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Joint Standing Committee on Northern Australia
Opportunities and methods for stimulating the tourism industry in Northern Australia

SCHWER, Mr Stephen, Chief Executive Officer, Tourism Central Australia


CHAIR: These hearings are a formal proceeding of the parliament and the giving of false or misleading evidence is a serious matter that may be regarded as a contempt of the parliament. As I indicated, the proceedings are being recorded by Hansard and attract parliamentary privilege. I am going to invite you to make a brief opening statement. There are some questions that your local member is going to fire off to you that you might have some answers to, so please go ahead.

Mr Schwer : Thank you very much for coming to Alice Springs. I really appreciate it. A lot of what you would have seen in my submission and a lot of what I have to talk about this morning is probably groundhog day for you because you will have heard it from a number of other sources; indeed, I am going to touch on some of the things that the mayor just touched on because they are very important issues. The sealing of the Outback Way is a big one as well as the airlines and airline routes. I suppose when I am talking about those two items I am really talking about access—access, access, access. Any regional area that I have ever worked in, in tourism, the greater the access the more visitor numbers that will come in, so that access is very, very important.

One of the benefits of this region and of the Northern Territory and Northern Australia in general is that people see it as the real Australia. There is an emotional connection that people have, even if they have not been to this area, so because of that people want to come here. Cost of access and ability to access then become the key issue. Obviously the access is big but it is not just the road and air access; it is also access to telecommunications. As the mayor just mentioned, it is simply an expectation these days that people have the ability to make a phone call, access their social media accounts, access their emails if they are travelling for work, access any data that they need and access any mobile reception along their trip. Unfortunately we are at a disadvantage when it comes to that access and—not for a lot, if you look at some of the TripAdvisor reviews and those kinds of things—people get quite frustrated with the lack of ability to connect when they come to this area. There is a project that has been rolled out by the Northern Territory government, which is a fantastic one. That is having wi-fi spots in some high traffic areas, which has shown some incredible usage. That is the kind of thing that I would love to see continue to be rolled out in more and more sites across the area.

Mr SNOWDON: Can you just expand on that and give us some examples please?

Mr Schwer : Sites, for example, such as Karlu Karlu, Kings Canyon in Watarrka National Park have some wi-fi hotspots where people are able to sit down, share what they have been doing, catch up on some emails and things like that from home, but obviously from a tourism point of view it is really good marketing value for us. They are able to share their images and promote what they have just seen and what they have just experienced. That is wonderful and more of those sites would be really handy because people really love using them.

Mr SNOWDON: Do you know what technology they are using?

Mr Schwer : I think that is on Sky Muster. It is about to be on Sky Muster, so satellite technology.

Mr SNOWDON: And there are Telstra hotspots or telephone hotspots which have been put in place?

Mr Schwer : There are some and some Optus sites as well.

Mr SNOWDON: But this is technology which has been developed by the Centre of Appropriate Technology.

Mr Schwer : Yes. Those dishes are also another good one, especially in emergency situations. Those are very good sites on roadside rest areas and those kinds of places where you can put your phone where the dish is focused and get a couple of bars. That is really a great one as well.

Mr SNOWDON: How widely are they spread out?

Mr Schwer : It is about every 300 kilometres or so. The CAT ones are a fairly focused area in and around Alice Springs and further south and north along the Stuart Highway, but the wi-fi hotspots are throughout the territory.

Mr SNOWDON: Keep going. I am sorry; I did not mean to interrupt.

Mr Schwer : The other thing that I have to mention is the 300 gig download allowance that businesses have from Sky Muster. That is a bit of a restriction on business. If you think about a lot of the properties that are opening up in agritourism initiatives—they might have a mixture of cattle, some kind of farming or agriculture enterprise as well as tourism coming into their site—to run that business, both the agricultural side and the tourism side, to provide their staff with access to data and to provide the travellers coming to their site with access to data, 300 gig is chewed up in no time at all. When you are only on 300 gig a month, when Sky Muster I and II are fully online, it is still not enough for people to be able to access, especially when they are running multiple businesses from one site. You might even have a roadhouse attached to that which adds a whole new range of complexities if you are running a point-of-sale system, your booking system and all sorts of things. If you are running your books, plus all your staff, plus the travellers, 300 gig needs to be looked at. One of the other issues—

Mr SNOWDON: What is a figure?

