Tourism Minister Mark McGowan today encouraged indigenous communities to tap into the tourism industry.
Mr McGowan said Western Australia’s indigenous heritage was one of its greatest tourism assets.
“Big spending international visitors, like Germans, Swiss, Italians and other Europeans, are increasingly wanting to visit Aboriginal communities and experience Aboriginal art and culture,” he said.
“I want to see more Aboriginal people employed in the tourism industry and owning tourism businesses.
“This will bring with it major economic and social opportunities for Aboriginal people and the North-West in general.”
Mr McGowan made the comments while visiting the multi award-winning Aboriginal-owned Kooljaman at Cape Leveque and said research revealed that the majority of UK and German tourists were interested in an Aboriginal experience during their stay.
“Tourism is a major industry in the North-West and it makes sense that the economic benefits that accompany the industry are shared equitably across the community,” he said.
“While unemployment levels among Aboriginal people in the Kimberley have dropped slightly over the past few years, the rate is still significantly higher than that of the general population.
“More can be done to address this issue and the State Government has developed an Aboriginal Tourism Development Strategy to increase Aboriginal engagement with the tourism industry.
“It is hoped that increased participation in the tourism industry will result in economic, social and cultural benefits for Aboriginal people.
“We want to provide more jobs and opportunities for all Western Australians and growing the indigenous tourism industry is a great way to achieve that goal.”
Mr McGowan said the strategy - currently out for public comment - would be finalised in mid-2006.
“Tourism WA has recently spent time in the Kimberley, both in Broome and on the Dampier Peninsula, consulting indigenous tourism stakeholders to ensure the strategy is relevant,” he said.
“We also continue to work closely with the Western Australian Indigenous Tourism Operators Committee to ensure there is a co-ordinated approach to indigenous tourism which includes tourism bodies, educational institutions and local communities.
“WA is uniquely placed to deliver a world-class indigenous tourism experience and it is great to see so many people working towards delivering it.”
Kimberley MLA Carol Martin said Aboriginal-owned tourism operators such as Kooljaman were fantastic examples of successful indigenous tourism businesses.
“Kooljaman receives more than 17,000 visitors each year, with a large percentage coming back again and again to experience its tranquillity and natural beauty,” Mrs Martin said.
“It offers a variety of high quality indigenous tourism experiences and its popularity is evidence that this type of business can be hugely successful for Aboriginal communities.”
Indigenous communities wanting information and assistance with starting a tourism related business can call their local Business Enterprise Centre in Broome - 9193 6622 or Derby - 9193 1328.
Minister's office: 9222 9111