Four-wheel-drive tourism in desert Australia: The charge of the ‘might brigade’?
In Australia, there is perhaps no more an iconic leisure travel image than a four-wheel-drive (4WD) vehicle traversing a deserted outback road, leaving a plume of red desert dust to settle in its wake long before the next intrepid travellers pass by. Images such as these are synonymous with the ways in which those responsible for promoting tourism in desert Australia see the experience for travellers. Marketing messages from state, regional and local tourism organisations commonly and strongly hint at the opportunity for experiences of spiritualism, exploration and discovery of both the landscapes and of oneself through 4WD travel in Australia’s desert regions (Carson and Taylor 2009). Travel within desert Australia is painted as a unique and exclusive experience, where vast landscapes play host to unique assets that are seen to be in such plentiful supply that they are ‘uncountable’ (ibid.). From stars to birds, and flowers to rocks, the message is common to regions right across the desert. But what of the markets for these experiences? Who are they, why do they visit and how might they grow over time?