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8 June 2009

4WD Tourism

CRC spokesperson: On Track is one of the core projects of the Desert Knowledge Co-operative Research Centre and it's designed to actually understand the 4WD market. A lot is known about tourists but not so much about that particular segment of the market who come to places like this to enjoy Australia.

Tourist Operator: Four-wheel driving in Australia all started after the Second World War with the little Willys jeep, the jeep and then Land Rover came along in '54 I think.

Basically they were brought in as farm vehicles, a working vehicle. The Snowy Mountains Scheme in Australia actually brought in a whole heap of Land Rovers and Toyotas.

And then they started to say, 'Well, you know we can make these things not quite like a horse drawn dray that's rough as guts to drive in and make them more into a car', whereas these days the 4WD station wagon is as comfortable as anything.

CRC spokesperson: Well, what we've been trying to understand is how many of these people are out here, what they're doing, why they want to be here, where they want to go, what kinds of experience they want to have while they're here.

4WD Tourist: So far we've done a few short trips and it's been realty great and when we retire I can see us just going around Australia basically having a great time.

CRC spokesperson: VRUM is the name of our modelling piece of software, and we think that's pretty catchy and interesting to people. Cars make noises: they go 'vroom vroom'. VRUM stands for Visualising Relatively Unpredictable Movements.

So it's about the unpredictable tourists who's out there who has charted their own destiny and we want to understand where they're going and why.

The whole 4WD community is involved in our research so it's everybody from the person who has a 4WD and wants to go on holidays. It's the 4WD clubs where people come together because they feel safer when they're travelling together. It's the entrepreneurs who run tagalong tours, those sorts of things. It's the tourist operators who are actually out in remote locations providing services to these people. And it's the Aboriginal communities who are often in the very remote places where these 4WD tourists want to go.

Tourist operator: A tagalong tour is where you.. I take my vehicle with my people and then you follow me in your car. And basically you're self sufficient as far as food and fuel and camping equipment and all that sort of stuff. I take all the car repair equipment, contingency stuff like rations and extra fuel and water and if something happens we can get you out of strife.

It's a hands on thing and a good way to experience some of the remote parts of the country. And I mean really remote, like two days from any town or station or anything like that.

CRC spokesperson: 4WD tourism is particularly important to desert communities because, you know, we've got extremely beautiful country out here and we'd like to share it with people.

One of the things that we do know from the surveys that we've done is that Four Wheel Drivers are looking for an authentic Aboriginal experience.

Tourist Operator: The project that we're doing with Lindsay Bookie, who's an Aboriginal traditional owner of Flitja Land Trust, or part of it out here on the top edge of the desert. And he's got this patch of dirt that he didn't really want to use it for cattle and I went and had a look at it and one of the most perfect 4WD venues that you could ever get. You know, it's like a mecca. It's got this variety. It's got the river, it's got the desert, the dunes and actually got him there so that he can tell you all about the history and the Aboriginality side of it which is great.

And I just love going somewhere where I'm the first one there for a long, long time. There's no road in front of me, it's behind me and you get up on top of the sand dunes and as far as you can see there's nothing, and you say, 'Well, I'm pretty insignificant out here. I'm very isolated. I'm this tiny speck'.

You know a lot of people say, 'What the hell do you see in the desert?' Mate, you start looking you'll find all sorts of things in the desert. Fabulous.