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