The 4WD tourism study by Charles Darwin University expert Dean Carson revealed most drivers have relatively high incomes and affluent lifestyles.
“Kitting out a 4WD vehicle and getting it to the desert requires a fair amount of money,” he said.
“So, while they want to rough it for parts of the trip, they also like some luxuries when they do get in touch with civilisation.”
The survey found people wanted better food, better coffee and better accommodation in the towns and communities visited on their travels.
Dr Carson said the largest group of drivers like to stop at sites they “think” are seldom visited by other people – and then relax with a good bottle of red wine.
The research is hoped to change the way tourism is marketed in the Territory.
“Four-wheel-drive travellers don’t like to be thought of as mass tourists, so normal tourist promotion is not very effective,” Dr Carson said. “Your typical tourist doesn’t want too much help. They prefer not to travel on well-signposted and formed roads – they take pride in being competent with maps and GPS systems.”
Most tourists said they got their information from maps, websites and other 4WD travellers. The market is changing, and must change to survive,” Dr Carson said.
“Desert travellers are becoming more sophisticated and are increasingly looking for educational experiences, as well as general sightseeing.”
Dr Carson said this could “stimulate” economic opportunities for Aboriginal tourism, environmental tourism and desert appreciation.
He said there had been a boom in caravan and motor home sales, and increasing numbers of all-wheel-drive vehicles – which have limited desert travel. “The 4WD tourism market is well established in desert, but it certainly hasn’t developed to its full potential.”