Mr Schwer : I would love to say unlimited. I know that is impossible but more is always better and more and more and more because, let us face it, there will be no time when data usage is going to shrink. It is just going to get bigger so more is more is more. I would love to say a doubling of that would be great but there are still a few businesses that I work with where that would not even come close. Doubling would at least relieve some of the restrictions that they have.

Visas and taxation—once again, you have probably heard this a fair bit. One of the areas where we are seeing a decline in visitation is the international youth market. Now, we rely on international youth for both income through tourism receipts in the region but also as staff, so it is a bit of a double whammy when we have restrictions—which is effectively what visas are—being placed on people's ability to work and travel through remote Australia. Now, I understand that that policy is not going to change, from my conversations with a number of ministers; however, if that is the case what we need to do is, therefore, introduce, revamp or expand existing employment and training initiatives so that we can train up for the future the people that we need. So, for example, Indigenous workforce participation; I would love to see a stronger Indigenous workforce in and around Alice Springs. There are some really interesting things happening down at the rock and I would love to see those kinds of programs roll out through Alice Springs and other parts throughout Northern Australia. They are seeing some success down there.

I think what needs to be recognised from that is it is a long-term commitment. It is not an overnight solution; it is not a political cycle solution; it is a 10- to 20-year commitment to really make a big difference. Given what has happened down at the rock you can start to see the results and what that commitment can produce, so I would love to see those kinds of programs opened up into Alice Springs for local businesses to access as well and we, as a regional tourism organisation, would always be interested in helping that along.

The final thing I wanted to mention was the National Indigenous Cultural Centre and the National Indigenous Art Gallery. It is a game changer. It is an absolute game changer. It must happen. I would love to see some federal money put towards that and I am sure the Northern Territory government will be approaching the federal government at some point, if they have not already. That is a project that is not just a game changer for Alice Springs; this is a game changer for all of Northern Australia. There will be significant interest in this gallery once it is developed and I believe that will bring in a lot of cultural travellers from outback Queensland, outback Western Australia and up and through outback New South Wales as well. It will pull those people. So, I think that one is a massive game changer for this region and I really want to see it happen.

CHAIR: How far have you progressed on that?

Mr Schwer : I would not say that I have progressed. Unfortunately our organisation has not been given the opportunity to be on the steering committee, which is something that we are still in discussion with the Northern Territory government about; however, I believe that they are looking at sites. I am only privy to what the media releases have been from the Northern Territory government.

CHAIR: There have been a number of interests expressed to us and very conflicting views as to where a national museum or centre should be located. Of course you are certainly a contender here but there have been a number of others right across, including places like Canberra.

Mr Schwer : That is the thing. Canberra and Sydney, over the years, have always had their hands up. My argument against that, having worked in regional tourism for a number of years, is simply dispersal. If we are looking for greater dispersal around Australia we need to have greater attractions around remote and regional Australia. I think the MONA effect is a good example of how that can work, where a very generous, shall we say, philanthropic character has built a museum at his own expense but because of that the whole of the Tasmanian tourism economy has completely shifted in a very positive way. Another example of that you can see in the Australian Age of Dinosaurs at Winton. Some of these types of game-changing projects have the ability to disperse people further and I think that is what we need across Australia.

CHAIR: I asked that question because I know Tjapukai. That is one that has been talked about for a long time and then there is an argument that the rainforest and the reef does not represent the desert. I agree with you. I think that something has to happen and I would suggest that there would be arguments up into Western Australia as to where it should happen as well, but it would be nice to get a consensus, or whether you have several arms of it that represent different geographical regions.

Mr Schwer : Absolutely. There is the opportunity to link those kinds of developments throughout; however, if we are talking about something that has the ability to capture the imagination of travellers—because remember that a lot of tourism is about perception and marketing feeding into that perception—if you are wanting to capture the imagination of travellers, Alice Springs is one of the places that definitely does that.

