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Delaware North Australia's Wayne Kirkpatrick

WAYNE KIRKPATRICK
Managing Director
Delaware North Australia Parks and Resorts

Wayne Kirkpatrick

I believe experiential travel will move towards more and more people seeking simple and natural pleasures on their holidays. People are increasingly becoming more interested in natural, serene and special places that are authentic.

Each of our resorts is a very special place but unfortunately God isn’t building any more of them. And so we have become the custodians, the protectors and storytellers of these special places.

We plan to present the natural attributes of each place to our guests, share the unique values, the ecology, the history and culture of each place with our guests. It’s about sharing the stories, the experiences of the place and creating unique, wonderful memories.

Each of our properties is very individual, with its own personality and experiences. Compare Wilson Island on the Great Barrier Reef, just five acres in size, offering a luxury castaway experience, with El Questro, a million acres of rugged terrain and true last frontier Outback experience, offering different types of accommodation, from budget camping, family cabins and the luxury of the Homestead.

People also make the difference. We are lucky to have retained many of the existing teams of people at the properties, many of whom consider themselves to be stewards of these special places. 

We aim to create special and memorable holidays that have a real connection to Australia. We’re aiming to deliver great experiences and that all important ‘wow’ factor, whether it’s from discovering Australia’s Outback for the first time at Kings Canyon Resort or El Questro Wilderness Park, or from a trip to the Great Barrier Reef on Lizard, Heron or Wilson Islands.

Delaware North has a strategic five year plan across the breadth of its business, but in relation to Australian Parks and Resorts, we see ourselves as a serious long term player. We are delighted with the properties which we have recently acquired and see this as an attractive and important foundation on which to build our portfolio of ‘special places’ in the years ahead. 

There are a number of challenges I believe are facing the Australian travel industry. One is the perceived value of travel and holidays in Australia compared to near overseas destinations in Asia and the Pacific.

Domestic travel has been flat for a while now and, at the same time, outbound travel has grown strongly. The outlook is for this trend to continue. This is accentuated by the strong promotion of low airfares and all-inclusive breaks by the airlines to overseas destinations, which often are in fact much lower than destinations in Australia. But, are we comparing apples with apples?

Secondly, while our dollar is strong, some people from overseas will also question travelling to Australia in addition to the perennial issues of the time and distance of a trip to Australia.

I’m an optimist though. In these circumstances there’s still plenty of business available, we just have to compete for market share and do so on quality, not on price. I’m fond of saying ‘long after the price is forgotten, the quality of the experience remains’.

Attracting and retaining skilled staff with the right attitude to service is also a challenge. We went through a skills shortage a few years ago at the height of the resources boom, and it’s coming at us again.

Finally, the regulatory environment is increasingly complex, demanding and expensive and I believe much of it isn’t necessary in many instances. Our industry requires investment in refurbishment, the freshening of existing assets and the creation of new experiences in special places, but it’s very tough to secure approvals to invest in Australia and to comply with the ever increasing demands of the various layers of Government influenced too much by very zealous, minority pressure groups. The silent majority is being disadvantaged by this and the increasing absence of common sense, and this needs to change.

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