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Visitors to Uluru will Forgo Climbing the Sacred Rock

Many visitors will forgo climbing Uluru if given advanced and accurate information about its Aboriginal owner’s perspective.

A study in Geographical Research, published by Wiley-Blackwell, finds that both non-Aboriginal visitors and tour operators showed openness to the owners’ – the Anangu – view of Uluru, and their wish that the sacred rock not be climbed.

The paper, “Constructing the Climb: Visitor Decision-Making at Uluru” by Sarah James, suggests that a more proactive pre-trip representation of the Anangu’s sentiments will allow visitors to make a more informed decision with regard to the climb.

“There is a great potential to change the visitors’ choice of climbing Uluru. Many tourists continue to climb as they are given the impression in pre-trip tourism information that it is desirable and acceptable. It is too late to affect their decision by the time they see the ‘Please Do Not Climb’ sign at the base of Uluru”, says Ms. James.

Almost all of the tourists interviewed felt that there was insufficient information available about the Anangu’s feelings. They also felt that the information was presented to them too late. Many suggested that – if informed earlier – they would decide to not proceed with the climb.

Tour operators also suggest that the climb was no longer as central to their business as once considered, and that closure of the climb would not cause any significant long-term damage to business.

Uluru has historically symbolized a split between settler and Aboriginal concepts of place and of appropriate actions within place. The highly contested site was handed back to the Anangu in 1985, and tourists continue to swarm to the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park with almost half of its 400 000 visitors climbing Uluru.

Ms. James adds, “Tourist surveys suggest that the tourism industry could do a lot more to dissuade people from climbing Uluru without encountering the level of resistance previously anticipated. Visitors indicated they would respect the wishes of the Anangu not to climb if these were more clearly and compellingly presented before they arrived.”

An earlier version of the paper was presented at the Institute of Australian Geographers Annual Conference in 2005.

Alina Boey | alfa
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