CHAIR: I know but I just know from my own personal experience that there has been a fair bit of—

Mr SNOWDON: I think the difference here is that there is $100 million on the table.

Mr Schwer : Yes. Cash on the table always helps. I am more than happy to answer any questions.

Senator DODSON: What percentage or numbers of the tourism operators are Indigenous?

Mr Schwer : In this region, I must admit, without knowing the exact numbers of what you would identify as tourism operators, because it depends; some people will classify retail in or out, food and beverage in or out and so on. I would not know the exact percentage. I would have to take that on notice. However, we have quite a number, but it is always an area of improvement. That is something that I would like to see grow.

Senator DODSON: What is being done to improve it?

Mr Schwer : You might want to also pose that question to the Northern Territory government because they have an Aboriginal Tourism Advisory Council that works with Tourism Northern Territory to develop those kinds of initiatives. The Department of Business also has a number of initiatives to work with Indigenous operators. From my organisation's perspective, which is an industry body and a marketing body, we work with them on a whole range of different things. It might be upskilling in digital areas, so helping them with their digital capacity. It might be with connecting them to market, so giving them assistance with their bookability or various parts of their business that they can market more. It also includes some business planning and marketing planning.

Senator DODSON: Do you have numbers around that in terms of the Indigenous operators?

Mr Schwer : No, I do not specifically. As I said, that would be one I would have to take on notice. I could provide that but I just do not have it with me at the moment.

Senator DODSON: We heard the other day that there is a fairly large transport company that has no Indigenous drivers. It is a fairly large company and yet they have an explanatory commentary by the drivers on the Aboriginal spirituality or the cultural landscape. I am just wondering if part of the aspiration is to encounter Indigenous culture and practice, with very few Indigenous people in the industry. How is this projected?

Mr Schwer : I must admit that I would not say 'very few' because there are quite a number of Indigenous operators in the region. One of the ways of countering that is, for example, down at Kata Tjuta National Park. There is specific accreditation that every single tour guide must undertake before they are allowed to take people on country and that is in consultation with the Anangu. They are the ones who advise the training organisation on elements of their culture that are allowed to be interpreted versus those that are not and the ones that need to be kept quiet by tour guides. That is actually accreditation that people must have when they go on country there.

It is difficult from a tour operator point of view with that kind of set-up because there is quite a high turnover of tour guides, so that is quite a significant cost for the tour operators but they do wear that down there because they understand the importance of it and the sensitivities around it. So there are ways of accessing training. We also have some organisations around Alice Springs that offer cultural awareness training and a lot of those people give it to tourism industry organisations. That is another way of circumventing that.

You are right. The best way is to have employees. It depends on the organisation and what they are looking for. It is really around skills and experience. It is finding people with skills and experience. That is why, for example, my organisation has an Indigenous trainee position that unfortunately is unfilled at the moment and has been unfilled for the last three months because we just cannot find anyone at the moment. Unfortunately that is a position that in the last 12 months has turned over three times. So we are certainly trying to do that ourselves as a leader for industry but we have found difficulty in that area. I am sure that there are other businesses who do as well, but it all comes back to that ability to provide skills and training.

Senator DODSON: Whose responsibility is that? Is it a shared responsibility between industry and government?

Mr Schwer : I think it is a shared responsibility. I really do. We, as an industry, need to have these kinds of positions available and look at training as well as the funding of that training being able to come through. Obviously education and vocational education and training come under government responsibility, both state and federal, in terms of funding from federal to administration by state and territories. So I would like to see those kinds of programs expanded because, as I said, if you have a look at the programs which are going down at the rock, which have been committed to for a long time, there are some really good outcomes happening down there and I would like to see that happening around Alice Springs as well.

Senator DODSON: Our focus is on Northern Australia and this is part of it. There are a lot of other Indigenous groups around apart from those at Uluru-Kata Tjuta and whether the government is doing enough to help sustain this or promote it or to increase the opportunities is what we are really interested in.

