The Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody suggested the importance of developing an Indigenous tourism industry strategy, to increase employment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and to assist in strengthening cultural values. The Strategy has been developed after extensive research into Indigenous tourism carried out by ATSIC and other organisations over a three year period. During this time a discussion paper and a Draft Strategy were separately released for comment, questionnaires were issued to industry participants, and consultation workshops were held in a number of locations. The comments received as a result of these consultations have contributed to the development of the Strategy. The Tourism Industry Advisory Committee (TIAC) and government representatives from each State/Territory (State Co-ordinators) have also met on several occasions to support the development of the Strategy. In addition, thirteen pilot projects were funded to test different components of the Draft Strategy, and the lessons learnt from these pilots have been evaluated. Some of these pilot projects implemented components of the Draft Strategy, and these results can be built on.

Lists of background documents for the Strategy, and the contributions made towards its preparation by individuals and organisations, are appended.

The Role of the Strategy

The Strategy presents a framework for development of Indigenous tourism, which may be implemented by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people themselves, assisted by both the mainstream tourism industry and government agencies. The actions listed in the Strategy can be implemented by a range of organisations including government and industry organisations. Support for participation by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is important to governments because of the potential to create employment and economic benefits, and it is important to the tourism industry because of its potential to add to the range and quality of Australian tourism products.

Indigenous tourism is defined here to include all forms of participation by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in tourism :

as employers,

as employees,

as investors,

as joint venture partners,

providing Indigenous cultural tourism products, and

providing mainstream tourism products.

Commonwealth, State and Territory governments as well as some local governments and non-government organisations have already taken steps to increase Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander participation, following on from the recommendations of the Draft Strategy. There has been considerable consolidation of effort, and there is emerging agreement on the way ahead.

Arising from this work, the Strategy is based on practical experience of what is achievable on the ground. It recognises that Indigenous participation in tourism must be firmly based on the aspirations, energy and resources of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people themselves. The Strategy is shaped first and foremost by what Indigenous people want to do within the industry. Different components of the Strategy point to the choices to be made by Indigenous people in the manner and level of their participation, and the means of controlling how tourism affects them.

The “tourism industry” is a term applied to several areas of the economy that service the needs of tourists. Tourism Training Australia has defined the industry as follows (see table below). This Strategy aims to improve the opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders across all areas of the industry.

The Tourism Industry

Food and Beverage Restaurants, Pubs, Clubs, Night-Clubs, Function Venues, Caterers, Cafes ______________

Hotels, Motels, Caravan Parks, Guest Houses, Executive Apartments, Resorts, Youth Hostels, Backpacker Hostels, Bed & Breakfast


Retail Travel Agency ______________

Wholesale Development of Retail Products ______________

Duty Free Shops, Souvenir Shops ______________

Transport/Tours Airlines, Tour Operators, Tour Guides, Coaches, Cruise Shipping

Tourism Services

Theme Parks, National Parks, Zoos, Museums, Natural & man-made attractions, Entertainment, Casinos ______________

Conventions/Events Conventions, Festivals, Conference Organisers, Seminar Organisers

Information Services/Agencies, Industry Associations, Federal, State & Regional Tourism Information Centres, Marketing and Public Relations Companies

Source: “Graduate Outlook” 1996, New Hobsons Press

The Strategy also recognises the important part that has to be played by government at all levels as well as by the mainstream tourism industry.

Infrastructure and industry support that is accessible to people becoming involved in the industry is essential for this sector to develop. This support needs to be appropriate for the needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and to take account of the particular contribution they wish to make to tourism.

It is also seen as highly desirable that Indigenous participation be integrated within the industry as a whole, rather than seen as a separate component, if it is to benefit most from the available infrastructure and support mechanisms. This reflects the realities of the industry, in that it operates as a single system rather than a compartmentalised one, reliant on common services for bookings, transport, marketing and wholesaling.

There is a very high level of interest amongst Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in contributing to tourism, and the Strategy seeks to support this contribution. However, it is important that expectations be realistic, and that small gains be acknowledged and consolidated as a basis for further building the capacity of Indigenous tourism, rather than aiming for instant
success at a grand scale. For this reason, the Strategy is firmly based on practical experience within the industry, the pitfalls that have to be avoided, and the steps that have to be taken if participation is to increase steadily over time. This can make the tourism industry as a whole stronger, and ultimately provide sustainable economic and other benefits for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

The State of the Industry

The scale of Indigenous participation in the tourism industry is currently very small – possibly only around 200 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander tourism operators with established businesses. Most businesses employ few people, some operate only occasionally, and they are fragile in terms of their long term sustainability. The value of Indigenous cultural tourism is estimated at around $5M p.a., which is a tiny fraction of the Australian tourism industry as a whole. This compares with a much larger slice of mainstream tourism operations owned by Aboriginal people – mainly involving accommodation and transport (possibly around $20-30M p.a.). By contrast, Indigenous arts and crafts are estimated to be worth nearer $200M p.a. and increasing rapidly, with around half of sales occurring through the tourism market1

Indigenous employment in the mainstream tourism industry is estimated as around 1,5002. This is much less than would be expected from a representation of jobs based on population size. There appears to be considerable scope to increase this form of participation, and some evidence of a willingness on the part of non-Indigenous employers to make this possible (based on a wide range of discussions including submissions to the Draft Strategy). This is combined with some uncertainty about how such increased employment can be facilitated.

In looking at opportunities for increased participation in tourism, it needs to be recognised that the significant opportunities for international tourism are near to the main arrival points for international tourists. There are also opportunities for tourism based on the domestic market, which are more geographically spread.

Most Indigenous people live in regional centres or rural areas. The cultural resources for development of Indigenous cultural tourism are more often strong in these areas. Development of tourism in these localities is likely to depend on specialised niche markets, which are generally growing faster than the rest of the tourism industry, though they remain relatively small (Reingold, 1993).
Despite this strength in regional and remote areas, there is a higher demand for Indigenous product near to the main centres of visitation, and this is not currently being met.


