New market to unlock potential

Emily AceSouth Western Times

The South West has a unique opportunity to use its Aboriginal tourism sector as an economic boon after new research by the WA Indigenous Tourism Operators Council revealed its untapped potential.

The research announced last week showed Aboriginal tourism made a contribution of $43.8 million to the State’s Gross State Product in 2016-17, with the sector generating nearly 340 full-time equivalent jobs and contributing nearly $30 million to WA incomes.

However, the research showed the scope of Aboriginal tourism had not been fully realised, as 78 per cent of visitors to the State expressed an interest in Aboriginal tourism while just 21 per cent participated.

WAITOC southern region business development manager Angelique Fransen said the research highlighted the significant contribution of Aboriginal tourism and the importance of capitalising on visitor interest.

“The South West attracts the largest number of visitors to WA after Perth so we are in a unique situation to close the gap,” Ms Fransen said.

“We have the opportunity to seize this moment and develop and implement campaigns to raise the awareness in a collaborative approach of the amazing experiences available in our South West and increase participation.

“It will also inspire young Aboriginal people to consider a career pathway into the tourism industry, not just working in Aboriginal tourism businesses, but also the wider tourism industry.”

Ms Fransen said while the number of Aboriginal Tourism operators in the South West has increased by 100 per cent since the start of the Aboriginal Tourism Development Program in 2015, the number of Aboriginal tourism businesses is significantly less than in the Kimberley.

“Although the figures show that Perth and the South West had the lowest levels of participation as identified in the study, it still is a significant contributor for the South West and highlights the opportunity to increase that significantly by continuing to support the Aboriginal tourism sector for the South West,” she said.

“The Aboriginal Tourism Development Program delivered by WAITOC, funded through Tourism WA, has made some significant inroads by raising the profile of the Aboriginal tourism sector.

“A continued collaborative approach is needed at all levels of the tourism industry ranging from the individual businesses to visitor centres and tourism associations,” she said.

Bunbury tourism operator Troy Bennell of Ngalang Wongi Aboriginal Cultural Tours said “big things are happening” in terms of local Aboriginal tourism offerings.

“This is creating opportunity and it is all a part of telling Bunbury’s story,” he said.

“The 11 years I spent with the art gallery travelling the world is what made me do tours, because everyone wanted to know about Australia.

“We recently had journalists from Asia visit and that was pretty awesome because they are already sending me messages and emails and have already promoted it all over the world.”

Mr Bennell said it was important to get the younger generation involved to help continue to grow Aboriginal tourism in the region.

“We are looking at training up the younger kids to be tour guides out on country and empowering them to do that through tourism opportunities.”

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