Hilton hotel chain among businesses cashing in on taxpayer-funded grants



December 12, 2018 07:58:27

A long list of businesses operating in the Northern Territory have stumped up cash to enhance the “visitor experience” — money that’s being matched dollar-for-dollar by the Government.

Key points:

  • DoubleTree by Hilton received two “one-off” grants to upgrade its gym and services
  • The NT Government says the funds fell within its tourism grant criteria
  • It comes as a report by the NT Auditor-General suggests spending “could be restrained”

As part of its $103 million turbo-charging tourism campaign, the Northern Territory Government is handing out $3 million in grants to businesses.

By enhancing infrastructure and beautifying restaurants and hotels, it is hoped tourists will be more likely to recommend the NT as a place to visit when they return home.

Round one of the 2018-19 Visitor Experience Enhancement Program (VEEP), run by the NT Tourism Department, has paid out the first half.

Among the businesses to receive up to $50,000 in government funds is the DoubleTree by Hilton hotel chain.

The international chain received two “one-off” grants — one for $23,925 to upgrade the gym at its Alice Springs location, and one for $50,000 to upgrade “information services” at its hotel in Darwin.

The Government said all the VEEP grants fitted within the tourism department’s grant selection criteria.

Other grants to “turbo-charge the visitor experience” included:

  • Installation of a new integrated audio visual system, Pee Wees Darwin ($50,000)
  • Upgrade Point of Sale System (POS), Hot Tamale restaurant ($11,000)
  • Restaurant and guest room enhancement, H on Smith Hotel ($45,454)
  • New breakfast and seafood restaurant at the Waterfront, Snapper Rocks Bar and Restaurant ($50,000)

“It does have a very good process around it for making sure that people are showing a need around the improvement of their visitor experience,” Tourism Minister Lauren Moss said.

“We are very happy that they have been going out right across the Territory and getting great results.”

Deputy Opposition Leader Lia Finocchiaro said she believed funds should only go to local, small businesses.

“Spending money during tough times is important and economic stimulus is important, but it needs to be done right,” she said.

“At the end of the day, we need to ensure that taxpayer’s money is spent well, and that it translates into people and visitation into the Territory.”

The Hilton hotel chain has been contacted for comment.

‘It looks gold, it’s a big change’

On the streets of Darwin, visitors and locals alike told the ABC there was already plenty to recommend.

English tourist Keely said she had been in the NT for six months, and that she would sing the praises of the region’s national parks to her family back home.

A Nepalese student similarly said it was the region’s “nature” that made the NT an appealing place to visit.

A Darwin local named Lee said he believed more money needed to be spent on beautifying public spaces.

“But you can see what they’re doing. It looks gold, it’s a big change on a few years ago,” he said.

Amid a stimulus spending spree and ballooning debt, a report by the Northern Territory Auditor-General noted capital grants in particular were an area where spending could be reduced.

The report, tabled in the final NT parliamentary sittings this week, shows the Government’s total expenses were $350.7 million higher than the previous year, “indicating opportunities may exist where spending could be restrained in the current environment”.







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