Anne Majumdar

Australia’s Indigenous culture is one of its greatest unique selling points in an increasingly competitive tourism marketplace, so what exactly is being done to promote it to the world?

Currently, of the $39 billion of international tourism expenditure in Australia, only 14% is on Indigenous tourism experiences. But Tourism Australia managing director John O’Sullivan is confident that number is set to rise as the organisation focuses on strengthening the sector.

TA MD John O'Sullivan 2

“Increasingly people are travelling for experiences and experiences are linked to people – we’ve got this unbroken culture of 70,00 years of one of oldest living cultures on planet so why wouldn’t we shine a light on that?” he told KarryOn.

“Over time, we expect that to become more and more part of our offering and part of the international visitor spend.”

So, what is the tourism body actually doing on the Indigenous tourism front?

In 2015, it launched its first ever dedicated creative around Indigenous tourism in collaboration with cinematographer director Warwick Thornton and Brendan Fletcher. Entitled Aboriginal Australia, our country is waiting for you, the TVC was aimed at markets where demand for Indigenous tourism products is strong like the US, France, Germany, the UK and, increasingly, Japan.

“We’ve put that piece of creative in front of over 40 million people since 2015,” O’Sullivan said, adding that figure was considered a “conservative” estimate.

The tourism marketing organisation then backed it up with an “extensive” project which saw it work with 56 Indigenous businesses to ensure their tourism products are “export-ready”. Last year, it took a group of those businesses to ITB Berlin to showcase their offerings to an international crowd.

“It’s all very well for us to get people dreaming, but the products have got to match up to the promise and that’s what our focus has been on,” O’Sullivan explained.


The Australian Tourism Exchange which will take place in Sydney next month will also be a great opportunity to promote these export-ready experiences. So far, 20 Indigenous operators have registered for the show, he revealed.

“So, we’re doing a combination of shining a light on the experiences as well as backing it up by working with those products to get them ready for export,” he said.

“You’ve got to remember that from an international perspective, there are only about 70 businesses in the sector that are export-ready.”

Meanwhile, O’Sullivan highlighted the Chinese market as a “real opportunity” for the Indigenous tourism sector. The organisation is starting to introduce the idea of Indigenous Australia to the Chinese market, most recently with an activation event for China-Australia Year of Tourism which profiled Indigenous performers.

Have you experienced an Indigenous tourism product yet?