The Northern Territory has a long established reputation as a unique tourism destination centred around its extraordinary natural landscapes and rich Indigenous culture.
The capital city of Darwin, situated on the doorstep to Asia, is Australia’s second fastest growing capital city. Just two hours drive from Darwin is the internationally renowned Kakadu National Park, World Heritage listed for both its unique natural environment and its living aboriginal culture.
At the physical heart of Australia and framed by the picturesque MacDonnell Ranges is Alice Springs, a modern outback town with a convention centre, casino and over 1000 hotel rooms,1 just three hours flying time from most major ports. West of Alice Springs, and directly accessible by air through the resort town of Yulara, is undoubtedly Australia’s most famous icon Uluru (Ayers Rock). The region, which houses the World Heritage listed Uluru Kata Tjuta National Park, attracts 432,000 visitors annually.2
The Northern Territory is experiencing solid growth in business visitor numbers responding to the Territory’s strong performing economy, and visits by leisure tourists to central Australia continue to grow. Located in close proximity to the fastest growing outbound travel market in the world, the Northern Territory is advantageously located to capture the Asian tourism market.
The Northern Territory Government is investing over $100 million in tourism marketing and infrastructure in 2016-2017. The aim is to expand the tourism economy to $2.2 billion by 2020 through collaborative efforts across industry and government. Pivotal to this success is investment in new and enhanced tourism experiences. Recent highly successful investments, such as Baillee Lodges’ investment in the luxury accommodation property, Longitude 131 at Uluru and the Royal Flying Doctor Service’s Bombing of Darwin Harbour attraction at Stokes Hill Wharf, highlight the potential of the Northern Territory’s unique appeal.
Visitor numbers to Northern Territory 2013-163*
Purpose of visit to Northern Territory (FY2015-16)4*
Each year around 1.7 million visitors travel to the Northern Territory for one or more nights. Their purpose of visit is summarised in the pie chart above. It should be noted that there are distinct differences in the visitor markets for the Top End of the Northern Territory versus that of Central Australia.5
The Northern Territory is a well-established business events destination attracting events from a range of key industries including defence, health and mining. In 2016 the Territory’s business events sector is estimated to generate more than 44,000 accommodation room nights and attract over 17,000 visitors to the Territory, contributing over $43.3 million to the Darwin and Northern Territory economy.6 In 2015, the Darwin Convention Centre, a centrepiece of the Darwin Waterfront precinct, hosted over 170 conventions and events attracting 10,000 delegates nationally and internationally. In the nine years to 1 July 2016 the convention centre has generated an estimated $354 million in economic benefits to the Northern Territory.
Other sectors, such as cruise shipping, are also significantly growing in size with 45 cruise ships visiting Darwin in 2015-16, our largest year on record.
Thanks to its proximity to Asia and the myriad of natural and outdoor attractions of the Northern Territory, substantial scope exists to market unique special interest tourism experiences to the region's growing middle classes. This demographic is also growing worldwide, and the Northern Territory is well placed to capitalise ahead of traditional destinations like Africa and South America.
With substantial growth expected in the numbers of tourists from Greater China (China, Hong Kong and Taiwan) visiting Australia over the next decade, the Northern Territory Government is committed to increasing interest of travel to the Northern Territory. The Northern Territory Government recognises this long term growth opportunity and is working with the Chinese market to develop stronger links, promote local tourism experiences, aviation access and flight connections from China.
Advantages that set the Northern Territory apart
- Area of outstanding natural beauty with a global reputation.
- Home to two of Australia’s most famous World Heritage tourist attractions, Uluru and Kakadu National Park.
- Pristine coastline and outstanding inland aquatic experiences.
- Diverse wildlife with opportunities for safe interaction.
- Panoramic open spaces under a clear, expansive sky.
- A cosmopolitan capital city close to key Asian markets with an array of markets offering a wide variety of cuisines.
- Enormous potential to capture outbound Chinese tourist market.
- Unique opportunity to see and experience Australian Aboriginal culture.
- Diverse range of small to large scale investment opportunities in tourism projects.
- Opportunities for greenfield development of high quality accommodation and tourism facilities.
Opportunities for investors
Strategically positioned close to Asia, the Northern Territory is a competitive destination for investors looking to expand their tourism portfolio into growing Asian markets. Opportunities exist in urban areas like Darwin that offer easy access to spectacular coastal settings, as well as in inland areas with excellent access to beautiful and impressive landscapes.
