Indigenous tourism is key to economic recovery

Long-time friend, and associate of TDi, Ash Bartley has just started a new role with Visit Victoria.  We caught up with her recently to celebrate her new role and ask about the opportunity for Indigenous tourism in Australia’s economic recovery.


Indigenous businesses have long-established resilience, driven by adaptability, community prosperity, and cultural protocols. With COVID-19 devastating small businesses across the tourism industry, cultural tourism is well placed to ignite economic recovery and encourage visitors to explore their state.

As the country recovers and restrictions ease, travelers will be seeking experiences that are emotive, scenic, and immersive. Indigenous tourism demonstrates and amplifies this.

During COVID-19, several remote Indigenous tour operators have taken the time to review their on-country operations and pivot to utilise their land management skill to provide economic opportunities.  In regional and metro areas, operators are moving their traditional international marketing to meet the domestic market.


From guided tours within cityscapes that highlight traditional trade and culture routes through to remote locations that showcase spectacular landscapes – there is an experience to inspire any Australian to begin exploring their own backyards once again. Guided by 60,000 years of knowledge, who better to share the rich cultural and ecological history of this country through social and environmental awareness?

Not only do Indigenous tourism businesses create social benefits across their family and cultural circles but they seek to connect locally.

Indigenous business is naturally drawn towards a circular economy model. When engaging stakeholders and partners, operators look for like-minded products to complement the experience. This creates a support network within communities and regions that is already proving to re-activate the domestic market.

We have a unique opportunity to see how both the western business model and Indigenous business model can start to work more collaboratively within the domestic market. Australia has faced floods, fire and pandemics in the past two years, and yet, continually met with the strength, knowledge and resilience from Indigenous businesses.

Things I’ve learnt from Indigenous tourism businesses in 2020:

– take stock of your country and see what opportunities the seasons can provide you

– pivot using your people’s story as inspiration to guide your resilience

– take a leap of faith with the right partner

– close the door and reinvest in yourself and your family until the time is right



TDi has worked with many indigenous businesses in partnership with IBA. Find out more here.


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