Planned State Government funding cuts will leave two key Aboriginal tourism initiatives facing uncertain futures.
Shadow Minister for Tourism Libby Mettam said she had been told by industry stakeholders that funding for both the Aboriginal Tourism Development Program and the Camping with Custodians Program would be removed in the upcoming McGowan Government State Budget.
“To defund programs dedicated to developing one of our most unique tourism opportunities, which the international sector in particular has expressed a strong interest in, with an established return on investment, defies belief,” Ms Mettam said.
Ms Mettam said Tourism WA research had found that visitor interest in Aboriginal experiences continued to outweigh participation with 82 per cent of visitors looking for an Aboriginal experience but only 26 per cent participating in one.
“The 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.
“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.
“Aboriginal tourism is an industry 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.”
Over the past three years, the Aboriginal Tourism Development Program has helped develop, mentor and market more than 49 businesses, including
Go Cultural Aboriginal Tours and Experiences which won the 2018 Tourism Australia National Gold Tourism Award.
Camping for custodians, which commenced in the Kimberley in 2013, allows visitors to have an authentic camping experience with an Aboriginal community, with the money paid for the accommodation staying in the community.
“Three campgrounds, Imintji, Mimbi and Peedamulla campgrouds are already operational with the fourth, Violet Valley, due to come online later this year,” Ms Mettam said.
“Aboriginal tourism is also a great lever for our visitors to explore regional WA and stay longer, and research shows that visitors travel regionally they stay longer and spend more.
“While the tourism benefits of these initiatives are obvious, the social benefits that flow from building sustainable remote communities cannot be underestimated.
“There is clear value in these initiatives and the McGowan Government should be ensuring their future funding not cutting it.”