Ayers Rock Resort needs a corporate hero

In Australian Cultural Exports, Australian Domestic Tourism, Government, Harmonisation, National Headlines, Northern Territory, Transport

From NewsLimited (TheAustralian.com.au, news.com.au)

LONG-STANDING clients of the Ayers Rock Resort fear any deterioration in service resulting from boardroom turmoil at the complex will damage the nation’s $94 billion tourism industry.

One global tourist operator said international and domestic inquiries for Uluru has been slowing since October, when the owner of the resort, the Indigenous Land Corporation, abruptly sacked the high-powered board of the complex manager Voyages Indigenous Tourism Australia.

ILC chairwoman Dawn Casey cited a $62 million writedown in the value of the resort as Tourism Australia chairman Geoff Dixon, Investec Bank chairman Richard Longes and property executive Peter Barge were forced off the Voyages board.

Another tour company, AOT Group, which has sent up to 12,000 tourists to the Ayers Rock Resort each year since 2005, warned that if tourist demand for Uluru dropped, it would start a downward spiral that would be a disaster not only for Uluru but also for the whole industry.

“If demand falls, flight capacity is cut, profitability diminishes and visitor experiences deteriorate more, this is just a downward spiral,” said AOT chief executive Andrew Burnes. “Avoiding that happening is critical. The resort is an incredibly important bit of infrastructure. While there might be issues around how much was paid for it ($320m), the most important thing is the visitor experience is maintained.”

The ILC is advertising for a new chief executive to replace Koos Klein, who resigned following the board clean-out.

“Candidates will need to be commercially savvy, politically astute, with the demonstrated ability to deliver results in a financially constrained environment,” according to the job advertisement from agency Watermark Search International. Mr Burnes, a former chairman of the Tourism Export Council, yesterday warned if service at the resort slipped and flights were cut, there would be a “real catch-22 in terms of revenue and profitability”.

He is also concerned Virgin is considering reducing flights to Uluru if tourist demand falls. Since Voyages took over managing the resort on behalf of the ILC, the number of indigenous staff has jumped from two to at least 220, with the resort now a showcase for indigenous employment.

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