The Year of Indigenous Tourism in Australia has thrown up a challenge
to Aboriginal and Torres Straits Islanders that goes beyond the impact
of the Covid-19 pandemic on the nation’s events industry.
There is a great variety of indigenous tourism product out
there—everything from dot-painting workshops at Ayers Rock Resort in
Central Australia to a guided tour of traditional Aboriginal camping
grounds at Melbourne’s Royal Botanical Gardens, to a snorkelling tour of
the Great Barrier Reef in Queensland that explores the ancient
relationship between Indigenous culture and local marine life.
The challenge is to place authentic product before the eyes of event
organisers that goes beyond the Aboriginal didgeridoo “Welcome to
Country” ceremony that opens many international conferences in
The Northern Territory has claims to be the Australian leader in the
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander tourism sector with Aboriginal
ownership of approximately 50 per cent of the territory’s land and
around 84 per cent of its coastline.
But while there is a wealth of opportunity to provide visitors to the
Northern Territory with traditional Aboriginal tourism
experiences—including jumping crocodile and corroboree billabong
cruises—research indicates that there is a gap between the market demand
for, and supply of, Aboriginal cultural experiences in the territory.
The Northern Territory Aboriginal Tourism Strategy 2020-2030, backed
by a AU$400,000 (US$285,585) investment to support Aboriginal-owned
tourism businesses, aims to drive better planning and marketing of the
sector to promote future sustainable Aboriginal tourism growth.
Rebecca McCaig, director of Northern Territory Business Events, says
the level of engagement with indigenous product varies according to the
type of business event and the programme content. “However, the majority
will include a Welcome to Country at the commencement of the event,
which is delivered by a traditional owner of the land on which the event
is taking place.
“Examples of other cultural activities include bush tucker
excursions, dot-painting workshops, presentations on Aboriginal cuisine,
artworks and traditions as well as cultural performances.”
Business Events Australia cites the Tourism Australia-approved
Discover Aboriginal Experiences operation as a reference point for event
organisers seeking authentic indigenous tourism product.
“Each member represents Australia’s various Aboriginal cultures with
integrity and authenticity,” says Penny Lion, executive general manager
events at Tourism Australia. “All tours are run by Aboriginal guides
who, as owners of the stories they share, offer a means of connecting
groups with Australian places and cultures.”
Margret Campbell runs Dreamtime SouthernX Tours and although she had
had to reduce her staff from 10 to one due to the impact of Covid-19 on
visitor numbers to Sydney, she believes taking her product online will
help to draw business back to where it was pre-coronavirus.
“I had a request from a school in China for a video of one of my
tours, so I think online is a place where I have to be in the future,”
Coinciding with the extension of the 2020 Year of Indigenous Tourism
through 2021, Queensland has established a fund to support unique and
innovative Indigenous tourism products and experiences, including
events, particularly in regional areas.
Queensland tourism minister Kate Jones says the new Indigenous
Tourism Sector Analysis report, released by Tourism and Events
Queensland, has revealed more than 420,000 visitors take part in an
Indigenous tourism activity every year.
“It proves just how important Indigenous tourism will be to the
future of the whole industry in Queensland. Cultural experiences will be
integral to a resurgence in international tourism as the recovery kicks
in following Covid-19,” Jones adds.
“From Gab Titui Cultural Centre on Thursday Island in the Torres
Strait and the renowned Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park north of
Cairns, to the incredible natural setting of Jellurgal Aboriginal
Cultural Centre at Burleigh Heads on the Gold Coast and a host of new
experiences being developed with the Quandamooka people on Minjerribah,
Queensland is the best place for tourists to discover Australia’s
More than 80 unique Aboriginal groups are represented in New South
Wales and with such cultural diversity available New South Wales offers
you some of the most accessible and remarkable Aboriginal experiences in
Tourism Western Australia, host sponsor for the World Indigenous
Tourism Summit (WITS) being held in Perth in 2021, offers Camping with
Custodians, an Australian-first initiative that involves the development
of high-quality campgrounds on Aboriginal lands which are open to the
public and operated by the community.
Visitors have the chance to stay on Aboriginal lands and to meet and
mix with Aboriginal people with the fees they pay for their
accommodation staying in the community.
For the participant communities, Camping with Custodians creates
income, employment, training opportunities and the chance to showcase
local lifestyle and culture.