‘I’d rather not make money than one person die’: NT tourism operator wants borders shut

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A concerned tourism operator in central Australia says Northern Territory’s borders should remain closed because having them open is putting lives at risk given recent COVID-19 spikes.

Marcus Williams owns and runs Pyndan Camel Tracks on the outskirts of Alice Springs.

“If the virus does come here and it gets out of control, then unfortunately, we will be going to funerals.”

Mr Williams said it was a very scary time.

“I’d much rather the borders to stay closed than to have people’s lives at risk,” he said.

“It’s f***ing dangerous.”

Diversifying in tough times

The coronavirus pandemic has not been easy on Mr Williams or his business.

“We’ve had to cut down our staff and we’re not really making that much money at the moment,” he said.

Mr Williams said that diversifying the business during lockdown was vital in keeping money coming in to feed his 15 camels.

man in hat pats a light brown camel
Mr Williams struggled to feed his 15 camels during the lockdown.(ABC Alice Springs: Emma Haskin)

Pre-pandemic, Mr Williams used to give away camel manure for people’s gardens.

“Then my wife suggested we should start selling the stuff to start making a little bit of money to be able to feed the camels, which worked really well,” he said.

“People have gathered around to support local businesses, such as my my business.

“I’ve also been very surprised and overwhelmed with the generosity of people that have donated the camel rides that they’d previously paid for.”

Tourism vouchers

To help stimulate the economy, the NT Government provided tourism vouchers where the Government would match up to $200 when residents contributed $200 of their own funds.

“The vouchers did come at the right time for my business because of the school holidays,” he said.

“We were able to open up our business and start operating as per usual because the the coronavirus wasn’t here in the Territory.

light brown camel walking through white gate
Tourism operator Marcus Williams said COVID-19 impacted heavily on his camel trekking business.(ABC Alice Springs: Emma Haskin)

The flow-on effect was almost immediate.

“The amount of people that came out to ride during the school holidays, that were using those vouchers, has enabled my business to be able to afford to pay for feed for the next six months for my camels until the end of the year,” Mr Williams said.


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