advisories are warning tourists against visiting Alice Springs, after a spate of tragedies involving international travellers.
The town, described by Tourism Australia
as the “beating heart of Australia
’s Red Centre’, is featured in several European and UK travel advisories updated in the past year.
Germany tells its residents that caution is needed in Alice Springs, “especially in the dark” because of repeated armed robberies and rapes of foreign tourists.
The UK also advises its citizens to take care in the town centre of Alice Springs at night, because of harassment, robberies and attacks including sexual assault.
“There have been some serious sexual assaults against British nationals,” says the UK advisory.
“It is not recommended to rent a car to visit the particular areas of interest of the Northern Territory (Ayers Rock and Alice Springs) or areas far from population centres, as the roads are particularly dangerous and a number of tourists have died as a result,” reads the Italian Government warning.Canada warns against hitchhiking because of the risk to backpackers, and Italy warns of serious risks to tourists travelling alone in the Northern Territory.
It follows a series of tragic incidents including the exposure-related deaths of two elderly German tourists last month, the stabbing murder of a French tourist last year, and the horrific rapes of German and Finnish backpackers in 2012.
Backpackers have also been the target of carjackings and robberies in the remote town.
Statistics from Tourism Research Australia show the dangerous reputation of the area has already taken a toll.
In the past 10 years, international visitors to the Northern Territory plunged from 354,659 to 292,958 last year, and the biggest falls were of UK visitors (78,450 to 41,342) and Scandinavian tourists down from 12,229 to 6660.
Alice Springs Mayor Damien Ryan said he believed the town remained a “very safe place” to visit and the foreign advisories were unfair.
“We don’t suffer crime any different to other areas of the country but when anything happens in Central Australia it tends to be reported very widely and very quickly,” said Ryan.
“The tourism industry has been having an upsurge in visitors over the last two years and a lot of those are foreign visitors.”
Charles Darwin University’s Associate Professor in Northern Australia Development, Pascal Tremblay, said the Top End’s image as a “wild place” could even work in the tourism industry’s favour.
“For the Northern Territory, there is a substantial market for young people in search of ‘adventure’ and wild places, including many Germans and other backpackers for sure,” said Tremblay.
Ryan said it was important to take advice before travelling in the Outback and he would encourage visitors to maintain a “personal awareness”.
“Within the town there are plenty of very safe places to visit,” said Ryan.
“But I think it’s best not to impose on community living areas unless they’re open to visitors.”