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The Travellers Choice annual conference is always rewarding but for me the 2023 gathering was particularly memorable because I was lucky enough to win a place on a five-night Outback Spirit journey to Australia’s Red Centre.

Rather than travel exclusively with a group of fellow travel agents, I joined a ‘regular’ small group tour, providing me with the opportunity to see first-hand how clients experience the company’s product.

The ‘Red Centre Explorer’ is a round trip from Alice Springs that takes in all of the region’s unique attractions, including Uluru, the rock formations of Kata Tjuta (The Olgas) and Walpa Gorge, Kings Canyon, and the ‘Sounds of Silence’ dinner under the stars.

It was not the first time I’d been to the Red Centre, but the skill, knowledge and attentiveness of the Outback Spirit staff, along with the nature of the activities, allowed me to experience the destination in new ways.

For instance, I was already familiar with the spectacular ‘Field of Light’ exhibition at Uluru by artist Bruce Munro, in which more than 50,000 glass spheres illuminate the desert landscape.

But this time around I had the opportunity to take in Munro’s light display at Kings Canyon, which was just as good.

There were other moments that simply could not be repeated, such as when we embarked on a 3,400-step early-morning walk on ANZAC Day to an amphitheatre to hear an incredibly moving performance of the Last Post.

Outback Spirit makes it clear that some activities will be taxing for those with limited fitness. For example, one day some of us got up at 5:30am to undertake a rocky six kilometre walk through Watarrka National Park.

But the less fit members of the group were never made to feel they’d missed out. After we returned from our Watarrka trek, we picked up everyone who hadn’t taken part and took them on a less arduous walk together. There were always more do-able options if the activity was going to be a bit strenuous.

The accommodation was excellent. One night was spent at the DoubleTree by Hilton Alice Springs, two nights at Kings Canyon Resort and two nights at the five-star Sails in the Desert Hotel, from where we ventured out to a private lookout in the early morning to watch the sun rise over Uluru.

The tour is all inclusive and the quality and quantity of food and drink was so good that I never felt the need to put my hand in my pocket.

Being a small group tour meant it was very easy to mingle and meet everyone, especially since we sat together at long tables and they did a seat rotation on the bus each day. As a result, even though our group was mostly couples, I’d have no problem recommending it for single travellers.

One of the other things I noticed about my group was that the vast majority were incorporating the ‘Red Centre Explorer’ tour into a longer itinerary, with many of them taking a train journey from Adelaide to Alice Springs, then continuing on by train to Darwin.

So, in other words, there is a really good opportunity to upsell the five-day Red Centre tour to an 11-14 day Outback Spirit experience.

Tour: Outback Spirit’s Red Centre Explorer 2024