“For many Aboriginal people, tourism provides a connection to the land and the opportunity for their story, their knowledge and their culture to be shared and valued.”

Projects – STEP



With the assistance of the Commonwealth Government (through the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations) Tourism Training South Australia (TTSA) operates a Structured Training and Employment Project aimed at significantly increasing the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people employed in the tourism and hospitality industry in SA.

The main focus of the project is to place Indigenous people in the industry either through

• An appropriate New Apprenticeship (Traineeship or Apprenticeship) or
• Direct employment

A significant number of tourists visit Australia each year to experience its environment and culture only to return home disappointed at not having had any contact with it’s Indigenous people.

In view of the growing demand for Indigenous tourism experiences, the project represents an ideal opportunity for employers to increase their share of the tourist dollar through the employment of Indigenous people.

The project focuses on employment in areas such as mainstream and Indigenous/cultural tourism, hospitality, Indigenous food and associated industries.

Since commencement in October 1997, approximately 120 Indigenous Trainees/Apprentices/Employees have been placed, these have included Occupations such as Flight Attendants, Hospitality Attendants, Coach Driving, Kitchen hands, Travel Consultants and Art/Craft.

Should you wish to find out more about the project please contact

John Cassebohm, Project Manager, at Tourism Training South Australia on  (08) 8 232 0311


Aboriginal Tourism Australia Level 6, 230 Collins St, Melbourne, VIC 3000
Lois Peeler (Chairperson) or Leanne Miller
ph 03 96502655 fax 03 96541177

Quoted in the article was Federal tourism minister Jackie Kelly
“We really exploit our indigenous culture overseas,thats the distinguishing factor for us that makes people choose us over Africa or Hawaii for a holiday”.


Earlier this year our community was awarded a major employment strategy from the federal government to develop a Central Australian Aboriginal Tourism Training Centre. An industry steering committee with representatives from AAT KINGS,AURORA ,ALICE TOUR PROFESSIONALS AND BRITZ RENT A CAR assisted Colin Cowell from Red Centre Marketing Services develop the strategy, The objective of the strategy is to train and create 200 full time positions for Aboriginal tourism trainees by 2003.

Pathways into the Industry

There are many levels on which Indigenous tourism enterprises can operate, each with their own requirements in terms of commitments, skills and resources. There is also a diversity of cultures and environments which helps to determine the appropriate level of operation. It is important that operators find the level at which they can function most effectively.

It is also essential that organisations providing infrastructure and other support (networks, advice, training and funding) recognise the level at which different enterprises are operating, so that they can provide appropriate assistance. This is acknowledged in Part Four, which discusses support mechanisms.

The following steps form a simplified classification of stages in enterprise development. There is no implication here that enterprises should move from one step to another, but the diagram indicates what is involved in making this progression. It should be recognised that at present the vast majority of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander tourism enterprises are operating within steps 1-3.

Step 6 : Getting onto the World Stage – the product is reliable and stable. It meets particular expectations of different inbound (export) markets, and there is an ability to respond quickly to inquiries. High quality promotional materials are essential.

Step 5 : Dealing with Wholesalers – the product must be developed sufficiently to be able to present it to a broader market. Promotion should encourage realistic expectations from tourists (distance, conditions, what they will experience, etc), and a seven day week availability is generally required.

Step 4 : Achieving Viability – this involves presenting a reliable and well tested product for marketing, with sufficient cash flow to be able to offer commissions. It is necessary to have well developed skills, and a high level of reliability in terms of product and participants.

Step 3 : Planning and Organising – for this step to be taken, it is necessary to clearly establish what there is to offer to tourists, refine the product to the stage where it can be sold, and establish the model for participation and management of impacts.

Step 2 : Learning about the Industry – this involves defining a desirable tourism product, and allowing people to sort out their level of individual commitment, as well as thinking about potential impacts of tourism and how to manage them. It may involve some research, to see if the products are marketable.

Step 1 : Cultural Revival and Maintenance – in many areas, people need to develop their own strategies for presenting their own local culture and how to be involved in the tourism industry. They may also wish to provide a watchdog role in relation to misappropriation of cultural heritage by others. This is an important step for involvement in cultural tourism.

For those participants who do want to “grow” their enterprise through taking these various steps, it should be recognised that consolidation of experience is necessary at each stage before moving on to the next. Business success will rarely be achievable in the short term. The relative newness of most Indigenous enterprises suggests that it will be some time before strong commercial performance can be achieved, even for those enterprises which have all the necessary ingredients.

The Strategy is intended to assist Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in moving through these steps at their own pace, and choosing a level of operation which best suits their requirements.


Click on footnote to return to text

1 Estimated by comparing a number of available indicators with experts’ knowledge of the industry Estimated by comparing a number of available indicators with experts’ knowledge of the industry

2 Estimated from 1991 ABS Census Community Profile Estimated from 1991 ABS Census Community Profile


tourism is this industry we have been hearing about for a long time now, we are not getting any closer to an understanding of it, of whether we should get into it, of how we get into it, of where we go for information about it.” (quotation from consultations with Aboriginal people, Australian Outback Tourism Developments 1995:16)

As this quotation suggests, there is considerable confusion amongst Indigenous people about the tourism industry. There are seen to be potential benefits, but it is unclear what is the best way to get involved, and how to go about building a successful tourism enterprise. There are also seen to be potential dangers arising from the impact of tourism, and there is a need for strategies to manage these impacts.

The vision for the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Tourism Industry Strategy is :

choice for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people about their involvement in the tourism industry,

high quality presentation of unique and living cultures,

a vibrant Indigenous component of the tourism industry,

a means of economic independence for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander participants,

development of Indigenous tourism product by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with appropriate support from the mainstream tourism industry, and 

a productive and progressive partnership between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and non-Indigenous Australians within the industry as a whole.

