Top End hopes to ride on camel's back

AN epic tale of human endurance, adventure and camels is being seen as the possible saviour of a stagnant Northern Territory tourism industry.

The Australian film Tracks, which recently finished filming in the Northern Territory and South Australia, is about an epic 2700-kilometre and nine-month journey across Australia by Robyn Davidson in 1977.

She achieved the feat with just four unpredictable camels, her trusty dog Diggity and the occasional presence of a National Geographic magazine photographer.

''We will certainly benefit from the movie,'' Chris Hill, the co-owner of Uluru Camel Tours, says. ''We are in the red centre at a beautiful and iconic location, and when people watch the film and pick up the passion of the outback they will want to come here. [Camel rides] are on the bucket list of many people coming to the outback. The movie will encourage even more to come.''

The challenge for such aspirations, of course, is an Australian movie industry almost as moribund as the Top End tourism industry it is supposed to save - Australian movies made up less than 5 per cent of box office takings last year.

Tracks, which stars the Australian actress Mia Wasikowska and is awaiting a release date, is based on the internationally best-selling book of the same name by Davidson.

The venture is not alone among films seen as tourism drawcards.

Most notably, The Hobbit, the retelling of the JRR Tolkien classic, has seen New Zealand trade extensively on its Middle Earth credibility, including Air New Zealand air safety videos featuring hobbits.

Closer to home, the remote Kimberley region of Western Australia, the location for camel tourism rides on Broome's famed Cable Beach, has benefited from films such as Bran Nue Dae, Mad Bastards, Australia, and most recently, Satellite Boy.

''Although it is difficult to provide exact figures, anecdotal evidence suggests this exposure has certainly helped raise the profile of the region as a tourist destination,'' Glen Chidlow, the chief executive of North West Tourism, said. ''Robyn's original journey recorded in Tracks was set in some part in the Kimberley and, hopefully, this will provide further endorsement of the natural attractions of the region."

Mr Hill says camel tourism in general is not as strong as it was a decade ago with factors such as rising insurance costs affecting businesses leading to a lot of camel tourism operators going broke.

The photographer travelled as a guest of Voyages, Accor and Qantas.