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ATEC backs sacked members of Voyages Indigenous Tourism Australia board

November 22, 2013

Following sweeping recent changes to the board of Voyages Indigenous Tourism Australia by the Indigenous Land Corporation (ILC), Australian Tourism Export Council (ATEC) Chairman John King OAM has criticised comments on the operation of Ayers Rock Resort, describing them as "unfortunate and misguided" while putting at risk the enormous opportunity the tourism industry can offer to help improve Indigenous employment across Australia.

Having recently written off more than $62 million from the value of its flagship tourism property, the ILC made sweeping changes to the board of Voyages Indigenous Tourism Australia runs Ayers Rock Resort on its behalf. Five of the nine members exited: Investec Bank Chairman Richard Longes, Peter Barge, former Qantas Chief Executive Geoff Dixon, Ronald Morony and former Chairman David Baffsky.

In a statement, King explained "the board and management of Voyages, are the dream team of tourism and hospitality and tourism asset management and are among the most respected and experienced people in the Asia Pacific region.

"In spite of severe headwinds brought about by factors such as three years of reduced international travel to regional and especially remote areas, and a significant reduction in airline services and capacity, the Voyages team had been increasingly kicking goals.

"The comments by Dawn Casey Chairman of the Indigenous Land Corporation have been unfortunate and misguided and the sacking of the Voyages Board is snatching defeat from the jaws of victory."

King was appointed Indigenous Tourism Business Leader by previous Tourism Minister Martin Ferguson and has a strong commitment to building Indigenous tourism businesses.

He stated that the Ayers Rock Resort had been trading profitably, had reclaimed higher yielding business such as the corporate meetings market, had developed a wide range of events and experiences and worked more closely with the adjacent Uluru Kata Tjuta National Park to increase length of stay, all of which were turning around a previously under-performing business.

King added "the most outstanding achievement is its success in training and currently employing more than 220 Indigenous employees in real jobs' in one of the most successful programs in Australia.

"This number is already ahead of the curve in achieving the stated target of 500 Indigenous employees by 2015.

"Having stayed frequently at the resort, the quality and professionalism of Indigenous employees, is now world class and the whole place is starting to have a really positive buzz about it, which it has not had for many years".

King said it was important for the Northern Territory and for Australia as a whole, that the resort was able to once again offer world class and quality services and memorable experiences.

"Nearly all tourism operators experienced downturns in both profitability and asset value and those who succeed take a longer term view and are able to position themselves to benefit from the upturns."

"The decision of the ILC Chairman to sack the Voyages Board, which in turn forced the resignation of the Managing Director, was short sighted and robbed the resort and sustainable Indigenous employment in the hospitality sector of its best chance of success as market conditions were showing increasing recovery."

An ILC spokesman says the resort needs to improve its marketing and attract more visitors.




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