Local News

Hopes for a bumper dry season across the Northern Territory dampened by COVID-19 lockdowns

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Hopes for a bumper dry season have been dampened for hospitality and tourism operators in the Northern Territory with the country’s major cities in lockdown.

In a typical year the NT would attract 2 million visitors but travellers in Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide have been shut out battling COVID-19 outbreaks.

CEO Alex Bruce says it is another blow for local operators that are reliant on interstate travellers due to international border closures.

“The domestic market was really strong, we were on track for an absolute bumper year this year - best in five years, that was five weeks ago, and it’s completely turned on its head,” Mr Bruce says.

“We now have occupancy rates going forward in what is normally our peak dry season that are the worst they’ve been in five years.”

“Already we’re seeing hundreds of cancellations out of Adelaide, thousands of cancellations out of Melbourne and Sydney.”

Terrible timing

Mr Bruce says the lockdowns could not have come at a worse time.

“We’ve got the Cup Carnival in full swing and we’re looking forward to the Darwin Festival, Sydney’s locked out off into the never never, we’re really hoping that South Australia and Victorians can come and rejoin us as quickly as possible,” he says.

“Traditionally the Cup Carnival has been a big drawcard for domestic travellers and we know the Darwin Festival has been growing from strength to strength as well.”

“They are the two key signature dry season events, there’s many many great events that are put on and unfortunately we are now hearing about cancellations of music festivals and all the rest of it.”

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Seasonal challenges

In addition to the losses at major events, the Territory’s climate and weather patterns are expected to further impact the economic fallout for local operators.

“It’s really quite disadvantageous for all of Northern Australia that the lockdowns are happening now and they’ll be lifted as we gear down our season as the southern markets get used to their big summers,” Mr Bruce says.

With operators already reporting losses of up to 30 per cent, business groups are pushing for support for the tourism and hospitality sector nationwide.

“Not just in lockdown areas, given how reliant we all are on domestic travellers right now,” Mr Bruce says.

Hospitality NT is also calling on the NT Government to bring forward the round of Territory Tourism vouchers that were earmarked for the wet season.

Mr Bruce says there should also be travel incentives for those in Queensland and Western Australia, which could be driven by the NT’s tourism bodies.

“You know camel rides, scenic helicopter flights, barra fishing tours...food and accommodation packages...we’re keen to see incentives pushed through those channels if we can for locals and those remaining safe domestic travel markets.”

(Photos: Main - Darwin Turf Club via Facebook, Middle - Darwin Festival byNicholas Gouldhurst)