Exclusive by JAMES WILKINSON AT AYERS ROCK RESORT
Australia’s Tourism Minister Martin Ferguson has praised the opening of Voyages’ brand new Uluru Meeting Place, calling it a win for Australian tourism.
Speaking exclusively to SPICENEWS and sister magazine HM on camera at the opening of the AUD$30 million centre in Yulara last Friday (Nov 16), Ferguson said Uluru Meeting Place, and the refurbishment of Sails in the Desert, was good for both leisure tourism and conferencing.
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The opening of Uluru Meeting Place coincided with the refurbishment of Ayers Rock Resort’s premium Sails in the Desert Hotel, which has been lifted back up to a 5-star standard.
Voyages Indigenous Tourism Managing Director, Koos Klein, said Uluru Meeting Place was “named in acknowledgement of the local Anangu people who have used the area as meeting place for tens of thousands of years”.
Uluru Meeting Place features a main ballroom capable of hosting 420 people, while there is also a second room in the centre capable of holding 300.
“We believe that the creation of a modern, state of the art Conference Centre will establish the Uluru Meeting Place as an important new option in Australia for meeting planners,” Klein said.
Ferguson said the AUD$30 million spent on the upgrade of the resort’s premium Sails in the Desert hotel and the development of Uluru Meeting place would “boost Australia’s Indigenous tourism sector and lure more visitors to the Red Centre”.
“I would like to congratulate the [owners] Indigenous Land Corporation (ILC) and Voyages Indigenous Tourism Australia for investing in these upgrades,” he said.
“The refurbishment of Ayers Rock Resort has created state-of-the-art conference rooms and upgraded accommodation and guest facilities through an investment of $30 million.
“This is a significant figure but will be repaid through increased visitor numbers and spending from domestic and international sources.
“They will allow the resort to cater to increased demand for quality tourism products, including from Chinese tourists and business travellers.
“There is now a particularly strong market for Australia’s Indigenous tourism experiences, which accounted for about 13 per cent of our international visitors at last count.
“Ayers Rock Resort has allocated significant funding to developing Indigenous workers to give visitors a full Indigenous tourism experience and improve employment outcomes.”
Klein said the upgrade of Sails in the Desert has seen the hotel become “a flagship of modern Indigenous design” following the refurbishment of all 231 rooms and suites in the property, as well as the overhaul of the property’s restaurants, bars and lobby.
“The complete renovation of Sails in the Desert sets the scene for our guests at this iconic location from the moment they check in and engages with them throughout their stay,” he said.
“From the Indigenous artworks to the specially designed carpet in the rooms that mimics the topography of the region, the hotel echoes the environment around them in quiet luxury,” Klein said.
The opening was the culmination of 18 months of extensive changes at the resort since Voyages Indigenous Tourism Australia took over management on May 23, 2011.
Alongside the physical changes, Indigenous employment at the resort has grown from two staff at the time of takeover to 170 at present. This is on the back of the opening of the National Indigenous Training Academy, which celebrated the graduation of the first four students the same day as the events centre opening.
Voyages has also introduced a range of free Indigenous guest activities at the property, as well new evening experiences Tali Wiru (premium dining under the stars) and Outback Sky Journeys for stargazers.
“When we took over the Resort our mandate was very clear; to increase Indigenous employment and training as well as cultural engagement for our guests,” Klein said.
“As well as to increase financial results so that this in turn could be returned to our parent company, the Indigenous Land Corporation, so thatcould re-invest in further Indigenous Training and Development programs.
“We have already seen great interest in the Uluru Meeting Place and see the conference market as an important one.
“Conference delegates have been drawn to the unique team-building activities such as Indigenous dot painting projects as well as the opportunity of experiencing a sunrise over Uluru on camel back or enjoying a dinner under the starry outback sky at an exclusive Sounds of Silence.
“Delegates can also take part in the suite of Indigenous experiences, such as performances and boomerang painting that are available to all guests at the resort,” Klein said.
Ferguson said the upgrades would help the property become a shining light for international visitors to Australia.
“The great beauty and cultural significance of Uluru and the Red Centre make it one of Australia’s most significant tourism drawcards and an internationally recognised emblem of the nation,” he said.
Ferguson also said he was heartened by the graduating of the first students from the National Indigenous Training Academy – and the subsequent targets the property has set for Indigenous employment at the resort.
“I’m pleased to see Ayers Rock Resort has set itself a target of 50 per cent Indigenous employment by 2018,” he said.
“Its dedicated Indigenous training and employment program expects to create 350 new jobs in partnership between the Australian Government and Indigenous Land Corporation.
“I would like to congratulate the first group of trainees from the facility,” he said.