NT sells itself as closest thing to Asia
With Australians not able to get out their passports and head overseas for a while due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Northern Territory is hoping it can offer the closest thing to a trip abroad.
While the Territory's borders are still shut, they will open before international travel is allowed and Tourism, Sport and Culture Minister Lauren Moss said she hopes some of the six million trips Australians normally take overseas every year will end up in the NT.
Parks and reserves across the NT will reopen to tourists on June 5 in time for the Queen's Birthday long weekend, after the federal government said travel restrictions across remote communities designed to protect Aboriginal people from the virus would be be lifted.
However the most famous and popular spots Uluru and Kakadu - the former a large employer - remain closed, with the government and traditional owners intending to reopen on June 19.
"We are absolutely in one of the most globally competitive sectors when we talk about tourism, we will be competing for those domestic trips like every other jurisdiction," Ms Moss told reporters.
"It is going to be incredibly difficult for the Northern Territory because we compare against jurisdictions with a much bigger budget than ours but I think we will be a jurisdiction looked upon as the closest you can get to Asia.
"It is like having a trip overseas for some people, it is so different to come to the Northern Territory and experience Aboriginal culture in the way you can up here."
Tourism is a significant employer and contributor to the NT economy, directly employing about 9700 people (more than seven per cent of the NT workforce), which increased to about 17,100 people including the indirect contribution, based on the Territory Government's latest figures.
In 2017-18, tourism is estimated to have directly contributed $1.2 billion or 4.4 per cent to gross state product, with 69 per cent of travellers from interstate or overseas and the rest locals.
For now, Territorians are being urged to travel if they can and keep the industry's businesses going and people employed until interstate visitors are allowed to arrive many of whom will be in cars.
Some tourism industry businesses would not survive the COVID-19 lockdown, with the current dry season supposed to be their busiest time, Ms Moss conceded.
"It has never been more important for Territorians to get out and explore our own backyard, the tourism industry in the Territory and indeed across Australia has been decimated by COVID-19," she said.
"Local tourism operators really need your support."
There are no active cases of COVID-19 in the Northern Territory.
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