Event details

Event name: Sustainable Trails Conference 2021
Destination: Alice Springs, Northern Territory, Australia
Venue: Alice Springs Desert Park
Host organisation: TRC Tourism

About the event

TRC Tourism is an international tourism, recreation and conservation planning consultancy based in Australia and New Zealand which has been working in tourism, recreation and conservation for over 20 years.

The three-day Sustainable Trails Conference organised by TRC Tourism was for professionals in the business of recreation and tourism trails. The conference attracted attendance by experts in all aspects of sustainable trail development, management and marketing – it provided an opportunity to network and upskill.

Why the NT?

Alice Springs was selected as the host destination for the 3rd TRC Sustainable Trails Conference due to its rugged, natural beauty, ecological characteristics, unique event locations and rich Aboriginal culture. It was also seen as a drawcard due to the range of walking, running and mountain biking trails available.

Amongst multiple conference themes, the key theme of ‘Spotlight on the Red Centre Adventure Ride’ was especially relevant to the Northern Territory. TRC had developed an award-winning Master Plan for Mountain Biking in the Northern Territory which aimed to establish Alice Springs as a leading world-class mountain biking hub.

The Alice Springs location helped deliver a unique destination event for the delegates, enabling them to experience field trips which showcased the Larapinta Trail construction and management, the Mountain Bike Trail construction and maintenance, and a new trail experience on Yeperenye country.


Due to Covid-19 travel restrictions at the time, a number of delegates were unable attend in person. A virtual conference option was subsequently provided, which enabled them to still participate.

The delegates who participated at the conference in-person and who had never previously visited Alice Springs or Central Australia, were amazed by its beauty and indicated the desire to return for a holiday.

Special NT Touches

The conference venue was the Red Mulga Event Centre at Alice Springs Desert Park, approximately seven kilometres from town and located at the base of the spectacular West MacDonnell Ranges. The Park covers some 1,300 hectares and showcases the natural, cultural and biological features of Australia’s desert regions.

A distinctive Northern Territory cultural tone was set with the ‘Welcome to Country’ delivered by an Arrernte Traditional Owner from the Alice Springs Lhere Artepe Aboriginal Corporation.

NT-based speakers at the conference included Chris Day, Senior Director Parks and Wildlife Operations with the NT Government Department of Environment, Parks and Water Security, as well as destination and trails experts Phill Cowan and Marty Krieg from Parks NT.

Field trips are a feature of the Sustainable Trails Conference and in Alice Springs they were deemed by delegates to be a stand-out highlight of the conference. The Larapinta Trail trip showcased track construction techniques and enabled a visit to iconic landmarks of Simpsons Gap and Ormiston Gorge. Another itinerary included The Mountain Bike Trail network around Alice Springs, with the visit to the Yeperenye Trail revealing the new 7.2-kilometre walking and cycling experience developed in the East MacDonnell Ranges.

In a gesture to the local community, chairs which had been purchased for the field trip sessions were donated by the organisers to the Central Land Council which, in turn, distributed them to the Traditional Owners who had worked on the development of the Yeperenye track.

The 2021 conference social program provided a true taste of Alice Springs. The Welcome function was an informal barbecue at Alice Springs Desert Park featuring a traditional outback menu of kangaroo, camel and other flavours from the land. The Conference Gala Dinner was an outdoor occasion held under the stars at Ooraminna Station Homestead, a family-owned cattle station 35 kilometres south of Alice Springs.

Northern Territory Business Events provided ongoing assistance for the 2021 conference, connecting organisers with a network of local suppliers and enabling them to maximise their ‘Buy Local’ objectives.


Organisers advised that Alice Springs had it all – welcoming friendly people, culture and the rich history of Australia, all set against the incredible backdrop that is the authentic Australian outback.

Alice Springs and Central Australia is a magical place. I was on such a high when I got home, and I know I wasn’t the only one that thought this. I plan to take my family back for a holiday and just about everyone that had not been to Alice Springs before said the same thing – completely gobsmacked by the beauty and spiritual connection they felt.

Donna Graf, Business Manager, TRC Tourism