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Understanding the barriers to a sustainable Indigenous tourism sector Dr Lisa Ruhanen, The University Of Queensland Dr Michelle Whitford & Dr Char-lee.

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Presentation on theme: "Understanding the barriers to a sustainable Indigenous tourism sector Dr Lisa Ruhanen, The University Of Queensland Dr Michelle Whitford & Dr Char-lee."— Presentation transcript:

1 Understanding the barriers to a sustainable Indigenous tourism sector Dr Lisa Ruhanen, The University Of Queensland Dr Michelle Whitford & Dr Char-lee McLennan, Griffith University

2 Context Globally tourism has been advocated as a socio- economic opportunity for Indigenous peoples Federal and State governments have focused on Indigenous tourism since the mid 1990s ▫Business and regional development, (rural) employment, culture and community Marketing and point of difference for the tourism sector Some 300+ Indigenous tourism businesses

3 Context Governments continue to report high levels of visitor interest in Australia’s Indigenous tourism products Demand for Indigenous tourism has been in decline for the past decade ▫GFC, declining inbound and domestic visitor numbers Size of the visitor market estimated to be 2% = 100,000 of the 5.5 million international visitors to Australia

4 Aim of the study Gap analysis of supply and demand for Indigenous tourism in Australia Explore Indigenous tourism operators perceptions of the opportunities and barriers to developing a sustainable tourism business

5 Research Methods Mixed methods 1357 international and domestic tourists conducted at four locations in Australia In-depth, semi-structured, face-to-face interviews with 34 Indigenous tourism operators ▫10 locations across Australia – mix of urban and rural

6 Respondents 34 Indigenous tourism operators ▫Owners, managers ▫Sole operators, company, independent statutory authority, not-for-profit ▫Tours, accommodation, gallery, cultural centres, retail, hospitality Average length of operation 14 years Number of employees – 1 to 80, + casual 200 – 5000 visitors received annually

7 Theme: Macro Environment Economic environment ▫“I've tried to adjust and readjust and readjust my prices…but I'm getting so close to my…purchase price…but it just gets to a point where you can't do anything about it” International visitor numbers ▫“we are more than 50% down on what we should be at the moment…but the volume is way down on both - way down” Competition ▫“my biggest issue is…with xxxx opening; the awareness of that is brilliant” ▫“quite a bit of accommodation has been taken up by people involved in mining and gas exploration. That only puts up the pressure on the prices, the room prices”

8 Theme: Internal Environment Sourcing, training and retaining appropriate staff ▫“finding the people with the degree of skill and the degree of commitment” ▫“we employ Aboriginal guides where we can…that's one of the big problems I have with the whole thing. We can't get Aboriginal guides. I train Aboriginal people in tourism and have for many, many years and trained many, many people. Just getting them to stay is virtually impossible” Meeting government regulations (i.e., permits, accreditation) Remote and rural constraints (i.e., increased operational costs)

9 Theme: Sector challenges Seasonality and external weather forces (i.e., cyclones, floods, etc.). Staffing ▫“the lack of ready, willing and able cultural Aboriginal people” Marketing ▫“obviously trying to get more people through the door, more exposure” Lack of sustainable funding support ▫“we would really like to diversify our funding sources further to make us more independent”

10 Theme: International market Lack of promotion and awareness “I guess some people, maybe they just don't know what an Indigenous experience is” Market is cost sensitive “maybe they don't want to pay for it. My tours aren't cheap…because I run small groups” Lack of available and reliable product “I’ve even had international tourists travelling through the north of Australia, travelling through Alice Springs, wanting to do an Aboriginal tour and they still can’t find one” Accessibility “many Indigenous experiences are in regional and remote areas, access is hard” Lack of interest/superficial experiences

11 Theme: Domestic market Racism and negative perceptions ▫“I try not to get into negative, stereotypical stories or anecdotes because they're often in the minority. But there's no doubt that there are attitudes and preconceptions of - within Australian mainstream society” Negative media attention ▫“if they believe everything they see on television, they would probably run a mile” Lack of awareness ▫“I think most Australians, most of the domestic market, don't even think that having an Indigenous experience is a possibility” Lack of interest ▫“they’re not all that interested in finding out about how rich the culture is”

12 Theme: Market demand Low awareness of market demand and patterns ▫Visitor motivations, preferences and demand ▫Indigenous operators believe Indigenous tourism experiences to be nearly as popular amongst international visitors as visiting Sydney attractions, less than 5% of international tourists cite Indigenous experiences as an activity they want to experience while in Australia.

13 Study recommendations Understanding the market ▫Identify knowledge needs of operators, as well as the uptake and usage of tourism market data ▫Assess communication channels = meet operators’ knowledge needs ▫Identifying, interpreting and/or collecting relevant data sources Sustainable businesses ▫Assess product gaps vis-à-vis tourist flows and demand patterns thus moving away from supply led, ‘build it and they will come’, approaches to demand driven product development ▫Development in urban centres and surrounds to capitalise on existing visitor traffic

14 Diversified product opportunities

15 Summary Declining visitor demand Range of macro, internal and sector specific challenges Barriers to international and domestic demand Low awareness of visitor demand Recommendations ▫Understanding the market, sustainable businesses, diversified product opportunities Dr Lisa Ruhanen – Dr Michelle Whitford –


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