Lee Point Urban Coastal Tourism Development Opportunity
The Northern Territory Government is looking to work with the private sector to develop the Lee Point area to include high quality tourism accommodation facilities in a main street format, with attractive view lines along the coast and to the sea. This prime, underdeveloped coast line is located just 14kms from Darwin CBD, bounded by Casuarina Coastal Reserve, and is highly accessible to Darwin International Airport, Charles Darwin University, Royal Darwin Hospital and Casuarina Shopping Centre.
Regional nature based tourist facilities
Experiential accommodation lodges and attractions are gaining popularity with an increasingly sophisticated tourist market developing in Asia. The Northern Territory offers unique locations which will fascinate the enquiring traveller; such as the Red Mallee investment opportunity to create a luxury, nature-based resort atop a ridge at the apex of two gorges, overlooking the spectacular Palm Valley catchment in Central Australia. The government will work closely with investors to facilitate access to these sites for construction of bespoke tourism accommodation and attractions.
As Australia’s northernmost capital and within five hours flight time of 400 million people in Asia, Darwin is positioned to become the nation’s northern aviation gateway to Asia and the world.
The terminal at Darwin International Airport is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, catering to both international and domestic flights. A $60 million upgrade has doubled its capacity to service future growth and the opening of the ‘Catalina’ international lounge in September 2016 has improved services and appeal for full service international airline partners. In 2015-16, 2.04 million passengers passed through its doors.7 This number is forecast to grow to 4.1 million passengers annually by 2029, with combined aircraft movements anticipated to increase to 103,800 per annum.8
Darwin Waterfront case study
With the relocation of industrial activities to the East Arm Wharf in 2003, the 25 hectare former industrial port land on the Darwin CBD peninsula became available, providing a unique opportunity for significant urban renewal and enhancement of the city as a place to visit, work and play.
In 2003, the Northern Territory Government investigated the demand for, and economic benefits of, a convention centre and potential models for financing a centre. In a growing convention and exhibition sector, demand was found to exist that would deliver a strong economic boost to tourism and business.
The Darwin Convention Centre provided the opportunity to develop a complementary master plan including hotels, generous public open spaces, large recreation lagoon and wave pool, mixed use retail and commercial space, a university School of Business, public art, a sky bridge connection to the CBD, cruise ship terminal, and up to 1,500 waterfront residential apartments.
The convention centre is being delivered under a Public Private Partnership (PPP) structure, as a 25 year build-own-operate-transfer arrangement.
Today the Darwin Waterfront is the premier destination for business and recreational tourists and locals, home to a growing residential population and vibrant retail and dining offerings.
The convention centre has hosted over 80,000 national and international delegates, and generated an estimated $341 million in economic benefit. In 2015-16, over one million visitors were attracted to the Darwin Waterfront.
Completion of the Charles Darwin University School of Business in 2014 brings additional energy to the Waterfront precinct.
Creating the remarkable
The Darwin Waterfront development has been a remarkable success as a partnership between government and private developers. With the completion of Stage 2a of the project, including the Charles Darwin University campus, a new development agreement has been struck between the Landbridge Group and government to develop a 5 star Westin Resort on a 2.9ha parcel of Waterfront land. This $250 million development will redefine luxury and corporate accommodation in the Darwin market and will reinforce the Darwin Waterfront’s position as the Top End’s premiere place to live, visit, dine and stay.
1. Tourism NT, Alice Springs Monthly Accommodation Report July 2016, data sourced from STR Global.
2. Tourism NT, Quickstats Report: Year Ending June 2016, derived from Tourism Research Australia’s NVS and IVS June 2016.
3. Derived by Tourism NT from Tourism Research Australia, NVS and IVS June 2016.
4. Derived by Tourism NT from Tourism Research Australia, NVS and IVS June 2016.
5. Further information is available at www.tourism.com.au/research
6. Estimates are derived from bookings monitored by Tourism NT and are not a census of all business events in the Northern Territory.
7. “Monthly Airport Traffic Data for top twenty airports: January 2009 to current”, The Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics (BITRE), Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development. bitre.gov.au/publications/ongoing/airport_traffic_data.aspx, accessed 05/09/2016.
8. Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics (BITRE), 2010, Report 117: Airport movements through capital city airports to 2029–30, Canberra ACT, bitre.gov.au/publications/2010/report_117.aspx, accessed 05/09/2016
* Figures in this chart may not total 100% due to rounding.