For a long time, Aboriginal tourism operators were not acknowledged as a segment of the tourism industry - these operators often struggled on alone without a support network. Information for visitors and for the travel
industry about Aboriginal cultural experiences were fragmented and difficult to access.
In 2000, a National Indigenous Tourism Forum was staged. The Olympic games in Sydney had raised federal government awareness of the strong demand from overseas visitors to experience the aboriginal culture. As both national and state governments lacked information about this, they decided to stage a forum to gather more knowledge on the sort of experiences which were available.
A selection of 25 Aboriginal tourism operators from Broome and Perth were nominated to represent WA at the National Forum. This was the first time that operators from the south had met with operators from the north and they discovered that the challenges they were experiencing in entering the tourism industry were very similar.
It was the operators themselves who approached the government to seek assistance in establishing a network that would support and equip them with a voice in the industry. The Western Australian Indigenous Tourism
Operators Council (WAITOC) was established, with 12 members from a variety of Aboriginal language groups. The council went from strength to strength, slowly making inroads to the mainstream tourism industry to be heard and taken seriously as a unique and valuable component of the Australian tourism experience. This resulted in the council becoming an incorporated Association in May 2002.
WAITOC is now the peak non-for-profit organisation representing Aboriginal tourism in Western Australia with over 200 members and a steady growth of newcomers every year.
WAITOC started to promote its members in the international arena through comprehensive marketing campaigns and key trade shows such as the Australian Tourism Exchange. WAITOC also held the first Australian Indigenous Tourism Conference in 2004 which has now become a national event and the only forum which focusses directly on Aboriginal cultural tourism matters. The conference is held biannually and offers the opportunity for Aboriginal tourism operators to network with each other and learn about the latest trends and opportunities.