This Strategy identifies the low level of participation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the tourism industry, and aims to remove obstacles to increased involvement. There are opportunities for Indigenous people as investors, joint venture partners, employers and employees within the industry. However, increased participation needs to be encouraged without raising false expectations : the tourism industry does not provide for quick or easy benefits, and it requires considerable commitment and patience.

If Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people wish to become involved in tourism, it is important to steadily build the capacity of the indigenous tourism sector so that there is a choice about how to become involved, if at all. It is desirable to consolidate those enterprises that have already started, so that they can act as good models for new enterprises later on.

The tourism industry as a whole stands to benefit from an increased participation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, including Indigenous cultural tourism. This form of tourism often has appeal to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, as it provides opportunities for revitalisation of cultural values, especially amongst young people.

For indigenous cultural tourism to be successful, it is necessary to recognise the considerable diversity of regional cultures, and the Strategy aims to promote this diversity through marketing and educational activities.

The Strategy proposes actions that will establish or strengthen :

support networks

information distribution systems



physical infrastructure

product development support

opportunities for obtaining funding

business development support

tools for managing tourism impacts

marketing assistance and

market research.

These actions will require a whole of government approach within the Commonwealth Government, and joint action with State and Territory Governments in co-operation with the tourism industry. The Strategy recognises the additional important role that local governments have in local and regional tourism planning.

The objectives of the Strategy are :

to remove obstacles to increased Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander participation in the tourism industry, as investors, joint venture partners, employers (including operators) and employees,

to assist Aboriginal people to present their cultures to tourists in a way which is acceptable to Aboriginal communities and which also provides a valuable tourism experience,

to assist Torres Strait Islander people to present their cultures to tourists in a way which is acceptable to Torres Strait Islander communities and which also provides a valuable tourism experience, and

to assist Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in choosing how they wish to participate in the tourism industry, and building their capacity to contribute to the industry.

Lessons have been learnt from the various pilot projects funded under the Draft Strategy to test its assumptions and recommendations. A list of the pilot projects is at Appendix C.

This Strategy must be implemented in coordinated and cooperative ways by a range of people and organisations. Implementation of the Strategy will be achieved through the combined efforts of the Commonwealth, State and Territory governments, the tourism industry and Indigenous participants. Information about the Strategy can be sought from the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission, the Office of National Tourism, State/Territory tourism agencies and Aboriginal Tourism Australia. Appendix E contains a list of key contacts and publications available.

The Strategy has a timeframe of four years, from 1997 to 2001. This provides for the period in the lead up to the Sydney Olympics, the Paralympics and the Centenary of Federation, so that any review of the Strategy can learn from the experience of these events. The achievements of the Strategy will also be well placed within the United Nations International Decade of the World’s Indigenous People 1995-2005.

This introduction identifies the role of the Strategy, and the people and organisations which can best use it. It discusses the current state of the tourism industry in Australia, and the scale of Indigenous participation within it. The pathways which Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people may take to increase their participation through enterprise development are described.



This part of the Strategy describes the support systems that will be necessary to provide for increased Indigenous participation in tourism. It examines support networks, information distribution, training, planning, provision of physical infrastructure, product development, obtaining funding, development of business operations, managing the impacts of tourism, marketing and market research. These are discussed in a sequence relating to building increased capacity within the tourism industry as a whole, not just developing individual enterprises.

The objective of the Strategy relating to the issues raised in Part Four is :

Objective 4 : to assist Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in choosing how they wish to participate in the tourism industry, and building their capacity to contribute to the industry

Support Networks

The tourism industry is built on networking, and it is desirable that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people tap into available support networks. This involves identifying and joining established mainstream networks at the local, regional and State/Territory level. These networks can provide assistance with all aspects of business development and promotion, and provide essential information about what others are doing in the industry. Mainstream industry networks need to ensure that they are accessible to Indigenous participants, and that they take on board issues of importance to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

It is critically important that Indigenous tourism enterprises recognise the importance of linking with local or regional mainstream tourist organisations.

It is appropriate that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander representation should become evident across the spectrum of industry associations and management boards. Tourism Council Australia (which is the peak tourism industry body) should provide a leadership role. The immediate appointment of an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person to the TCA Board is warranted, especially in view of the current use of Indigenous imagery to market the industry as a whole. In recognition of the emerging importance of Indigenous tourism, it would also be appropriate for regional tourist organisations to seek representation from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who are active in the tourism industry.

There is a justification for some additional networks to be established specifically for Indigenous people who are involved in tourism, and the pilot projects funded under the Draft Strategy included two such networks.

Aboriginal Tourism Australia (formerly the Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Corporation for Tourism) has been established as a national network, originally based around the needs of Indigenous tour operators, but broadening its base to include all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander industry participants. A network such as this can provide a lobbying and representation role in dealing with governments, and can provide for exchange of information between participants in different parts of Australia.

The Kimberley Aboriginal Tourism Association (KATA) was established as a regional network, able to provide support to a region where there is substantial activity in Indigenous tourism development. KATA has worked alongside the mainstream Kimberley Tourism Association (KTA), to complement KTA activities.

Tourism New South Wales has provided considerable support for the development of a State based Aboriginal tour operators’ association. Other State and Territory based networks are at various stages of formation.

These models are seen as useful and they can be extended to provide a national support system, dovetailing with mainstream support networks at the regional, State/Territory and national levels.

Action 4.1 : Encourage the formation of Indigenous tourism networks at regional and national levels to support an increase of Indigenous tourism participation.

Action 4.2 : Immediately appoint a suitably qualified Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander member to the board of Tourism Council Australia.

Action 4.3 : Encourage industry organisations and event organisers to include appropriate representation from Indigenous tourism operators.

Action 4.4 : Provide regional tourist organisations with education about cross-cultural awareness, and the value and importance of Indigenous tourism.

Spreading Information

There is a very high demand amongst Indigenous communities for information about tourism – what is happening in the industry, how they can go about participating in the industry, experience about what works and what doesn’t work for other people, and what assistance is available. Existing and new industry support networks can provide an invaluable source of this information.

