A new management plan has led to a renewed engagement in tourism development at Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. The new plan sets out an intention to eventually replace the Uluru climb with new visitor experiences, once clear preconditions have been met.
This push for new experiences, particularly ones that help visitors connect with local Aboriginal culture, is being driven by the majority-Aboriginal board that manages the park. The board is working together with the Director of National Parks, Tourism NT, the tourism industry and other traditional owners to identify new tourism opportunities for the park.
Harry Wilson, who is the board chair, said the new plan and its focus on cultural tourism will be good for Anangu, the park's traditional owners, and great for visitors. 'We think this plan will be good for our culture and we hope it'll mean jobs for us,' Mr Wilson said. 'We want visitors to come and see our country and share our culture. We read the submissions saying that's what visitors want too. That's why this plan opens up many more opportunities for the tourism industry. We're hoping the industry will work with us to create new Indigenous experiences - maybe activities at night when the park is cool and the stars are so bright. Maybe cultural performances like dance at the new viewing area. Some senior people are thinking about special walks to their own country. The most important thing is to create new experiences - without new activities some visitors will still think the most important thing about Uluru is the climb.'
Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park is a site of significant cultural importance to Anangu and an iconic travel destination, as part of the Red Centre National Landscape. In support of the board's plan, the Director of National Parks has engaged two tourism advisors to identify new tourism opportunities, support new Anangu tourism ventures, help people form partnerships and engage with key stakeholders to develop a common way forward for tourism.
Park visitors have a clear desire and an increasing expectation that they will have the opportunity to meet Anangu and experience their culture. Park managers are committed to supporting Anangu to develop new tourism opportunities that fill this gap while setting realistic expectations for visitors. Already, significant time has been spent with Anangu talking about their ideas for tourism and business development in the park and surrounding region.
Anangu are excited about the prospect of building businesses that will promote employment for their children and enable them to share their home with visitors. The new tourism directions for Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park will be a long-term process and will need to be taken one step at a time. The most important part will be the journey with Anangu, helping them to find ways to showcase their spectacular country and their living culture.