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.