Foreign tourists warned of safety risks in Alice Springs and outback

A number of countries have warned their citizens of the dangers of the region.
A number of countries have warned their citizens of the dangers of the region.

Foreign tourists have been warned over the dangers of visiting Alice Springs and the outback, following a string of assaults on visitors in the area.

A spate of attacks in recent years, including the stabbing death in November of a French tourist at Connor Well, about 100 kilometres north of Alice Springs, has prompted a number of countries to issue travel warnings.

In the year to November  2015, the number of assaults in Alice Springs jumped 11.9 per cent on the previous year, while sexual assaults increased 14 per cent. In September 2015, a drunk teenager repeatedly raped a 37-year-old woman in a public place in the town. 

The British government's travel advice website says there have been some serious sexual assaults against British nationals in Australia. 

"Take care in the town centre of Alice Springs at night," it says. "There have been a number of incidents of harassment, robberies and attacks (including sexual assault) on foreign tourists. Alcohol and drugs can lead to you being less alert, less in control and less aware of your environment. If you are going to drink, know your limit."

The German government advises its tourists in Alice Springs to be careful after dark. It says several tourists have been attacked, including robberies and rape. It warns that tourists should only park campervans on sites that offer security surveillance.

However, Alice Springs mayor Damien Ryan said the warnings of tourists being in danger were unwarranted. 

"Alice Springs is a safe place to visit," he said. "Our local tourism industry has seen bigger numbers over the last two years, and a lot of those are foreign visitors. 

"We have a very harmonious town. A quarter of our population have chosen to shift here from other parts of the world.  

"There are naturally some dangers in visiting remote national parks and communities, so, as with travelling anywhere, it's important to take reasonable precautions. But I welcome visitors to Alice Springs, and I think that they can feel safe here."

The Canadian government advises travellers to avoid hitchhiking in the area and that attacks on backpackers have occurred. It advises tourists to ensure their personal belongings are secure, particularly in crowded places. It says robberies of safe-deposit facilities are common at inexpensive hotels and hostels.

The Italian Ministry for Foreign Affairs' advisory site for Australia says that at Uluru and Alice Springs, tourists should not go too far from populated areas, because the roads can be dangerous and people have been killed in road accidents.

brisbanetimes.com.au