Mr Schwer : Certainly. If you are talking about the federal government, the Indigenous Tourism Champions program used to be funded but when Tourism Australia was directed by the federal government to move out of all infrastructure product and experience development and remove all domestic responsibilities and only focus on international marketing that program was dropped. The National Landscapes program was another program that Tourism Australia had responsibility for and we were getting some excellent Indigenous experience development out of that program. It was dropped. If you are talking about that kind of development, those two programs did more, in my experience, for Indigenous tourism development than I have ever seen, but unfortunately priorities shifted.

Senator DODSON: It is good for us to know that because I think we have heard similar comments in relation to that. Thank you.

Senator McCARTHY: I have just been looking through your strategic plan as well and, having been down at Yulara just recently, you focus there as well on increasing red centre information at Yulara. Can you share with the committee what your concerns are there?

Mr Schwer : Yes. In terms of domestic visitation, for people who come into Alice Springs first they have a 70 per cent likelihood of further dispersal throughout the Northern Territory. For those who start off with the Yulara area first they have a 54 per cent chance of dispersal around the region. So, when you look at those figures we know that there is a significant interest obviously in the Yulara area with the cultural and environmental beauty and richness of that area, but the problem is people who are going to that area are not dispersing as far as they would if they came into somewhere like Alice Springs.

Senator McCARTHY: Is it a lack of information?

Mr Schwer : Exactly right. We have an excellent organisation in Voyages; however, of course they are operating as their own organisation and have a monopoly on the area and, because of that, they are obviously wanting to keep people doing their activities. Now, as a region wide organisation I would like to see further dispersal. I think one of the solutions to that is a visitor information centre at Yulara.

Senator McCARTHY: Are they open to that?

Mr Schwer : We have been in discussion for a while. The discussions are continuing. There is the potential to maybe open it at a Parks Australia site, so the federal government, and looking at the cultural centre.

Senator McCARTHY: What is the blockage?

Mr Schwer : I would not say there is a blockage. Well, actually, there is a blockage and that is funding. Visitor information centres cost money, but apart from that—

Senator McCARTHY: How much do they cost?

Mr Schwer : With the first figure that we did we looked at about half a million a year. The second figure that we did was in the order of $300,000 to $350,000 a year. We are now looking at an unstaffed solution to at least get something down there and open with posters, TV screens, touch screens and things like that. We are looking at a hotline through to our information centre here that people can just pick up, like you would a taxi at a hotel, and get direct access to a voice on the other end of the line.

Senator McCARTHY: How much would that cost?

Mr Schwer : I am just doing those figures at the moment. I do not have those as yet. I am going through that at the moment because this is the third iteration.

Senator McCARTHY: In just looking at your strengths and weaknesses in your report, and just going back to Senator Dodson's questions there in relation to Indigenous employment, your report outlines the fact that the lack of Indigenous employment is a weakness.

Mr Schwer : Yes. We always want to see it grow.

Senator McCARTHY: If it is in your strategic plan what is your strategy to improve that employment and also, at the same time, understand why it is? You were saying there that you were not getting a trainee and you have had massive turnovers, by the sounds of it. What are you doing to understand the reasons for those exits?

Mr Schwer : There are a few questions there. The first one with what we are doing to try and address that as a weakness, both us, as an organisation, and as a region. One is turning up to things like this, talking about it and putting it on the table as an issue. I have had a number of chats with Voyages, because of the program that they do, working out how it can be adapted to other areas because I think that is a really interesting model with their partnership between a private enterprise, government and a training organisation really getting some good Indigenous workforce participation outcomes down there. I would like to see that kind of thing roll out.

Another thing that we do is work with a lot of the training organisations in the area and go and present. I often present at their Indigenous training sessions, for example, Karen Sheldon Training is a good example of that in town, where a number of people from industry go and present, talk about the opportunities and the kinds of skills, experience and attributes required to work in the tourism industry. As an organisation, obviously we have this Indigenous trainee position.

I am currently working on a reconciliation action plan within the organisation to look at some of these issues as well. I would not say that we are as far advanced as I would like to be in that but we are on that path. Those are a few ideas, regionally and as an organisation, of what we are trying to do.

