I sat in the very front row and I just remember how inspired I felt. I could tell that many others felt the same. Not one person spoke; the entire room stood quiet, which made the atmosphere even more powerful and inspiring. I found this event to be a great firsthand experience for everyone to see how far someone can go if they really want it, and really put their mind to it.
A casual lunch followed the Q&A. Some people came up, introduced themselves and shared how Kristal’s story inspired and motivated them to not only push harder to succeed within the fields they are working in, but also push themselves harder and put actions in place to reach their goals to be a successful individual in the business sector.
In Australia, the national research on demand and bookings of Indigenous tourism is patchy, often due to broad definitions of Indigenous tourism.
Quarterly research by Tourism Research Australia on visitors exiting the country tells us the growth in each state/region, what people do on holidays, how many nights they stay, what they spend, and how many in a group. These surveys don't have a lot of room for in depth detail about specific activities: people are filling them out as they board flights, and recalling data at a high level – which leaves a margin of error. A section in the survey dedicated to experiences says 'Indigenous' or 'cultural activity', which can mean a lot of things to different people. For example, the survey respondent may view broad experiences like public art galleries or free performances as a cultural experience - but that tourism spend does not flow back to an Indigenous person, and is not the same as booking a tourism experience with an Indigenous business.
These broad definitions can skew the data on how many people are really participating in Aboriginal cultural experiences, and driving economic benefit to Aboriginal people.
In 2013 Indigenous Business Australia (IBA) commissioned Supply and Demand research from Griffith University, who found that of the international visitors to Australia (around 20% of total visitors) just 5% sought Indigenous tourism experiences. Only a small number of those converted to booking. Most consumption of Indigenous tourism involves passive and free experiences such as museums, national parks, and art sites.
A joint initiative by IBA and Tourism Australia called the Indigenous Tourism Champions Program (ITCP) ran from 2012-2017. By 2014, the number of ‘Champions’ doubled to 51 in the program, thanks to partnering with state tourism organisations and skilled tourism business mentors to intensively build capability. At that time, media reported around 14% of international visitors to Australia participated in an Aboriginal cultural experience during their visit, worth $5.6bn annually. The ITCP utilised best practise in developing the business capacity of Indigenous operators in remote as well as metropolitan places, with alignment to export trade needs and domestic channels. It started a conversation that we need to keep having.
Best practise tourism development is commercial in focus - and with good reason. We know in Australia, every $1 spent on an Indigenous business brings $4.40 social return. (Source: Supply Nation)
Best practise tourism development for Indigenous people in Australia and Canada puts strong emphasis on capacity and capability training for Indigenous entrepreneurs, supported by other Indigenous people. It is an integrated approach with state and national tourism agencies, focused on the activities that bring the most direct economic and thereby social advantages to Indigenous tourism operators.
IPS Management Consultants celebrates our fourth birthday today! We put together this card in appreciation of our fabulous directors.
These preconceptions revolve around a specific question: can an Indigenous tourism experience be anything other than a cultural experience? For example - a hotel? A gastronomic treat? A surfing tour that happens to be Aboriginal owned?
The answer to that question is that an Indigenous tourism experience is as varied as any other experience.
Indigenous clients have shared with me their frustration at being pigeonholed as ‘not Indigenous enough’, or not ‘traditional enough, you know, like from the desert’. They are told overtly in Trip Advisor reviews, and often have to tackle tourists’ assumption head-on during tours. There is still an expectation of what Indigenous tourism is and should be, and it is still largely defined by an Anglo Celtic western mindset, the target market most likely to purchase.
IPS would love to see the Tourism 2030 agenda, which earmarks support for Indigenous tourism, to go beyond current expectations of what’s easy to sell and think bigger about what Indigenous tourism success could be - especially as an economic development tool for Indigenous entrepreneurs in regions.
With growing numbers of Indigenous people starting businesses, why not a national Indigenous-owned chartered bus company dispersing people from the east coast into regions?
Or an Indigenous cruise ship in the Kimberly, with on-board and on-country dance, song, food, ceremony, contemporary and traditional?
Why not an Indigenous-owned and operated hotel chain in a range of regional cities across Australia, showcasing Indigenous art and managed, staffed and serviced by Aboriginal staff?
Can you imagine? Embracing the full potential and variety of what Indigenous business has to offer the tourism sector would put Australia as a contender in cultural tourism stakes, and it is achievable.
We want to raise the bar on expectations for Australian Indigenous tourism – to surprise and delight and challenge people on all levels– get them coming back for unexpected encounters. It’s hard to imagine Hobart now without recommending MOFO as a must see and do, even if you don’t really like art. It’s become a whole reason for people to visit by challenging perceptions and being different at many levels. On a bigger scale, imagine if Indigenous Tourism could do for Australia what David Walsh and MOFO did for Tassie?
Let’s think outside the square and challenge our ideas of what Indigenous tourism in Australia is and can be.
Would you like to talk to us about tourism? Get in touch with our resident Tourism Consultant and South Australian Business Manager Susan Lee on 0466 090 600 or
Growth in Australian tourism has been significant in the past decade, and is likely to look a bit different in the next as our global economy transforms. Whatever the shape, success in Australian tourism should include and foster the growth of Indigenous businesses, regional jobs, and higher numbers of export-ready Indigenous experiences.
Business leaders across Australia in many sectors have committed to Indigenous reconciliation through diversity in procurement and employment, and a greater and deeper awareness of living and working in an Indigenous Australian cultural landscape. Tourism 2030 provides an exciting opportunity to ensure a strong Indigenous component that reflects the national conversation around reconciliation, and identifies achievable KPIs for the Australian Indigenous tourism sector.
So why Indigenous tourism?
IPS consultants experience daily the excitement of our clients about engaging authentically, respectfully and creatively with Indigenous culture and people in their supply chains, on their staff, and in the community. IPS leads national conversations about the business case for more successful, profitable, Indigenous-owned businesses and the benefits of supplier diversity to all industries.
We call on state and national tourism leaders to consider Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures as a unique part of Tourism 2030 and in your state. We encourage broad and new thinking, not just about cultural experiences and tours, but for more Aboriginal investment into businesses supplying the sector, particularly in regions.
There is lots to be done in this space in terms of capacity building, training, capital funding, cross-cultural communications and educating supply chains, research and policy. IPS offers support in all these areas. Call us on (08) 9721 7057 to talk to one of our consultants.
Communications were sent out using platforms that were easily accessible, including a You Tube video which could be viewed by members on mobile phones from any geographical area. Gumala staff were coached in delivering key messaging.
An estimated 400 members then attended a town hall style consultation meeting, where IPS facilitators Scott Anderson and Damien Chalk delivered the review, the key messages, and facilitated strong, diverse and constructive engagement which saw all of the recommendations adopted and an action plan for delivery.