02 September 2008

Indigenous Australians taking Kakadu tourism into their own hands

A new plan to engage Aboriginal Australians with tourism ventures in Kakadu National Park are being encouraged by local indigenous leaders and the Federal and Territorial Governments, reports ABC News.

Since Kakadu National Park was opened 30 years ago, Aboriginal Australians have been acknowledged as half-owners of the land, which they lease to the Federal Government.  The tourism ventures, however, have been largely run by the Commonwealth Government and little has been done to seize the opportunities of cultural tourism for “experience seekers”.  Tourism Australia recognises that there are tourists who are looking for the overall experience when travelling, and Aboriginal Australians in Kakadu can provide this.

"There's also a dysfunctionality in the relationship between our industry - tourism industry - and the Aboriginal people who own Kakadu to the extent that they were hardly involved in tourism at all," Tourism consultant Rick Murray told the news provider.

"Most of the product that develops will be about demonstrating to people that its a living cultural landscape if you like, so all of the wonderful natural attractions interface with the Aboriginal people whose culture is continuously interacting in manage those places,” he added.

The push for a shared vision for Kakadu tourism has stemmed from a sharp fall in tourism numbers to the area; in the late 1990s the number of tourists every year reached 230,000, but a decade later the number has fallen by 25 per cent. 

The World Heritage Park has already seen a positive response since the unveiling of a new Kakadu logo and plans for redirection of tourism ventures; the number of tourists has already risen to 226,000 this year. 

Kakadu is not the only region of Australia suffering from a drop in tourist numbers; tourism boards representing traditional hot-spots for international visitors, such as the Gold Coast, are also re-evaluating their marketing plans in an attempt to get more people to visit Australia.

International tourists to Australia need an Australia travel visa, except for New Zealand passport holders.  Visitors wishing to travel the country can apply for a short-stay tourist visa, or ETA, which is valid for three months.  The conditions of the visa mean that tourists cannot work at any time during their stay in Australia.

The Australian Visa Bureau is an independent consulting company specialising in helping people apply for an Australia visa.

Article by Jessica Bird, Australian Visa Bureau.

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