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Submission details
Submission ID 006
Submission date 23 Jun 2020
Contact Greg Hutchinson
Submission represents the view of Greg Hutchinson
Submission comments

My name is Greg Hutchinson, an Australian living part of the year in Darwin, who owns and runs an award-winning accommodation and adventure tourism business in the Philippines, the Tribal Group.

In brief:

Take advantage of NT's unique geographic position and health advantage amid the Covid-19 pandemic to make Darwin an aviation hub and tourism freeport. Making Darwin a Southeast Asian regional aviation hub and tourism freeport.

Rationale:

Outbound for Australians. Tap them going in and out of Darwin en route to Southeast Asian destinations. Initially, this can be done Covid-safely through select secondary and regional airports of Southeast Asian countries using national and budget Southeast Asian and Australian carriers. Some destinations like Boracay and Bohol have had nil or few Coronavirus cases. Airlines like Jetstar, Silk Air, Malaysia Airlines, AirAsia, Cebu Pacific and Philippine Airlines either may not or see it as ill-advised to fly to capitals amid the pandemic but can already fly to many regional and secondary international airports.

For marketing, the Northern Territory has a one-off opportunity to leverage its position both geographically and as a Covid-safe exit and entry point to establish new tourism markets that would otherwise take many years to tap.

Rationale inbound:

Tap international travellers doing a side trip to NT from Southeast Asian regional destinations and to nationals and expat residents of Southeast Asian countries. Australia deprives itself of potentially hundreds of thousands of visitors from Southeast Asia with its restrictive visa requirements. With runs on the board with controlling NT border, why cannot the NT have the Commonwealth agree to a limited one or two week tourist visa upon arrival for all arrivals with a date-certain, outbound ticket?

Border gates could be placed either on the NT border or closer to Darwin on say, the Stuart Highway. There could also be a stipulation that each tourist on an instant short stay tourist visa download a mandatory app that tracks them.

If there is initially some scepticism about the potential of the Southeast Asian market consider this: The countries making up ASEAN has one of the fastest growth rates in the world and the size of the middle class in the regional grouping of half a billion people already exceeds 100 million people - people with large disposable incomes who are curious about Australia - a country high on most Southeast Asians' bucket-lists. Unfortunately, onerous visa requirements have capped arrivals at a fraction of possible arrival numbers to Australia.

In summary, a visit to the Top End by Australians on their way out to Southeast Asian destinations - or back in - could be incentivised as Singapore does by working with hotels to offer a cheap first night and discounts on tours.

It's an opportune time to position Darwin as a Southeast Asian regional hub before Qantas and Virgin rev up their operations: I can recall when many more airlines flew in and out of Darwin including British Airways (1970s), Philippine Airlines (2010s), Royal Brunei (2000s). Let's seize a rare opportunity!

For inbound tourists, especially taking budget carriers that make travel between Southeast Asian countries cheaper than travelling domestically, the NT would be tapping an entirely new market - one that is growing exponentially with the rise of the Southeast Asian middle class.

Greg Hutchinson

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