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As one of the first sectors to be profoundly impacted by the pandemic and one of the last to recover, the consequences of the impact on tourism run deep.

At a Federal level, there are limited support programs and grants available to the tourism industry, with tourism not identified as an industry growth centre, despite contributing $152 billion to the economy, supporting more than 300,000 businesses and employing more than 660,000 Australians.

Business advisory services, public funding and private investment are crucial in providing meaningful support to tourism businesses, which continue to experience impacts from the pandemic, with severe skills and labour shortages and difficulty retaining workers.

Furthermore, government-supported promotional campaigns to attract seasonal workers and experienced global tourism trainees will help the industry provide top-class services to travellers and keep Australia on the map as a leading tourism destination.

The dry season is the peak season for both defence and tourism, with defence visitors training in military exercises and tourists competing for beds in hotels – with defence coming out the winner – minimising the availability for tourists to enjoy overnight stays.

But defence visitors do not spend like tourists, eat at restaurants, visit attractions or shop, making it difficult for tourists to stay local and forcing the Top End to compete with other destinations during the ideal dry season.

By rethinking the use of Top End infrastructure that has the potential to support the tourism industry, such as the Howard Springs Centre for National Resilience, we can ensure future visitor experiences are not difficult to manage.

Despite these challenges, there are many reasons why we should be investing in tourism now.

Tourism is key to helping the Northern Territory reach its $40 billion target by 2030. Nationally, 44 cents of every tourism dollar spent is in regional areas, and employment in the sector makes up for as many as six in 10 jobs.

In the Northern Territory, one in every six businesses directly relates to the tourism industry – 15 percent of Territory businesses.

The tourism sector also creates opportunities in enabling sectors. Jobs in the communication, health, agricultural and educational sectors grow with a thriving tourism sector.

Darwin-based Paspalis Innovation Investment Fund has shown confidence in the re-emergence of the Northern Territory tourism industry with an investment in Travello.

Travello is a tourism experiences company that has experienced significant growth in demand for cultural and natural leisure activities in the NT, particularly in the Red Centre and Katherine region.

One of the many reasons visitors travel to the Territory is to experience authentic Aboriginal culture.

Further demonstrating the growing confidence in tourism is the recent deal between the Australian and Northern Territory governments and the City of Darwin for the $40 million Larrakia Cultural Centre development.

Funded through the Aboriginal Benefits Account on a registered Larrakia sacred site, it will deliver a cultural experience like no other. It will create jobs, tourism and cultural exchange and put the Territory on the map as the leading Aboriginal tourism destination.

We have a growing opportunity in the coming years, as international borders open and confidence among travellers rebuilds, to support and rebuild the NT tourism industry, so it is better equipped than ever to capture the tourist dollar.