Some of the information that is needed can be provided by government agencies. A variety of means has been used in the past to spread information about government initiatives, including use of print, radio, TV and video.

One of the most useful tools for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people interested in the tourism industry would be an improved information distribution system, in which information exchange between Indigenous participants, the mainstream tourism industry and government agencies was possible. It is desirable that this makes use of a range of media, recognising that there will be a wide range of literacy skills across the industry.

Action 4.5 : Develop and maintain an Internet conference facility on which information about Indigenous participation in the tourism industry can be exchanged between individuals and agencies.

Action 4.6 : Encourage industry support networks to provide distribution of information in print and other media which will assist Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in learning about the tourism industry.


There is some training available for people wanting to become involved in the tourism industry, but this is largely offered by mainstream training organisations. Many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people find mainstream training intimidating, and some require bridging courses in communication skills and literacy before they can benefit from this training. Some agencies have developed special purpose courses, but these are limited in their range and geographic availability.

A review of available training has been carried out in the Northern Territory, and a national audit has been carried out as part of the Tourism Training Manual produced by Tourism Training Australia (referred to earlier – see Action 1.6). There is also an ecotourism training directory of courses available (Office of National Tourism, 1996).

For people in more remote areas, it may be completely impractical to attend training courses run in the main urban centres. Delivery of training by media such as videos and manuals may be necessary, supported by some personal interaction with a trainer. On the job training is highly desirable for some people, where this is practicable. Apprentice training in National Parks has been successful in some areas, including parts of Western Australia. Train-the-trainer programs may also have application, and communities may pool their resources to bring in an external trainer or to train a local person.

Training is an investment not only for the short term, but also for longer term jobs down the track. In some parts of Australia, education in English language skills may be necessary for people to be able to participate in tourism, and this is best undertaken as early as possible. Literacy and numeracy may be obstacles to employment for some people, and bridging courses may be essential if they are to access more vocational training. New approaches to the development of appropriate training materials are needed. In some areas, tourism may provide a strong motivation for people to improve their English language skills.

In many areas, there is also a need for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to improve their knowledge of heritage and traditional language, so that they can participate in presentation of their culture. This requires a specific training approach, which can draw on teachers who are well versed in local traditional values.

Finally, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people themselves are potential trainers. There is a need for people involved in mainstream tourism to be educated about Indigenous cultures, and the understanding that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have about the natural environment.

Action 4.7 : Give support to development of innovative and flexible training and apprenticeship programs for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in regional and remote areas who wish to develop skills in tourism.

Action 4.8 : Encourage private sector organisations to provide scholarships and apprenticeships to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people wishing to develop tourism skills.

Action 4.9 : Prepare a national training directory to assist Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in identifying available training courses that may meet their needs, and maintain this as an up-to-date resource.

Action 4.10 : Review the suitability of existing training courses for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people wishing to be involved in tourism on a national basis.

Action 4.11 : Review existing English language teaching materials to improve their appropriateness for adult learning programs which can provide a bridge to participation in the tourism industry.

Action 4.12 : Support training programs aimed at recovering knowledge of cultural heritage and traditional languages by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, so as to strengthen Indigenous cultural tourism.

Action 4.13 : Support cross cultural education of non-Indigenous operators by Indigenous trainers, to promote cultural sensitivity and appropriate behavioural protocols.



Development of individual tourism enterprises is best carried out in the context of local or regional tourism planning. This can encourage industry support for the enterprise, and tie in with planned provision of infrastructure. There is also a case for planning at the State/Territory level, to provide some directions and priorities. Planning can provide a greater level of certainty than would otherwise exist about what enterprises are likely to be successful, and what initiatives will be supported by government or the mainstream tourism industry.

There are several forms of planning that may be relevant to Indigenous tourism development:

local government town planning makes certain uses permissible or prohibited, and places particular requirements on tourism development

local government may also have economic development or tourism plans for their areas

local or regional economic development organisations may have developed tourism plans

groups of local governments may have developed regional tourism plans

ATSIC regional plans may address tourism.

In addition, some local governments or economic development organisations may have officers with responsibilities for tourism development, who may be consulted on planning issues.

It is important for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who are interested in tourism to find out what tourism plans exist, and to participate with other individuals and organisations in preparing future tourism plans.

Some plans have been specifically prepared for Indigenous tourism, at the regional or State/Territory level. A useful model of a regional plan is KATA’s “Kimberley Aboriginal Cultural Tourism Strategy”. At the State/Territory level, the Northern Territory Tourist Commission has produced an “Aboriginal Tourism Strategy”, while the Western Australian Department of Commerce and Trade has produced a more holistic document on economic development for Aboriginal communities which addresses tourism in a broader context. All of these are seen as appropriate models for different circumstances.

Action 4.14 : Prepare State/Territory strategies for Indigenous tourism development, either as separate documents or as part of broader economic planning strategies.

Action 4.15 : Support preparation of regional Indigenous tourism plans in areas with a substantial amount of market interest in Indigenous tourism, including Central Australia.


Action 4.16 : Involve Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in local government promotional activities and public art, as part of urban design and improvements.

Physical Infrastructure

There are many areas where development of tourism is severely constrained by the lack of basic infrastructure, including water supply, sanitation, communications, accommodation and transport. Because of the high cost of providing this infrastructure, tourism development will generally be encouraged where this is already in place. There may be a case for providing new infrastructure where :

this will meet urgent community needs as well as tourist needs, making the infrastructure provision more affordable

mall scale investment in infrastructure may remove obstacles to significant tourism activity.

The Western Australian Tourism Infrastructure Plan makes specific reference to the infrastructure needs of Indigenous tourism development. This provides a possible model that can be applied in other States and Territories and at the national level.

There are some areas where private investment in tourism infrastructure can be encouraged, such as corporate sponsorship which has occurred in some mining areas. There are also obstacles to private sector investment – the sales tax levied on medium sized as opposed to large touring vehicles is seen by some people in the industry as discriminatory, for example.

