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Longitude 131° at Uluru - glamping boost to follow Prince William and Kate visit

Longitude 131° at Uluru - glamping boost to follow Prince William and Kate visit
Longitude 131° at Uluru - glamping boost to follow Prince William and Kate visit

Longitude 131°, overlooking Uluru, is at Australia’s spiritual heart.

The Philip Cox -designed Longitude 131° luxury wilderness camp at Uluru has won acclaim for its eco-friendly intention, with tent-like suites dotted across the red dirt in the Northern Territory.

Its ownership sits within the indigenous-owned Ayers Rock Resort, that comprises five hotels bought by the Indigenous Land Corp from the listed GPT Group in late 2010 for $300 million.

It wasn't a straight sale but rather by instalments:

  • $81 million payment on settlement;

  • $81 million 12 months after settlement; and

  • $138 million five years after settlement.

The additional terms of the sale included GPT contributing $25 million towards capital expenditure to assist in the achievement of a higher value in which GPT may share. GPT will share in 46% of the increase in capital value of Ayers Rock Resort over $300 million.

GPT had opened it in 2002, with 12 of the 15 tents at the $9.4 million safari-style camp, then lost in a bushfire just 15 months after its launch.

Longitude 131°, on the edge of the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park (UKTNP), 10 kilometres from Uluru, had just been named by US magazine The Robb Report as among the world's top 10 new hotels.

It is now on a long-term management lease deal with Baillie Lodges, owned by entrepreneur Dick Smith’s daughter Hayley and her husband, James Baillie.

Prices have been at $2,200 per couple for a two-night food, drinks and accommodation package

Last year the Indigenous Land Corp’s tourism management arm managing director, Voyages' Koos Klein, the former Hilton executive, told the AFR that the Baillies "can do it better than we can do it. This gives us the opportunity to concentrate on our main resort where we employ 700 to 800 people, and where our focus is on indigenous employment and training."

After a downturn in tourism into the Northern Territory, the value of the resort was cut by $62 million last year, prompting the head of the Indigenous Land Corporation Dawn Casey to question the purchase of the Ayers Rock Resort telling Fairfax Media it was ''perhaps the largest single evaporation of public money in the indigenous policy domain, ever''.

Statistics from Parks Australia show visitors to Uluru declined by about nine per cent in 2011 to about 273,000 people. 

The majority of visitors to UKTNP surveyed were domestic visitors, while 31% of visitors were from overseas. 

International visitors were predominately from Germany; USA; other European markets including the United Kingdom, Netherlands and Switzerland; and New Zealand. 

Before the Windsors visit, Longitude has hosted celebrities, including Oprah Winfrey. 

Tourism to Ayers Rock began as an informal activity around the mid 1950s , when a series of unofficial camps evolved at the base, followed by a rough airstrip and eventually some low quality hotels and hostels. By the early 1970's visitor numbers were estimated to be close to 50,000 a year.
 
Visitor numbers hits over 75,000 per annum around the early 1980s when construction of Ayers Rock Resort commenced under the direction of the Conservation Commission of the Northern Territory.

The existing hotels were compulsorily acquired by the Commonwealth Government, replaced on the new site by the new hotel.

The estimated costs of development were $600 million.

By 1984, visitor numbers had reached in excess of 130,000 a year.

Despite being operated by Sheraton and Four Seasons, the properties traded poorly.

In late 1997, General Property Trust purchased Ayers Rock Resort for $220 million. 

The Baillie Lodges collection of luxury lodges in wilderness destinations includes Capella Lodge on Lord Howe Island which launched the portfolio.

SA's Southern Ocean Lodge is also in the Baillie stable.

Last month James and Hayley Baillie abandoned plans to develop a $1400-a-night hotel in The Rocks in Sydney, citing a threefold increase in construction costs.

Construction costs had an initial quote of $8 million but we tipped to blow out to up $23 million, making it impossible to make the nine-suite hotel stack up financially.

“The hard, sad reality is we have become such an expensive country, where the cost of construction has gone through the roof, especially at the quality end of the market,” he told The Australian.

Jonathan Chancellor

Jonathan Chancellor

Jonathan Chancellor is one of Australia's most respected property journalists, having been at the top of the game since the early 1980s. Jonathan co-founded the property industry website Property Observer and has written for national and international publications.

Tags: 
Hotel Commercial Northern Territory

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