Senator McCARTHY: Yesterday, when I asked the same question of Voyages and others, in terms of understanding why you are not able to employ Indigenous people and why they leave, they were able to provide information to our committee about a number of reasons why people leave and one of those was people preferred to be closer to home. Do you do any kind of exit poll that gives you an indication as to why you are unable to maintain Indigenous employees?

Mr Schwer : Yes, we do. I am reticent to talk about it is because everyone knows our organisation and so, therefore, everyone knows the Indigenous trainees that we have had at our organisation.

Senator McCARTHY: Is it only trainees that you have had? Have you had any staff?

Mr Schwer : We have had other staff as well; in fact, our most recent departure was headhunted by a college down the road, so good on him. More money and more responsibility, so I wished him well and off he went.

Senator McCARTHY: There is one answer to the exit poll, that he got a better job.

Mr Schwer : That is the thing. I thought that was a really great outcome. I do not mind people moving on to better roles. Unfortunately—and I will speak in general terms, as I said, because a lot of people know the trainees that we have had—we have had the issue of humbugging and people not earning enough to satisfy the needs of their family. That has been quite a significant issue. Another one is population movement, so people who have connections to a number of different areas, moving between a number of different areas constantly and so not being able to get consistency of service out of that person in one organisation.

Senator McCARTHY: Thank you.

CHAIR: Ms O'Toole.

Ms O'TOOLE: Just on that point that Senator McCarthy was talking about, do you meet with local people in the community, apart from just your employees, because employees come from a community base and if people are not moving into your industry or you are having difficulty attracting them do you have access to just talk generally with a group of local people?

Mr Schwer : Absolutely. I have only been in this region for 18 months. That is one thing, I think, that the Red Centre does better than any other region I have lived in, and that is people are always open to those conversations. It has been one of the really exciting things that my wife and I have enjoyed about moving here. So, yes, most definitely. If I take off my TCA CEO hat and put on my general community member hat, through my wife's work at congress here in town, the access that that gives us to a lot of different committees, through our kids' school, the Steiner School on the south side of town, and the access that that gives us to a lot of different groups of people, and community people through the kids' sport and everything like that. Everyone knows everyone in this town and that is one of the great positives, so, yes, most definitely.

Ms O'TOOLE: You said that the National Indigenous Cultural and Arts Gallery precinct would be a game changer, which I am absolutely sure it would be for your community. I am just curious to know how that would be a game changer for your local artists, and I mean the Aboriginal artists. A couple of years ago I came here. I went to a gallery and saw a video of product being taken out to communities and then, 'This is what we want painted', and then being collected back. It concerned me a little to see in the video that those communities were not travelling so well. Will there be opportunity or how do you propose to create opportunity for those local artists to possibly build their own businesses, whether individuals or community, so that they are getting fair prices for their work?

Mr Schwer : Absolutely. One of the things that we do as an organisation is we work with the Indigenous Art Code. We actually hosted them recently, in October of last year when they came up with the ACCC, to record basically some little clips, recorded through CAAMA in town here, to help artists understand the questions that they need to ask of buyers, how to retain their IP on those artworks and all of those kinds of things. This series of clips was put together by CAAMA and we worked with the Indigenous Art Code on some of that. We also worked with the Indigenous Art Code in promoting it to our members.

We have an art trail guide, an app for the region. It gives people the ability to access different art galleries around different communities. Anyone who is a signatory to the Indigenous Art Code we make sure we highlight in that guide and on that app so that we can educate customers and educate the travellers on the kinds of questions that they need to be asking as well.

I think when it comes to the art gallery and the cultural centre there are a couple of ways that it will help. One of them is esoteric but it is actually the way that I think it will help the most and that is awareness, drawing attention to the shifts in contemporary Indigenous art. A lot of people are familiar with the dot painting. Some of the contemporary works that are coming out are mind-blowing and I think it will assist in helping people become aware of that, not just as an art movement, but the evolution of that movement. So I think awareness, whilst that is one that you cannot measure all that well, that is actually one of the big ways it can help because that creates a demand for that product.

