Tourists and Australian deserts
Desert regions are becoming increasingly popular with tourists. Some of the features
of Australia’s deserts that are well known and visited by many tourists are Uluru
(Ayers Rock), Kata Tjuta (the Olgas), Alice Springs, Standley Chasm and the Devils Marbles. The number of tourists
who visit the less well known desert areas has been small, but is steadily increasing.
Attractions of deserts
The main tourist attractions in Australian deserts are the spectacular rock features
and the colours of sand and rocks. Rock outcrops, mountains with strange shapes,
and deep gorges are the most popular sights. They are illustrated in tourist brochures
and people travel long distances to see them.
One of the other attractions of desert areas is the climate. The day temperatures
in winter are pleasantly warm, even if the night temperatures are very cold.
The lack of rainfall also means a general lack of clouds, so that winter days
are characteristically warm and sunny.
Many people enjoy visiting desert areas because there they can get away from
the business and noise of cities and spend time in an open-air environment.
In Australia, camping and bushwalking are popular forms of recreation.
An increasing number of people want to visit the desert country that is less
well known. These areas include the Simpson Desert, the Nullarbor Plain and Lake Eyre Basin. They have become attractive
to people who want to see these remote areas for themselves and experience the
feeling of being in such isolated places.
Facilities need to be built to cater for the influx of tourists visiting
the deserts’ attractions. Desert areas in Australia have few large settlements.
Therefore the accommodation, shops, food supplies and transport provisions that
are needed by tourists have to be specially established.
At Uluru, facilities had to be increased to keep up with the demands of tourists.
Before 1983, tourists visiting Uluru were able to stay in a motel or camping
park near the base of the rock. The airstrip was next to the motel and there
was a dirt road from Alice Springs to Uluru.
By the early 1980s the number of tourists had become too large for the existing
accommodation. Therefore a new complex of hotels and camping facilities
was built. Called Yulara, the complex includes a luxury hotel, a more basic
hotel and plenty of camping facilities.
The siting of this complex was a problem. The complex was built some distance
from the rock because of a combination of factors, such as the wishes of the
local Aboriginal people, and the desire not to spoil the environment of the
rock by building too close to it. This created a need for more efficient tourist
transport to and from the rock. The larger numbers of tourists able to be accommodated
created new demands for food supplies, sewerage engineering, water supplies
and better roads. All these demands created new jobs in the area, but providing
facilities was very expensive.
An increasing number of people want to visit the desert without being in the company
of hundreds of others. Nor do they want luxurious accommodation and entertainment.
Such tourists want to see more remote areas of the desert.
These characteristics are part of a trend towards ecotourism: a form
of tourism favoured by people who want to be in natural surroundings without
harming the environment. It is not only applied in deserts, but also in other
sensitive wilderness areas. One of the main resources required by ecotourism
is skilled operators with a high level of knowledge of the area and an understanding
of the ways to conserve its environment.