The Western Australian Indigenous Tourism Operators Council (WAITOC) has implemented two major projects to help address the expanding tourism appetite for Aboriginal cultural experiences, according to WAITOC’s Chief Executive Officer, Simon Haigh.
Mr Haigh said more than 70 per cent of tourists who came to Western Australia visited Perth and the South-West but these areas had among the lowest proportion of Aboriginal tourism activities compared to elsewhere in the State.
He said the Service Skills Australia Workforce Development (Workforce Futures) Initiative for the Kimberley and Perth and the Aboriginal Tourism Product Development Initiative for Perth and the South West regions were part of WAITOC’s aim to close the huge gap that existed between supply and demand, while also providing positive socio-economic outcomes.
“There are 119 registered Aboriginal tourism businesses in Western Australia but there are hundreds of potential businesses out there that need development,” Mr Haigh said.
“Many Aboriginal people across Western Australia are doing amazing things but, for various reasons, tourists are not connecting with meaningful cultural experiences”.
Mr Haigh said the Service Skills Australia Workforce Development Initiative, which was funded by the Federal Government, provided expert assistance to mentor and help businesses develop further.
“The Federal Government has run this initiative with many organisations but this is the first time it has been piloted with Aboriginal organisations anywhere in Australia,” he said.
“Two Aboriginal business role models were chosen as skills advisors to run the initiative across 10 businesses in the Kimberley and Perth. The advisors helped business owners with an on-line diagnosis tool that provided an assessment of that business and where there were gaps.
“They provided mentoring and advice and helped businesses produce workforce development plans.”
Mr Haigh said the initiative started in March this year and was recently completed.
‘It was a highly successful project and we have had extremely positive feedback from Service Skills Australia,” he said.
Stephen Ollerenshaw, the program manager for Workforce Futures, Service Skills Australia said: “WAITOC has exceeded expectations and has executed this project flawlessly. The organisation’s commitment to developing Aboriginal tourism businesses in Western Australia is outstanding.”
Mr Haigh said the Federal Government also had provided $100,000 for the Aboriginal Tourism Product Development Initiative, with WAITOC matching funds for the two-year project.
“The aim of the initiative is to develop about 15 existing and new tourism initiatives, with more than half in the Perth area,” he said. “In addition to providing authentic tourism opportunities, the project will also ensure that each business provides high quality and reliable services for the customer.”
Mr Haigh said existing businesses involved in the program included Njaki Njaki Aboriginal Cultural Tours in Merredin and Forte Hospitality in Mandurah.
The initiative started earlier this year and is due to finish in 2016.
Mr Haigh said WAITOC planned to implement similar initiatives in other areas of Western Australia in conjunction with its strategic partners but this would depend upon State Government funding and budget discussions.
WAITOC represents more than 80 Aboriginal tourism experiences ranging from accommodation, traditional dance and dreamtime stories to contemporary history, safari and bush tours and art. WAITOC has a 100 per cent Aboriginal board and is the only state based tourism body that provides direct Aboriginal to Aboriginal outcomes.
Mr Simon Haigh
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