The Gunya Tourism resort, near Alice Springs, will be a desert safari camp charging a massive $900 a night. It will be run by the local Titjikala community and will be the first time non-indigenous people have been invited to live with a traditional aboriginal community to experience eating, hunting and tribal customs first hand. Macquarie Bank property and banking head Bill Moss has turned resort developer by personally backing 5 projects – Gunya Tourism being the first – involving indigenous people right around Australia. He has pledged to return 50% of profits to local communities.
On the edge of the Simpson desert, this resort will offer deluxe safari tents with private ensuites and baths as well as gourmet cooking. A minimum 2 night stay in outback tents including meals prepared by a 5 star chef will cost $1800. Moss expects to personally spend about $250,000 to get the projects off the ground. His partners include ex-rugby league star David Liddiard, who is head of the National Aboriginal Sports Corporation of Australia and Gunya Tourism managing director, Mark Provost.
Guest activities will include attending private corroborees, slaughtering and eating kangaroos as well as participating in outback painting sessions and gaining access to traditional and sacred Aboriginal lands and the local Titjikala community. Guests will be able to sit down with Aboriginal elders and learn about the stolen generations, visit sacred rock art and learn from indigenous people about plants and animals.
Research shows the demand for indigenous tourism experiences is double the product available. In 2002-3, 450,000 international visitors participated in an indigenous activity (eg art/craft displays and visits to indigenous communities). In 2002, 730,000 domestic visitors had similar experiences. Western markets, particularly Germany, the UK and North America hold the most potential for indigenous tourism. The government will provide $4million over 4 years to fund an Indigenous Tourism Business Ready Program and Bill Moss says he will lean on his business contacts and friends in the corporate sector to patronize the Alice Springs resort. If Gunya Tourism ‘takes off’ similar resorts will follow on the NSW Central Coast, Broome, the Gulf of Capricorn, where Barramundi fishing will be the big attraction, and near Cairns.
Wrotham Park Station offers a similar outback experience. Overlooking the remote Mitchell River, this property was recently bought by Voyages Resorts and has just opened at a cost of $800 per person per night. This includes Barramundi fishing, 4WD evening spotlight tours, star-gazing, and station tours on horseback.
‘It seems to be a magic formula for the high yield sector of the market’ says Chris Brown of the Tourism & Transport Forum (TTF) lobby group says luxury tent-style developments allow tourists to get in touch with the magic of the outback without roughing it!