Another way is, I think, validation and people appreciating that movement. That also opens up the opportunity for more people to be inspired to get into art. From a commercial point of view, one of the things that we would like to see is to make sure that the cultural centre and art gallery are not competing with local businesses but enhancing them, so directing them out. One of the things that we put in our position paper about the art gallery is that we would like to see the visitor information centre co-located on site. One of the reasons we want to see that is so that we can use the art gallery as a feeder for businesses all around. So, 'You've seen this. Now, get down and dirty with the real thing and really sink your teeth into this territory and the culture that it provides.' There is some amazing stuff out there; starting to push people out, using that gallery as an inspiration, once again, to increase dispersal.

Ms O'TOOLE: One of the factors, from what I saw and read about, was the work that was coming out of some of the quite isolated communities was magnificent and most likely those people would be illiterate, so when you talk about how you are going to support people in a commercial space how will you manage where people have absolutely the capacity to develop beautiful work but assist them where they may not have fundamental literacy or business literacy as well?

Mr Schwer : That is probably not something that my organisation would do directly. We would assist but certainly Desart or an organisation like that would be the best way to organise it. It would more be assisting Desart to provide that rather than us doing it ourselves. They would be the best placed.

Ms O'TOOLE: Thank you.

Mr SNOWDON: I just make an observation that most of these larger communities have highly credible art organisations which buy the art and give people a proper return on their investment, so that is not an issue. The issue here is shonky exploiters, of which there are a number, but they are not the major art dealers; they are fly-by-nighters, shonky practices, who basically enslave people on the basis of using credit. There are miserable people in all societies and there are some from here. There are not very many of them, thank God, but there are.

Mr Schwer : Unfortunately you are right and that is why I think the Indigenous Art Code is the perfect way of being able to circumvent that, educating travellers as to the importance of using people who are signatories to that.

Mr SNOWDON: Of course the other thing is that the art centre, itself, will not just be a place for securing local art; it will be talking about art from across the country, so it is about national art. The art industry here believes that a national gallery here would be of great use to the local art industry as a way of attracting people to buying art and locating local art, so I do not think that is an issue.

What are the visitation numbers into Central Australia? We know roughly 350,000 go to Uluru. What do we get into Alice Springs?

Mr Schwer : I am going to leave an updated version with my submission. We had last year's version of our infographic. I will leave that with you for this one. On this particular document I went for the employment side. I will caveat it with I can provide the exact numbers. I do not have them with me at the moment but it is somewhere in the order of 400,000 to 500,000. I can provide the exact number of overnight visitation. Day trippers would increase and, of course, day tripping is a bit of a hard thing in remote areas. It is around about 400,000 to half a million, but I will get the exact figure to you.

In terms of expenditure, it is just under a billion at the moment. This is in the Red Centre, so Elliott, Newcastle Waters, down to the South Australian border and everything in between.

Mr SNOWDON: Including Uluru?

Mr Schwer : Including Uluru, yes. We have about an 11 to 12 per cent share of employment across the territory with about 15 and a half thousand people directly and indirectly employed, so what it actually makes us, in terms of employment, is the third highest private enterprise. Construction is the highest and then retail and, of course, retail in the Northern Territory is synonymous with tourism anyway. Even a local supermarket with the amount of caravaners and RVs that we get through, so you could kind of say that we are the second highest but legitimately, as its own standalone industry, retail is the second highest private employer and then tourism.

Mr SNOWDON: What I am trying to get a picture of is the different market segments that you have, leaving aside Uluru. We know roughly who goes to Uluru, about 50 per cent international and 50 per cent national. What do we get here?

Mr Schwer : A lot more domestic than international; once again, the breakdown I would have to get to you but I think it is in the order of around about 65-35.

Mr SNOWDON: What proportion of those would be the grey nomad types? What does the demographic look like?

Mr Schwer : This is one of the issues with the domestic visitor survey, the national visitor survey and the international visitor survey. When you are starting to break down to those kinds of numbers the figures become unpublishable because the sample size is just not big enough. One of the projects that Tourism Research Australia is undertaking at the moment is roundtables on what data people need. That is the kind of data that I am after. I would love to see provision of data on real time generic credit card data, obviously not individual, but that kind of big data that we can use to get our finger on the pulse of what is going on right now—reward card data and all of that kind of thing—because with those kinds of questions you are now starting to talk about a slice out of a slice out a slice and the sample size is probably so small that we just would not be able to rely on it.