In the longer term, there is a need for more regular regional air services, as well as inter-island marine transport in the Torres Straits. The possibility for some transport services to be part financed by tourism levies has been raised in the past, though this is highly controversial – levies could apply to road and ferry tolls and airport charges for example. However, the environmental impact of providing for tourist travel should be carefully considered when planning new transport infrastructure. Lack of easy transport is the most effective means of restricting visitor numbers in some areas.

Action 4.17 : Encourage tourism development with access to existing infrastructure rather than tourism requiring new infrastructure investment.

Action 4.18 : Consider tourism infrastructure development where this also meets urgent community needs, or where a small level of investment will create significant tourism opportunities.

Action 4.19 : Work together to identify long term priorities for physical infrastructure which has implications for Indigenous tourism, and to assess options for financing this infrastructure.

Product Development

Much of the existing Indigenous tourism product is seen as commercially fragile, and this is attributed to a number of factors – lack of capital, lack of established business skills, location in an area which is vulnerable to market fluctuations, lack of market profile, and simply the newness of the enterprise. For this reason, the Commonwealth and State/Territory Governments see it as a priority to consolidate the most successful existing products rather than to promote development of new products in the short term.

New products may be supported by Commonwealth and State/Territory Governments if they clearly build on the success of existing products, for example where :

the new products will increase the prospects for success of existing products,

introduction of new infrastructure creates particular commercial opportunities,

there is an obvious gap in the market which needs to be filled, or

there is evidence that local demand for Indigenous tourism products is very high.

Many tourism products have been the subject of over-optimistic feasibility studies, leading to false expectations and disappointment when the expected results were not realised. This can partly be attributed to the lack of skilled consultants in the area of Indigenous tourism and market assessment, a lack of client skills and assertiveness, and a lack of information about market demand on which feasibility studies can be properly based.

The South Australian Government has taken the initiative of designing training seminars specifically to inform potential entrants into the area of cultural tourism (mainstream as well as Indigenous) about some of the pitfalls and demands of the tourism industry.

A useful model for developing new tourism products is the process followed in the lead up to the cross-Kimberley regional tour. This was a pilot project funded under the Draft Strategy, and sponsored by the Kimberley Aboriginal Tourism Association. The tour involved two years of community consultations, infrastructure development, training, and planning to cover all eventualities. Important ingredients are contingency plans in case any individuals or communities are not able to participate on a particular occasion, and matching skilled tour guides with “apprentices” to transfer skills over time. A year of product testing, also providing invaluable on-the-job training, is intended before the tour is marketed commercially.

Most Indigenous product is not yet at a level where it can be regarded as “export ready” (see the steps described in the introduction to this Strategy). Assistance will be necessary for more commercially successful products to reach this stage of development, allowing it to tap into overseas markets.

Documentation of models that illustrate how Australian Indigenous tourism can work on the ground can assist new participants in Indigenous tourism in learning from past experience.

Action 4.20 : Generally give priority to building on existing product rather than developing new product for the next two years, when considering funding support.

Action 4.21 : Consider support for other new Indigenous tourism products where they are likely to increase the success of existing products, or where there is strong evidence of tourist demand.

Action 4.22 : Provide advice on available consultants and relevant qualifications for preparation of feasibility studies, able to assist Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who are developing new tourism products.

Action 4.23 : Develop guidelines on preparation of feasibility studies for Indigenous tourism products, for use by clients and consultants as well as by people assessing projects for funding eligibility.

Action 4.24 : Support documentation of product development for the cross-Kimberley regional tour as a model process for possible adaptation in other regions.

Action 4.25 : Give appropriate assistance to participants in Indigenous tourism who wish to prepare their products for the inbound (export) market and who have developed sufficient capacity.

Action 4.26 : Continue to document models of successful Indigenous tourism enterprises, and to promote these models to industry participants.

Obtaining Funding

This section is also included in the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Cultural Industry Strategy.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people wishing to develop enterprises often have difficulty in obtaining finance. Their relative lack of assets may limit the amount that they can borrow; they may not own their own houses, for example, and community owned assets such as land may not be acceptable security. Sole operators, partnerships and family enterprises may be denied access to finance that is available to community organisations.

Information about the potential sources of funding for enterprise development is confusing, and difficult to obtain in regional and remote areas. Some businesses rely on use of Community Development Employment Projects (CDEP) as a source of funding, and it may become more difficult to do this in future.

In developing businesses, it is essential that there be a realistic timeframe that will allow for incremental growth, with consolidation of successes and the opportunity to learn from mistakes. Unfortunately funding has often made it difficult to plan for this type of steady incremental growth, as it has generally been in the form of one-off grants. There are precedents for governments providing longer term funding (eg three years) for some non-government organisations, and it would be appropriate to apply this to business development of tourism enterprises.

Funding support needs to be such that it encourages enterprises to stand on their own feet, making a profit after the establishment phase. It is not generally seen as appropriate to lock enterprises into ongoing support. This requires assistance being given to enterprises to establish clear business directions and financial targets.

Action 4.27 : Provide information about potential funding sources to assist business development of Indigenous tourism enterprises.

Action 4.28 : Develop a funding framework that allows for financing incremental growth of businesses over a number of years, including ongoing training, as an alternative to one-off grants.

Action 4.29 : Develop new options for financing tourism operations based on individuals, partnerships and family enterprises as opposed to community organisations.

Action 4.30 : Improve access by Indigenous tourism operators to assistance programs designed for mainstream business.



Business Development

Once a product has been clearly identified, and the potential participants in an enterprise have decided on the level of commitment they are prepared to make to a tourism enterprise, it is essential that there be business development support. Where there are mainstream business advisory services, these need to be accessible to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and responsive to particular cultural considerations that may apply to Indigenous tourism.

Depending on the skills available within the Indigenous community, it may be appropriate to recruit non-Indigenous people with established skills to assist the enterprise. It may also be appropriate to make it a condition of their appointment that they train Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in these skills.

