NT gov bails on Kakadu’s Window to the Wetlands

In Attractions, Business Resources, Government, Media and Communications, Momentum, Northern Territory, Tourism Routes

Instead of installing an operator to run the site cheaply, the NT government has aborted a basic facility in Kakadu National Park.

It’s little wonder visitation was low pre-Covid – check out this brochure from nt.gov.au. (If the link doesn’t work, view/ download the PDF here: window-on-the-wetlands.) It doesn’t even have a photo of the spectacular views, and the website at the bottom is mostly for booking accomodation, of which there is none at the site.

The NT Government has to take responsibility for its internal marketing operations, which, if not updated, allows kitschy, almost useless brochures to go unused, with predictable consequences for the territory’s attractions and operators.

Not only would this marketing material be the one tourism operators are likely to see from overseas (or now interstate), but it’s also the best indication to potential investors of the kind of high-end digital marketing support they can expect – i.e., none.

The Tourism News, 5th Jan 2020

NT Kakadu wetlands tourism site to close, as visitor numbers decline

From abc.net.au, 31st December 2020
Fogg Dam drone shot shows lush green wetlands.
The Top End is home to spectacular wetlands, including those pictured here at Fogg Dam.(ABC News: Michael Franchi)

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.

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.


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