It’s the tourism story that’s got everything. A big rock in the middle of nowhere, an indigenous culture asserting its rights, virtue signaling, screams of political correctness, risk, innovation, a spectacular art installation, and crucially, a surge in visitors to the red heart of Australia.

Ayers Rock, or Uluru, is an Australian tourism icon and, for some tourists, a climb to its top is an item on the bucket list. It has made the Northern Territory a popular destination for Asians for whom Australia is their first “Western” holiday. But apart from the Japanese, most Asian travelers are probably content to just do a two-hour walk around the rock and soak in the red hues of the desert, in itself a unique experience.

In truth, climbing the rock isn’t the main reason for visitors — in fact, the number of climbers has dropped drastically over the years. So the forthcoming ban on climbing Uluru— rightly or wrongly — won’t have a significant impact on visitor numbers post-October 26.

The destination is lucky that tourist behaviors are changing, as our report below shows. They want more connections with aboriginal people and cultures. Rocks, spectacular or spiritual as they may be, don’t speak.

On the supply side, kudos must go to the local providers who understand customers are changing and are giving them more ways to immerse themselves in the place. New attractions such as Field of Light are also a brilliant idea to entice travelers to visit and experience something that they can only get in Uluru.

The willingness to cater to changing customers and to make a destination unique are what ensures that Uluru will remain spiritual and rock-steady long after October 26.

— Raini Hamdi, Skift Asia Editor, rh@skift.com, @RainiHamdi

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Australia’s Landmark Uluru Is a Case Study for Immersing Tourists in Local Culture To be sure, there is a sudden surge of people, mostly domestic visitors, who want to climb Ayers Rock before October 26, when a ban is enforced. But there’s more to the boom in the famous park in Australia’s Northern Territory than just the rock.

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Zhiketong Raises $42.5 Million for Hotel Marketing on WeChat: Zhiketong stands out for receiving investment from top-tier investors and travel companies. The company helps hotels and other firms market their services to travelers via WeChat, a messaging service and payment platform. Hotels like WeChat because it charges lower commissions than online travel agencies like Ctrip.

Airbnb Beat Expedia in Booked Room Nights: Does anyone remember when Travelocity was the leading U.S. online travel agency? We’re thinking about that because a milestone may have taken place in the first quarter when Airbnb attracted more room nights booked than did Expedia. What it does clearly show is that the online travel pecking order is very much in flux.

Tourism Is Up: So Why Is New York City’s Hotel Room Revenue Slumping? Far more hotel rooms are opening across New York City than are being filled. That’s bad news for hotels but good news for tour operators in Asia, particularly in markets such as Singapore where there are more direct routes to the Big Apple.

Asia Editor Raini Hamdi [rh@skift.com] curates the Skift Asia Weekly newsletter. Skift emails the newsletter every Wednesday.

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Photo Credit: Ayers Rock, or Uluru, is an Australian tourism icon. October 26, 2019, marks the start of a ban against climbing the iconic monolith, which is sacred to the Anangu people. Mario Vecchi / Flickr