Business mentors have sometimes been useful in providing regular assistance to an Indigenous enterprise. This system provides the opportunity for the mentor and the enterprise participants to get to know and trust one another. There are some potential pitfalls if the mentor does not have a good understanding of Indigenous cultures, and places priority on conventional business practices above all other considerations. The operating environment of many Indigenous enterprises demands a modification to conventional practices, in recognition of available skill levels, social relationships between people, and non-economic objectives of the participants.

Once there is more expertise within the Indigenous tourism sector, it is desirable to develop a network of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mentors, who can be expected to have greater cultural sensitivity. Until this time, cross-cultural training may be necessary for some potential non-Indigenous mentors.

Preparation of a good business plan with a cash flow projection is essential to building a good business. Management systems then need to be put in place to indicate :

whether the objectives established in the business plan are being met, and

whether the financial projections are on target.

In some parts of Australia there is a shortage of organisations able to assist in business planning, and advice may be needed on appropriate qualifications.

ATSIC has prepared a video entitled “Getting into Tourism” as well as a publication “The Business of Indigenous Tourism”, both of which provide some basic advice about business development. Most State and Territory governments also have publications designed to assist with tourism business development, though these are not specifically aimed at Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Action 4.31 : Provide advice on qualified consultants who can assist in the preparation of business plans.

Action 4.32 : Prepare a list of potential business mentors including Indigenous mentors for each State and Territory, together with advice on appropriate cross-cultural training where non-Indigenous mentors are proposed.


Managing Impacts

Consultations have shown that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are concerned to manage the impacts of tourism, so that benefits can be gained without loss of environmental quality. It is important for social, cultural, and environmental impacts to be anticipated, and for management strategies to be put in place.

One of the pilot projects funded under the Draft Strategy was a Tourism Impacts Monitor, consisting of a checklist for communities to consider, supporting documentation and a video. This was sponsored by the Northern Territory Tourism Commission with Desert Tracks (a central Australian tour operator). It provides useful materials to assist communities in discussing the pros and cons of tourism, and the strategies they can apply to managing its impacts.

An additional tool is the “Guidelines for the protection, management and use of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Cultural Heritage Places” prepared by the Commonwealth Department of Communication and the Arts. This document includes guidelines for the protection and management of sites that have cultural heritage significance.

One of the potential adverse impacts of tourism is that tourists may unknowingly breach cultural protocols, creating discomfort and stress within Indigenous communities. There have been some proposals from different areas that a booklet be developed for tourists, providing advice on appropriate behaviour – this would be similar to the “Tread Lightly” code of behaviour promoted for ecotourists. The basics for such a code could be developed nationally, and then customised by local communities as appropriate.

Managing impacts on the physical environment requires setting up some sort of monitoring system, and this should be established as soon as possible.   Baseline information on the original condition of the environment before tourism arrives should be collected. Where physical conditions are seen to be deteriorating, it is necessary to take action to restore environmental conditions. This applies to obvious features such as roads and tracks, but also less obvious characteristics such as the availability of bushfoods where these are sampled by tourists. Traditional systems of management may not be adequate to cope with heavy tourism visitation levels.

In some environments there may need to be limits placed on the number of visitors, reflecting the capacity of the environment to withstand human impacts. This may apply to social impacts on communities as well as physical impacts on the natural environment. On the other hand, introduction of tourism may provide a vehicle for environmental repair, providing a source of funds, and in some cases voluntary labour. However, most tourism enterprises are struggling to survive economically, and there may be limited ability to invest in environmental management and repair.

For Indigenous tourism to be sustainable over time, it is essential that impacts be well managed. This involves ensuring that the value of environmental, social and cultural resources is not depleted because of tourism.


Action 4.33 : Promote use of the Tourism Impacts Monitor and “Guidelines for the protection, management and use of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders Cultural Heritage Places”, to raise awareness about tourism impacts and to assist in developing management strategies.

Strategy 4.34 : Prepare a model code of behaviour for tourists seeking contact with Indigenous communities, which can be adapted to take account of local or regional requirements.

Strategy 4.35 : Prepare guidelines on monitoring and management of physical environmental impacts, to prevent or repair damage to the natural environment.


Marketing is of critical importance to the tourism industry, and it can make or break an individual enterprise. Many Indigenous tourism enterprises do not actively market their products, and this limits their prospects for success. It is important that there is improved understanding of the potential market, as well as skills in effectively marketing tourism products, and it is essential that promotional activities are well targeted.

Some research and anecdotal evidence suggests that the overseas (inbound) market is currently of prime importance to Indigenous tourism, with international visitors displaying great interest in Indigenous products. Over 10% of international tourists visit destinations involving presentation of Indigenous cultures, and this proportion is rising (based on the annual International Visitors’ Survey). However, the domestic market is potentially much larger, if Indigenous tourism can successfully be promoted to this market.

One of the pilot projects funded under the Draft Strategy was the “North America” project, which developed strategies for marketing a range of established Indigenous products within the United States and Canada. This has provided valuable experience on the requirements of the inbound market, and effective means of promoting Indigenous product.

By comparison, there has been little initiative in developing new approaches to tapping into the potential of the domestic market. This is despite the fact that promotion within the domestic market can lead to more immediate results with lower levels of investment. Some indigenous operators are achieving promotional exposure through national and regional exhibitions and roadshows, and through membership of regional tourist associations. However their profile remains limited.

It is important that tourism enterprises are developed with a clear notion of the market that they are targeting, so that they provide what tourists want. In a situation where there is patchy information about market demands for Indigenous product, it is important that the experience of the mainstream tourism industry is applied.

Marketing of tourism products occurs in many different ways. Some enterprises receive a large proportion of bookings as a result of “word of mouth” recommendations passed from a previous visitor to a new one. These enterprises depend on being able to deliver a high quality product that will effectively speak for itself. Other enterprises may be marketed through mainstream tourist networks – for example many tours are marketed from accommodation establishments rather than being pre-booked before visitors arrive in a particular area. More conventional advertising is supplementary to these other forms of marketing.

