A Northern Territory Government-run tourist attraction, Window on the Wetlands on the edge of Kakadu National Park, will close from January 1, 2021, after declining visitor numbers.
- The NT Government said the Windows on the Wetlands was a declining attraction that had to be shut
- Private investors will be invited to purchase the attraction and run it as a private business
- The NT Opposition said the decision was ‘nonsensical’ given the impact of COVID on tourism
Window on the Wetlands is located on the top of the highest point on the Adelaide River floodplain and offers 270-degree views of Kakadu wetland areas.
It also offers visitors detailed information into local wildlife and Aboriginal history.
A spokesperson from the Department of Environment, Parks and Water Security said the site was being closed because it “continues to decline.”
“Visitation continues to decline and tourism operators have been notified about the closure,” they said.
“The site is aging and it is mostly used as a toilet stop for coach tours accessing Kakadu National Park.
“The Government is working to secure private investment to establish an alternative business at the centre to enhance the visitor experience.”
“[But] while private investment options are fully developed and considered, the centre is required to close to meet savings targets.”
The spokesperson said if a private investor were found then the centre could re-open next year.
Closure criticised as ‘nonsensical’ by NT Opposition
The centre’s closure comes amid a push by the Government to revitalise tourism in a post-COVID world, including a $400,000 advertising campaign aimed at European tourists.
Before the coronavirus pandemic, around 250,000 international tourists visited the NT each year.
Gerard Maley, Deputy Leader of the NT Opposition, said the closure was a mistake because a lot of the visitors coming into the NT amid the pandemic were interstate tourists, who would likely be on road-trips.
“None of this makes sense. Closing the [centre] is short-sighted and is a blow to tourism operators and locals alike,” he said.
“Particularly in a year when drive tourism will be extremely high due to COVID.”
Mr Maley said another argument in favour of keeping the attraction running was that it could stay open during the Top End wet season, unlike many other tourism operations.
“Unlike other tourism opportunities that may be closed in the wet season or inaccessible, Windows on the Wetlands is only 60km from Darwin and serves as an attraction and waypoint for visitors to Djukbinj National Park, Humpty Doo and Marrakai,” Mr Maley said.
Traditional owner disappointed by news
Larrakia and Wulna man Nigel Browne, who runs the Larrakia Development Corporation, said he only heard the news when listening to ABC Radio Darwin this morning.
“Yeah, look, it’s disappointing,” Mr Browne said.
He said the high cost of running the attraction was a relevant issue, but he said it was unfair to cite falling visitor numbers as a reason for closure.
“In a year which has seen tourism numbers fall left, right and centre, it’s probably to my mind a bit harsh to cite tourism numbers as one of the reasons.”
“I think if it’s something that can be resurrected, then all efforts should be made to see that happen,” he said.