Right out of the bizarre-but-true files, ex-Jenolan Caves tour guide Laura Boness tells of a bold initiative to draw Trekkies to the Blue Mountains, NSW
Jenolan Caves, the popular tourist destination in the Blue Mountains, has recently launched three new languages as part of its self-guided audio tour – Italian, Arabic and Klingon.
As Trekkies will know, Klingon is the language of the fictional warrior race and recurring villains of the original Star Trek series. The staff at Jenolan Caves Reserve Trust have decided to Hoch ‘ebmey tIjon (For non-Klingon speakers, this translates to ‘capture all opportunities’) and use the fictional language for their self-guided tour of the Devil’s Coach House and the Nettle Cave.
The idea was suggested by the manager of the Jenolan Caves Reserve Trust, Dan Cove, and James Brady.
“It was one of those ideas that just came to us,” Dan explains. They were discussing adding something different as an acoustiguide. “Something like ancient Greek or Latin.”
Then Klingon was suggested and Dan thought, “Let’s just do it.”
The idea isn’t just aimed at fans of the Star Trek series. Dan hopes that other people will also want to come and try out this quirky new tour for themselves. “We’re trying to attract the curious, not just the Trekkies,” he says.
Statistics from Tourism NSW have shown that the number of travellers visiting the Blue Mountains has declined since 1999, with an 18% drop in the number of trips between 2008 and 2009. But local attractions are still trying to find new ways to attract both local and international customers to the mountains.
Dan believes that people are attracted to the idea of doing something unusual. “I like doing different things to try and attract visitors. There aren’t a lot of laughs out there at the moment, the news is pretty grim. Going on holiday should be about doing something different.”
Jenolan has also recently added a number of new tours and attractions to its already extensive repertoire, with the commencement of Kids Tours in the holidays and the introduction of a Murder Party earlier in the year. Arrivals at the caves have increased since 2006 and Dan believes that the success is because of the new ideas.
“You’ve got to make a destination sexy,” he says.
Other destinations in the Blue Mountains are also adding new attractions for visitors. The Zig Zag Railway has introduced the Wizard’s Express – reminiscent of the train that carries Harry Potter from platform 9 and ¾ to Hogwarts in the popular series by J. K. Rowling. There’s also a Wizards’ School at Mount Tomah Botanic Gardens, which opened two years ago.
The Wizard’s School sees kids creating their own personalised broomsticks from sticks in the gardens or learning how to make potions from plants. Kate Faithorn, Visitor Services & Marketing Manager at Mount Tomah, says that the Wizard’s School events have been booked out every time they’ve run them.
The gardens also run a number of other events, including a food and wine fair and various art exhibitions, and their arrival numbers have also remained stable over the last 10 years. Kate says that they have worked hard to maintain these numbers.
“We’re prepared to innovate and find new ways to keep things fresh to bring people to the mountains,” she says.
These strategies seem to be enjoying great qapla’ (success). And for Lord of the Rings fans, Dan says there may yet be a new addition to the acoustiguides.
“We really considered Elvish, we may yet do it,” he says.
After all, not yap wa’ Hol (one language is never enough).
*Jenolan Caves recently won Best Tourist Attraction at the 2010 Tourism NSW awards.
Laura Boness submitted this story as part of our Virtual Internship Program. To find out how you can get your travel story on the Australian Traveller website, click here.