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27 April 2005
Outback Tourism
Go to the outback - out into the red South Australian desert.

ESTHER LINDSTROM: 685km north of Adelaide on the Oodnadatta Track is Marree. When the old 'Ghan' railway closed in the 1980s, it just about vanished off the map. But despite the isolation and the population dwindling to just 80, an out-of-towner is now making a million-dollar investment.

Robynne Taylor bought the 120-year-old pub three years ago and is about to build a 2-storey guesthouse next door.

As well as a huge function room, it will have 14 luxury en suite apartments, and is costing $1.5 million.

ROBYNNE TAYLOR: If you say it quickly it's not too bad.

ESTHER LINDSTROM: The driving force behind the boom is 4-wheel drives.

They're coming in droves to outback SA, injecting millions of tourist dollars into a region that in the past has relied largely on cattle.

If it continues, Tourism SA marketing manager Lisa Pearson says the State's north will soon attract more visitors than the city of Adelaide.

LISA PEARSON, TOURISM SA: In 2003 our visitor numbers increased by about 14 per cent and we are now attracting the largest number of visitors and visitor nights outside of the Adelaide region.

ROBYNNE TAYLOR: It's all age groups, it's mum and dad with the young children, and also the retired couples who figure, well, they've now done everything at home with their families and they're going to travel and enjoy some time to themselves.

LISA PEARSON: We're really quite proud of the outback as being in SA, as being the authentic outback.

We're not a Sails in the Desert, we're not big commercial hotels.

We really are, "Come into the front bar and meet the locals," and that's the sort of atmosphere that I think all our industry is trying to maintain.

ESTHER LINDSTROM: The so-called 'grey nomads' still make up the biggest slice of the outback tourism market.

That's the name given to baby-boomers in their 50s who are going on the road.

They've got the finances and the freedom -- and like this NSW couple, they just want to have fun!

NSW TOURIST: Our kids are older now, and we've got the opportunity to do it, so we're out there.

So far we've done a few short trips, and it's been really great and when we retire I can see us just going around Australia and basically having a good time.

ESTHER LINDSTROM: But Jane Fargher, the owner of the famous Prairie Hotel at Parachilna in the Flinders Ranges, warns outback pubs aren't the lucrative investment they might appear to be.

JANE FARGHER, PRAIRIE HOTEL: I had a huge shock when I first finished the extension because we had the hotel valued and I couldn't believe that a hotel could be valued for less than we had just spent.

ESTHER LINDSTROM: She and her husband spent over $1 million building luxury eco-accommodation behind their historic pub seven years ago, and she says only now is it starting to pay off.

While Lisa Pearson agrees outback tourism isn't an instant money-spinner, she's confident the industry's here to stay.

LISA PEARSON: They are looking for something that's a lot more authentic, and getting off the beaten track and going where there's not a whole lot of tourists travelling.

story notes

Marree is a town on the Oodnadatta Track in northern South Australia.
It's a typical outback town.

 driving force
A driving force is the main cause of something or the person who makes things happen.
Example: He is the driving force behind this project.

A boom is a strong increase or growth in something.

 4-wheel drives
4-wheel drives are cars that steer using all four wheels, instead of just the front 2 wheels. They're much better for driving on rough tracks, and anywhere off normal roads.
Notice that we say '4-wheel drive', but it's usually written like this: 4WD.

 in droves
A drove is a large group or crowd of something. To come in droves means to come in large numbers.
Example: They came in droves to see the fireworks display.

bringing in

Done is the past participle of the irregular verb do.
more information: do

 grey nomads
Grey nomads is the name given to people in their 50s and older who spend their time travelling around Australia.

 make up
consist; form; comprise
Example: The class is made up of people from six different countries.
For more about the phrasal verb make up, follow the link.
more information: make up


Given is the past participle of the irregular verb give.
more information: give

Baby boomers are people born in the baby boom after World War 2. That's when lots of babies were born.

Here spent is the past participle of the irregular verb spend.
more information: spend

Eco-accomodation is accomodation that is good for the environment.

 pay off
succeed; make a profit
For more about the phrasal verb pay off, follow the link.
more information: pay off

real or true

 off the beaten track
A beaten track is a way or a path that is used a lot. The saying off the beaten track means something unusual or not well known.
Example: You have to get off the beaten track to experience travelling without crowds of tourists.