Cuts will bite into a vital tourism sector

Jackson Lavell-LeeBusselton Dunsborough Times
Karla Koondarn sales representatives Brittney Turvey and Yvonne Dobell attended the Australian Indigenous Tourism Conference in Bunbury.
Camera IconKarla Koondarn sales representatives Brittney Turvey and Yvonne Dobell attended the Australian Indigenous Tourism Conference in Bunbury. Credit: Busselton Dunsborough Times, Cameron Myles Busselton Dunsborough Times

WA Indigenous Tourism Operations Council executive Robert Taylor says his “planning is on hold” due to suspected cuts to indigenous tourism ahead of the McGowan Government’s May 9 State Budget.

The number of visitors participating in an indigenous tourism activity Australia-wide has grown from 680,000 in 2013 to 960,000 in 2018, displaying a clear demand for indigenous themed activities.

“We have put a bid in to increase what we have previously received from the State Government however we think they will reduce spending on indigenous experiences,” he said.

“The problem is we have staff contracted to June 30 who don’t know if they will have a job after that because we don’t know what’s going to happen,” he said.

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Margaret River Busselton Tourism Association executive Sharna Kearney said it was essential to tell the special story of the region.

“The State Government has more than doubled its international marketing spending in recent weeks, which is a clear commitment to increasing international visitation to WA, it is important to put an emphasis on developing memorable immersive experiences,” she said.

Shadow Minister for Tourism Libby Mettam said she had been told by industry stakeholders that funding for the Aboriginal Tourism Development Program and the Camping with Custodians Program would be removed in the upcoming McGowan Government State Budget.

“Research has showed that international visitors who participated in an Aboriginal tourism experience recorded the highest level of satisfaction with their visit,” Ms Mettam said.

According to Tourism WA 82 per cent of visitors sought an Aboriginal experience but only 26 per cent participated in one.

“It is of significant concern to the whole of the industry that the Aboriginal Tourism Development Program and the successful Camping with Custodians Program will be cut,” Ms Mettam said.

“Aboriginal tourism is an industry that adds $43.8 million to the State economy and provides 339 full-time jobs a year — many in remote areas where employment opportunities are limited.”

During the past three years, the Aboriginal Tourism Development Program has helped develop more than 49 businesses, including Go Cultural Aboriginal Tours and Experiences which won the 2018 Tourism Australia National Gold Tourism Award.

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