Effective marketing must lead potential visitors to have realistic expectations, so that they will not be disappointed. It is important for marketing to give potential visitors a clear idea of what tourism products are available to choose from, and what they can expect to do or see. This is more than merely a public relations issue – there is the potential for disappointed tourists to hold operators financially liable if they have promised more than they are able to deliver, or if things go wrong.

In order to market Indigenous cultural tourism, there may need to be some provision of basic information on Indigenous cultures. This has been found to be especially needed for the North American market. A different educational approach may be warranted to encourage marketing to the Australian domestic market, with education targeted at schools and other educational establishments.

There is great value in co-operative marketing networks, both within the specific region and as part of a national niche market catering for special interests. This requires participation in different forms of support networks (discussed earlier). If this does not occur, individual enterprises may find themselves closed out of the markets they seek to attract.

The Sydney Olympics and Paralympics require a specific marketing strategy, both for those few enterprises that can be expected to directly benefit from these events, and for the broader range of enterprises which may benefit from the spin-off in the following years. This has been discussed in earlier parts of the Strategy.

The Queensland Tourist and Travel Corporation has Aboriginal staff specifically employed to support product development and to promote awareness of Indigenous issues amongst the Corporation’s own staff. Measures such as these may be appropriate to ensure that tourism organisations are able to effectively market Indigenous product.

Action 4.36 : Prepare guidelines on what is known about the demands of domestic and export (inbound) markets from existing research, for use by Indigenous enterprises in their product development and business planning.

Action 4.37 : Prepare promotional material for the inbound (export) market providing basic explanation about Australian Indigenous cultures.

Action 4.38 : Support initiatives aimed at developing domestic markets for Indigenous tourism.

Action 4.39 : Continue support for initiatives aimed at developing export (inbound) markets for Indigenous tourism.

Action 4.40 : Assist Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander tourism operators in identifying their target markets, and effectively promoting their products.

Action 4.41 : Encourage development of educational tourism aimed at educating students and special interest tourists about Indigenous cultures.

Action 4.42 : Provide advice to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander participants in tourism on marketing networks and other marketing mechanisms.

Market Research

In the absence of good information, it is difficult to plan ahead. Indigenous people, government agencies and the mainstream tourism industry are handicapped in their support for increased Indigenous participation in tourism by a lack of information about what is possible. This is particularly critical in the area of market research, where it is important to establish what tourists want from Indigenous tourism, but where reliable data is lacking.

It may be possible to look at overseas experience of Indigenous tourism (eg North America, Hawaii, New Zealand, Lapland) in building a picture of the potential market for different types of tourism product.

Specific market research into the potential of Indigenous tourism in Australia would include:

what are appropriate baseline data on product availability, visitation levels and spending levels?

what types of product will appeal to the domestic market, the export (inbound) market, and to different special interest markets?

where and how are tourists within these markets prepared to travel, and what are their requirements for accommodation and other infrastructure?

what levels of visitation and tourist spending can be expected for different products?

what do potential tourists need to know about Indigenous tourism for them to be attracted to tourism products?

what is the most effective means of providing this information as well as information about available products to reach target markets?

There is a need for this information to be gained by adding questions to regular surveys, as well as by conducting special purpose surveys. Indigenous tourism operators may also be encouraged to collect feedback from tourists which will contribute to qualitative research findings.

Action 4.43 : Encourage addition of permanent questions to both the International Visitor Survey and the Domestic Tourism Monitor, to establish baseline market data and subsequent trends for Indigenous cultural products.

Action 4.44 : Encourage annual forward projections of market demands for Indigenous cultural tourism within different market segments.

Action 4.45 : Prepare standard documentation for collecting feedback from tourists which can contribute to qualitative understanding of tourist markets, tourist motivation and satisfaction with tourism products.

Action 4.46 : Work with State/Territory tourism agencies to standardise the form of information collected relating to Indigenous cultural tourism products so that it can be nationally collated.

Action 4.47 : Prepare an annual report on available market research results relevant to indigenous tourism. In the short term this will draw on the experience of marketing Indigenous tourism in other countries.

Action 4.48 : Prepare a tourism marketing guide for each State and Territory that can be used by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people becoming involved in the tourism industry, based on available market research.

Tourism Industry Strategy-National Aboriginal and  Torres Strait Islander

APPENDIX D: Models of Indigenous Tourism Enterprises


Gringai Aboriginal Cultural Tours (based in Singleton, Hunter Valley NSW)

This company provides a program of cultural tours at Singleton in the Hunter Valley. The area has traditionally appealed to the Sydney and Newcastle daytripping market with more recent development in the “short breaks” market, particularly with bed and breakfast establishments.

Getting Started : The founding members of the company attended a TAFE Aboriginal Tour Guide Program, and this encouraged them to form the business. The course placed great emphasis on the Aussiehost customer service program, and this has led the company to be accredited as an Aussiehost provider.

Developing the Product : Cultural tours are being provided in the Upper Hunter Valley, based on four main sites. Gringai Cultural Tours offer full and half day tours of Aboriginal sites which provide a distinct contrast to the wineries, fine food and arts and crafts venues of the region. The coal mines also attract considerable numbers of domestic and international business visitors.

Gringai has combined its activities with a high profile four wheel drive operator, which has broadened its market and lifted its presence in the region. This has also reduced the need for purchase of vehicles in the short term.

Networking : With increased exposure to the mainstream tourism industry there are growing linkages with the regional tourism body. Gringai has also been active within the emerging national network of indigenous tourism operators, and has supported development of a NSW branch. This has given Gringai a high profile in the region and the State with wide contacts within the tourism industry.

Marketing : Promotion is actively pursued through schools and existing tourism business in the region, such as the vineyards and the mines. The most active market to date has been school groups. The project team has weekly meetings, and the office is manned on a five day a week basis, which results in each person spending one day per week in the office.

