What Australia can learn from Canada’s Indigenous Tourism Strategy

On a recent visit to Australia,  Keith Henry, a Métis person and the chief executive officer of the Aboriginal Tourism Association of British Columbia, was impressed at the depth of Aboriginal Culture throughout the Northern Territory and Western Australia, but saw fault in the level of government investment in development of the Indigenous tourism industry.

Recent statistics from Tourism NT have shown a decline in visitor numbers seeking Indigenous tourism experiences. Despite having approximately 100 Indigenous tourism products, the Northern Territory only captures 1.8 per cent of all holiday visitors to and within Australia and visitor numbers have dropped by 4.8 per cent for Central Australia since just last year.

‘Without strategic long-term investment in Aboriginal tourism in Australia, the sector will struggle to grow’, claims Henry.

“There’s a lot more that I hope governments will think about here. There needs to be a logical investment strategy within all your states and on a federal level – there needs to be a process and a clear path of action […] There’s some interesting policies, but is there investment behind that? […] Hopefully governments will take it seriously.”

Canada is currently boasting an Indigenous tourism industry that has doubled in British Columbia in the past five years. The Indigenous tourism industry in British Columbia has over 250 businesses, employs approximately 3,000 people on an annual basis, and went from being a $20 million industry in 2005, to $45 million last year. 

Henry claims that government investment in the Indigenous tourism industry brings benefits to tourism around the whole country, if it is invested right. The increase for British Columbia’s Indigenous tourism industry can be attributed to long-term investment strategies with a focus on the growth of aboriginal-controlled businesses.

Canada is seeing actual investment in training and product development and marketing, through investment commitments over five-year periods.

“In 2005-2006 we saw a $10 million investment – $2 million a year for British Columbia towards developing and supporting Aboriginal tourism. Now we’re seeing a new investment of $10 million over the next five years to 2017.”

“What that enables us to do is to have long-term planning, it allows us to work with communities to develop their products, it allows us to work with the industry on a consistent basis – not a one-off basis which is often what happens when the resources aren’t there.”

To read more, visit: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-10-10/canada-indigenous-tourism/5013960

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