in Darwin through the Deal would create jobs for Territorians and encourage further private investment in the city.
“We have already commenced work to revitalise the CBD with our $100 million investment. The City Deal is a recognition of Darwin’s status as the capital of Northern Australia, and as an attractive place to live, work and invest.”
Impetus to thrive
The $200 million investment will support a raft of initiatives including the creation of a new education and civic precinct, construction of a new Art Gallery in State Square, and transformation of public spaces in the CBD to create cooler, greener streetscapes.
It is estimated the planned new city campus for Charles Darwin University could increase economic output in the Darwin region by more than $250 million over the next 15 years.
“We want to see Darwin thrive and initiatives like the new education precinct will mean an influx of students in the city centre, boosting demand for cafes, restaurants, bars and retail stores,” said Minister for Cities, Urban Infrastructure and Population, Alan Tudge.
The Territory is an open and friendly place with a unique Australian character and a vibrant multicultural community. Its diverse economy does indeed offer, as they proclaim, boundless possibility.
It has significant mineral and energy resources, much of which is yet to be explored. Agricultural products such as meat, seafood, fruit, vegetables, crops, forestry and ornamental plants are also attracting investment attention. The potential commercial benefit from native flora and fauna, food and medicines is also essentially untapped in a natural environment that’s largely undeveloped.
Economic activity across these diverse sectors, on top of the significant direct tourism-related investment, signals opportunities in a range of areas, and certainly in the accommodation and hospitality sectors.
Exciting trends are evident in the STR tourism accommodation performance data for the year ended September 2018. Growth was recorded across virtually all the metrics in both Darwin and Alice Springs.
TOURIST ACCOMMODATION YE SEPTEMBER 2018
Demand room nights (000s)
Source: STR / Tourism NT
For more information, visit theterritory.com.au