Mr SNOWDON: We have mentioned road transport. We have mentioned airlines. What about rail? What is the impact of The Ghan on tourism in Central Australia?

Mr Schwer : The Ghan is fantastic. If you look at their data at the moment they are getting some really good figures through. Pretty much every train is full at the moment. The loss of the sit-up seats was difficult. It is difficult simply because of the access for everyone to be able to travel, because it was a lower cost option. Obviously the only options that are available now are quite high cost, which is great because we get very high yielding visitors out of that, but I like to think of every destination being able to be accessed by everyone. We lost access to a smaller end of the market; however, they obviously will take coach travel. We are well serviced by coach with Greyhound. Yes, that was difficult because, once again, it is one of those emotional things. People love the idea of that pioneering train trip into Central Australia. That was a real attraction for people to be able to afford that whereas we did lose the sit-up seats and that reduced the numbers.

Mr SNOWDON: Do you have any data on people who break their journey on The Ghan? Do they come in one week and leave the following week?

Mr Schwer : I do not. Great Southern Rail may choose to provide that data to you. They may not. My feeling would be the latter because they keep that data very close to their chest. We could do a few spot surveys and try to find it out, but I do not have a handle on that.

Mr SNOWDON: So if you were trying to sell Central Australian tourism to the broader community elsewhere in Australia what are the key elements of a sales pitch?

Mr Schwer : It is an emotional one—I will leave that to one side for the moment. We are about to embark on our third iteration of our Red Centre Adventurers campaign where we are pitching the Red Centre as the adventure capital of Australia. We think that we are going to be able to capture that quite well. It is the niche adventuring market, a lot of soft adventure, environmental nature based adventure, as well as adrenalin adventure. If you think of the Larapinta Trail, the mountain biking trails, skydiving, scenic flights, four-wheel driving and all of those kinds of things. That is one area that we are pitching because we think it will pique the interest of not just the niche adventure traveller but people who are looking for that active type of holiday.

If we remove that, there is the spiritual home of Australia. There is still that feeling that people have, even if they have not been here, that this is the real Australia, so that is something that we can continue to trade on because it still inspires people. That is a lot of the inquiries that we get through the information centre. They are those kinds of inquiries, 'I have never seen the country that Albert Namatjira painted. I've never seen Uluru before. I want to go and I want to see what they saw. I want to see what has been painted.' It is a real emotional and psychological pull that way and that is something that we can continue to trade off.

Mr SNOWDON: Thank you.

CHAIR: Just one final one, and, again, I ask the question in relation to the Northern Australian tourism initiative and the $750,000 incentive. How accessible will that make it to many of your tourism members in this region?

Mr Schwer : I have watched that Austrade program. I think I was running Mackay Tourism when it first came out and that was when it was under the $1 million mark.

CHAIR: This is the new one. This is the Northern Australia initiative.

Mr Schwer : It is the same thing rebadged. With that particular project the threshold for turnover is too high. Now, once upon a time, under the $1 million one we were all able to pull together a number of organisations to reach the minimum threshold. One of the issues that I have had with the $750,000 is that I would like to auspice it on behalf of a number of smaller businesses who are members of mine. One of the lines that we went down is, 'We can meet that threshold. How about we auspice it and, therefore, then are able to provide some more services to the businesses that we work with?', and unfortunately that was not allowed because we, as an incorporated association, were not allowed to apply for it and industry associations are not allowed to apply for it.

It is problematic. We have tried it a couple of times in the area. There are a couple of businesses that I know of that are using it and using it successfully, but most businesses that I work with are not able to access it.

CHAIR: Thank you very much indeed. We will wind up there because we are running way behind here now, but we appreciate the information that you have provided.

Mr Schwer : Thank you. I will leave these here for you.

CHAIR: If there is anything else that you feel would be relevant please forward it to the secretariat by 10 August.

Mr Schwer : I will. I will have a read of the Hansard. I will go over the things that I said that I would provide and I will provide those through before then. Thank you.

CHAIR: Thank you.