Problems that have been encountered : There has been uncertainty about whether to multi-skill the members by rotating jobs, or whether to specialise in particular tasks to gain a high level of individual competence. This has been a particular dilemma in relation to book-keeping, where conventional business practice suggested specialisation, but this was at odds with the company’s original aims.

The sites controlled by the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service are well maintained and visitor facilities (signage, walking tracks, platform to protect cave floor and toilets) are very good. Sites on private land are not so well maintained, and there is some concern about the possible degradation of sites. This may require management intervention in future.

Incorporation as a company has placed a high level of demand for compliance upon the Directors and other forms of incorporation may be been more appropriate.

Future Prospects : Ultimately the group would like to expand into other associated business ventures based on the promotion of Aboriginal culture. It is noted that there is no production of significant tourism souvenirs from the local area, and this is a gap waiting to be filled. Particular opportunities are seen in taking advantage of the build up to the year 2000 Olympics, which involves major swimming and equestrian training facilities being established near to Singleton.


Karijini National Park Visitors’ Centre (based in the Pilbara, WA)

This Centre provides for cultural and environmental interpretation within the Karijini National Park, and associated cultural tours. The Park is one of Australia’s most remote, and its natural and cultural values are of a high standard partly because of its isolation. The Centre is managed by Karijini Aboriginal Corporation.

Getting Started : The visitors’ facility has been established on a temporary basis using a marquee. This tent structure is about 16m wide and 20m long, and it has been steadily upgraded with components such as treated pine floor and PVC walls. The original tent was unfortunately destroyed by cyclone early in 1996, but since replaced.

Developing the Product : The Wakuthuni community, consisting of about 60 people some distance from the Centre, provides the Centre with artefacts to sell, staff and tour guides. Some training of staff has been provided.

Karijini Walkabouts is a tour operation linked to the Centre. The business was started over 4 years ago as a private enterprise, but is now owned by the Karijini Aboriginal Corporation. The Corporation is looking at extending the available range of one hour or half hour walks providing insights into indigenous culture, use of medicinal and poison plants, and bush foods.

Networking : There is a very strong alliance between the project and the mainstream tourism industry, both in operations and in the future planning of the Park. Karijini National Park is one of several locations identified as a high priority for tourism development by the Western Australian Government.

Marketing : About 50-60,000 visitors (based on road count) visit the Centre each year. Half of these are visitors from WA, 12% are international visitors and the rest are interstate visitors. The Centre’s income is principally from sale of artefacts, with 5% of the gross artefact sales going to the State Government. Marketing of the Centre relies on promotion of the National Park as a whole.

Problems that have been encountered : The temporary Centre is a very tough and isolated living environment for the employees. It is very hot in summer, and employees need access to an adequate water supply and living areas.

The recent experience of cyclone damage has created a setback in the Centre’s development, and made the development of a permanent building more urgent.

Problems which need to be resolved in any redevelopment are unclear ownership and management (who owns what, who is responsible for what). This is seen in some other cultural centres where the building is government owned but the exhibition materials and staffing are provided by Aboriginal communities.

Future Prospects : The initial lessons learnt from the operation of the Centre were very positive, in that it was possible to achieve a credible tourism product with minimal capital investment, even in one of the most remote areas of Australia. However more recent events have called into question whether a strategy that depends on temporary structures is advisable in areas vulnerable to cyclonic damage.

As a result of the success of the temporary Centre a new permanent building is now being planned. It is also likely that accommodation will be provided in the Park in the future, and this will create new opportunities for the Centre.


Kimberley Regional Tour (the Kimberley, WA)

This tour has been developed by the Kimberley Aboriginal Tourism Association (KATA) as a nine day trip, involving visits to five different Aboriginal communities.

Getting Started : The tour has taken two years to develop, and it is being trialed for a further year before being commercially marketed. The various Aboriginal communities have been involved in consultation and discussion about the type of tourism involvement that they want. Infrastructure needed along the way (toilets, water supply, accommodation) has been carefully planned. Two different drivers, each with their own vehicle, have been contracted. The vehicles will comfortable carry 8-14 tourists.

Developing the Product : The Aboriginal communities participating in the tour have identified the features of the environment and their culture that they want to present to tourists, and the individuals who are best able to act as guides. Some dance performances are being developed for tourists. Initially, much of this participation is supported by CDEP payments. All the participants are receiving guidance and training, though much of this is on-the-job, given the remoteness of the communities from training institutions. Some key Aboriginal people with experience in the tourism industry have been involved from the start in providing advice and training others.

A separate commercial organisation is being established to operate the tour, with involvement of the participating communities.

The tour was originally planned as a single nine day event starting in Broome and ending in Kununurra, with a maximum of 300 kms being travelled each day. However, there are options for it to be split into two separate five day tours, which could be linked together for some tourists.

Networking : KATA works in co-operation with the Kimberley Tourism Association, and therefore has good links with the mainstream tourist industry. There is a great deal of industry support for the development of Aboriginal tourism in the Kimberley region. There has been some success in attracting corporate sponsorship for some components of the infrastructure being provided for the tour.

The tour has included use of mainstream accommodation and restaurant facilities along the route. However, it is expected that in time more of the accommodation will be provided by the individual communities.

Marketing : The tour is seen as appealing to the international market, as well as to educational markets in Australia (including universities, mining companies and others). Some markets may prefer the shorter 5 day tours rather than the full nine day tour.

Problems that have been encountered : The main problem has been in securing funding support over the length of time that it has taken to develop the tour. It was necessary to proceed at a pace which suited the communities involved, and to ensure that everything was fully tested before marketing it.

Future Prospects : This tour is seen as only one component of each community’s tourism involvement. Individual community groups are seen as being free to pursue their own tourism operations on a day-to-day basis and in conjunction with other (mainstream) tour operators, as they gain skills and confidence.

Other community groups are expressing interest and wanting to become participants in the tour. However, there is a practical limit on manageable numbers. It is possible that other tours may be developed with different communities, in due course

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