But these numbers need to grow even further, according to advocacy body Western Australian Indigenous Tourism Operators Council (WAITOC), which has overseen the success of a number of key programs including working directly with local councils on the Aboriginal Tourism Academy.
At Hemisphere Digital, we know data can better support these businesses and lay the foundations for more such successful operators in the future.
That’s why we’re working with WAITOC to provide data driven insights to enable businesses to easily access and have a clear overview of their audience, be able to efficiently resource according to demand, be guided by the data to better plan and execute experiences and most importantly be able to confidently report back on the economic, social and cultural benefits they are providing to a particular region.
All over Australia, one silver lining from closed international borders has been the rise in Australians exploring and learning more about their home country. They have been engaging with the more than 450 Aboriginal family and cultural businesses across the country and gaining increased Indigenous cultural awareness.
With just a few hundred such businesses across the country, it’s long been clear there is a significant opportunity for the Indigenous tourism sector to further expand, creating more localised employment and economic opportunities particularly in some of the most remote parts of the country.
Indigenous tourism visitors grew by 9 per cent a year from 2013 to 2019, resulting in higher spending in areas where such experiences operate, as well as more jobs and opportunities. This sector was identified by the Morrison Government in 2019 as having “huge potential to grow this further.”
These unmet demands for Indigenous tourism carry significant opportunities, especially as international borders reopen and the wider tourism sector prepares to reset for a more sustainable future ahead.
And we can expect such demands to only increase in a COVID normal tourism world. Internationally, Indigenous tourism has been specifically identified as a key element of the post-pandemic tourism recovery — particularly as, EuroNews put it, “travel is a privilege and not a right”.
With that privilege comes a desire for more sustainable travel, and for more immersive and educational and cultural experiences. EuroNews predicts a hunger for longer and more thought-out trips that take in multiple locations, particularly across wide-open spaces, and experiences that minimise their impact on the planet. They also predict a desire for respectfully engaging with local communities.
Our Indigenous operators are well positioned to offer these travel opportunities, but some may need further support in further growing what they offer to meet growing demands on their services, as well as for hiring staff, and making their businesses sustainable through seasonal changes and inconsistent movement patterns. Meanwhile those looking to get started in launching new experiences, may need support in doing so.
We believe access to robust data can help support this growth, and position Indigenous tourism as the centrepiece it should be in resetting Australia’s tourism economy. First, we can support more Indigenous tourism operators to get their assets online. From there we can leverage more data to offer great insights identifying risks and opportunities for this sector.
As Robert Taylor from WAITOC says, such data can pinpoint the best regional opportunities for more Indigenous tourism. It can enable these tourism businesses to become more sustainable, especially those depending on particular seasons. Data could also bring more targeted funding into the hands of Indigenous operators to support their growth.
Importantly for growing this sector further, Rob also says access to data can connect changing and popular areas that travellers are exploring, and the number of Indigenous tourism operators they have the opportunity to engage with.
Indeed, greater oversight of this data will enable governments and other Australian businesses to inform their planning, marketing and investment decisions to help create sustainable commercial opportunities for Aboriginal cultural business and support Indigenous tourism.
A strong data strategy can also support Indigenous tourism operators in overcoming some of the key challenges to growth in this sector — particularly in getting started.
According to the 2019 Indigenous Tourism Fund paper, these challenges can include a lack of specialised business experience, a lack of infrastructure, lengthy and complex processes in applying for grants, seasonal environments that make it difficult to operate across the full year and finding and training staff. By identifying gaps and how and where these challenges exist, we believe they can be overcome through targeted and intentional approaches.
So where to next? We see immediate opportunities in digitising more assets highlighting Indigenous tourism experiences and operators.
We’ve seen the potential of doing this through the first not-for-profit Indigenous tourism database, called ‘Welcome to Country’ recently launched with more than 85 experiences already featured.
But more funding and support is required to get more such experiences online and enable operators to get the most of their data.
There is significant and unmet demand for Indigenous tourism experiences in Australia, which will only grow even further as International borders reopen.
It’s time to set this sector up for success, giving it access to the data it needs to build sustainable businesses and to identify huge market opportunities for more Indigenous operators to get involved.
To find out more on how we are supporting tour operators in gaining quick and easy access to data please get in touch.