Ayers Rock Airport has experienced a surge in passengers as visitors head to the iconic Uluru before restrictions on climbing the indigenous sacred site come into force in October.
Figures from the Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics (BITRE) showed Ayers Rock Airport handled 42,500 passengers in May 2019, up 37.4 per cent from 31,000 in the prior corresponding period.
The total vaulted Ayers Rock Airport into the top 10 busiest regional airports in the country in May, just ahead of Karratha Airport at 37,900 in 11th place and up from 16th spot a year ago.
Recent media reports have showed images of long queues at Uluru as visitors heading to the top of of the sacred site with only months remaining before climbing is prohibited.
This really is nuts.
The #Uluru climb two days ago. It closes for good in October.
?Glenn Minett/ABC Alice Springs pic.twitter.com/sAFdfvpKwz
— Rohan Barwick (@rohwick) July 10, 2019
The Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park announced in November 2017 that it would close Uluru to climbers from October 26 2019, 34 years to the day since the site was returned to the traditional owners.
“The land has law and culture,” Uluru traditional owner and Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park board chairman Sammy Wilson said at the time.
“We welcome tourists here. Closing the climb is not something to feel upset about but a cause for celebration. Let’s come together; let’s close it together.
“If I travel to another country and there is a sacred site, an area of restricted access, I don’t enter or climb it, I respect it. It is the same here for Anangu. We welcome tourists here. We are not stopping tourism, just this activity.”
The local Anangu indigenous community has long asked visitors not to climb Uluru. Indeed, the official advice from Parks Australia is for people to visit, but not climb.
“Please don’t climb Uluru,” the Parks Australia website states.
“The traditional owners of Uluru ask you to respect our law and culture by not climbing Uluru.”
VIDEO: A look at the crowds at Uluru from The Guardian’s YouTube channel.
Three airlines offer nonstop flights to Ayers Rock Airport – Jetstar (from Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney), Qantas (from Adelaide, Alice Springs, Cairns and Darwin) and Virgin Australia (from Sydney).
Meanwhile, the BITRE report showed Australia’s domestic carriers carried 5.12 million passengers in May, up 0.7 per cent from the same month a year ago.
Capacity, measured by available seat kilometres (ASK), rose 1.2 per cent, while revenue passenger kilometres (RPK), an indication of demand, inched 0.2 per cent higher in the month.
With capacity growing ahead of demand, load factors eased 0.8 of a percentage point to 77.4 per cent.
The number of passengers on the Melbourne-Sydney route, which is Australia’s busiest and one of the busiest in the world, rose 0.9 per cent to 768.1 million in May.