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ATTA looks at challenges and Opportunities in Community-Based and Indigenous Tourism in Australia and New Zealand

ATTA looks at challenges and Opportunities in Community-Based and Indigenous Tourism in Australia and New Zealand
April 22, 2022

Set to stage a webinar on Indigenous and Community-based Tourism next week, the USA-based Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA) has shared recent learnings on its experiences in Australia, New Zealand and Pacific Island nations, explaining the critical role of local Indigenous communities, in promoting and reinforcing native culture.

From Aboriginal people in Australia, Maori in New Zealand, iTaukei in Fiji, Samoan, Tongan, Papua New Guinea, home to over 600 distinct tribes, or the Ainu from Hokkaido in Japan, ATTA Regional Manager Céline Fortin sees that this incredible diversity is a big part of each destination’s DNA and based on recent surveys, there is a real appetite within the adventure travel industry for a more authentic and deeper local immersion with more empowerment opportunities for these communities.

How does the industry ensure sustainable and inclusive economic development and resilience for Indigenous tourism post-COVID-19 in the region?

To start conversations around this question and topic, ATTA will be talking with various experts from the Indigenous tourism industry who will attempt to bring answers and share their experiences. In its upcoming webinar on 28th April 2022, Meet the Experts: Indigenous & Community-based Tourism: Challenges & Opportunities, attendees will have the opportunity to find out more from diverse voices from the Oceania adventure travel community, including:

  • A destination (Tourism Australia),
  • A global tour operator (Intrepid Travel),
  • Two local indigenous businesses from Australia (Walkabout Cultural Adventures) and Papua New Guinea (Indigenous Kokoda Adventures)
  • One of the founding members of the World Indigenous Tourism Alliance (WINTA), bringing the New Zealand and Maori perspectives.

Webinar speakers and topics

Nicole Mitchell, Director of Indigenous Experiences at Tourism Australia
Mitchell has been involved in promoting Indigenous tourism experiences for much of her adult life. Throughout her long career in tourism, specifically promoting Australia for over 25 years, she has gained a reputation as a passionate advocate for the authentic and respectful promotion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture.

Joining Tourism Australia in 2016, she contributed to the formation of Discover Aboriginal Experiences (DAE), Tourism Australia’s flagship Indigenous tourism program. DAE is a collective of 45 businesses across the country, whose focus is on the consistent delivery of exceptional Aboriginal guided experiences that connect visitors to culture through storytelling.

Mitchell explains “our land has a proud history of the longest living continuous culture in the world, spanning more than 60,000 years, and tourism is a great way of ensuring the stories and culture of our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples continues to live on for future generations - and not just here in Australia but also among the many international visitors who are touched by these experiences and share their stories when they return home.”

Mitchell has been directly involved with the development of Tourism Australia Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP), a strategic document with practical plans for action. It is underpinned by key themes of Relationships, Respect and Opportunities. A RAP assists organizations to foster an enabling environment that promotes Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ empowerment.

She notes “what has really excited me about working at Tourism Australia during the past few years is the commitment our leadership team has made to ensuring Indigenous tourism is one of our key strategic pillars. Our Innovate RAP is one part of this commitment coming to life.”

John Barrett, founding member of WINTA, New Zealand
Barrett, is the founder of Kapiti Island Nature Tours in New Zealand and is one of the founding members of WINTA’s Leadership Council.

He recently retired as Director of Tourism New Zealand and has also served as past Chair of New Zealand Maori Tourism Council.

Barrett’s efforts and energy are focusing on Indigenous tourism and our role in re-setting the tourism sector with a focus on regenerative tourism, and the value in international Indigenous collaborations in tourism post COVID. He is also involved in supporting Indigenous higher education and conservation practice and education.

Jesse Leta, Founder of Indigenous Kokoda Adventures, Papua New Guinea
Leta is the founder of Indigenous Kokoda Adventures, the first wholly Indigenous, locally owned, led, and operated tour operator on the Kokoda Track in Papua New Guinea. While Lete currently lives and works in Port Moresby with his family, he was born and raised in the village of Naduri and remains well acquainted with the continuing struggle to escape the cycle of poverty that still exists there. He has made it his life focus to change the current conditions on the Track.

Education of the younger population (both boys and girls), equal opportunity for women and better employment conditions for the porters and guides are all qualities that guide Jesse’s decisions and actions. Leta and IKA are also working with some of the local coffee growers from the Kokoda area and they have Indigenous Kokoda Adventures branded coffee available for purchase with the net proceeds going to the IKA Foundation to help fund the children’s education.

Leta explains “our coffee is called Kokoda Luti which means heart of Kokoda and is named for our children because these children are the heart of the people that live along the Kokoda Track as well as the future of the communities that are located there.”

Juan Walker/Karanba, founder of Walkabout Cultural Adventures, Australia
Walker/Karanba, a Kuku Yalanji man from North Queensland, brings expertise across Indigenous business, cultural tourism and education, working with government, corporate and the community sectors to increase cross-cultural knowledge and understanding of First Nation people’s connection to the country.

Walker/Karanba has represented Australia internationally, as a cultural business innovator in partnership with the Commonwealth Secretariat and Tourism Australia, in Egypt and France. He is the recipient of significant awards for Indigenous Business, Cultural Tourism and Education. He is committed to sharing knowledge of Australia’s First People, acknowledging that increased understanding drives reconciliation.

Sara King, General Manager of Purpose, Intrepid Travel, Australia
With Intrepid Travel having been engaged in sustainability for over 30 years and is today the largest certified B Corporation™ in travel in Australia.

King is responsible for delivering the company’s environmental, social and governance commitments, including as a signatory to the UN Global Compact and a certified B Corp. Her remit includes Reconciliation, Modern Slavery, climate change, gender equality, animal welfare and the Intrepid Foundation.

Prior to joining Intrepid, King held a number of roles at the International Finance Corporation, which is a member of the World Bank Group, including a posting to Vanuatu where she delivered a national investment incentive scheme for tourism to promote collaboration, innovation, and sustainability.

King is strongly involved with Intrepid’s Reconciliation Action Plan, and her role is to ensuring the business is creating shared value for the community

ATTA Webinar - Meet the Experts: Indigenous & Community-based Tourism: Challenges & Opportunities
Click here to register for ATTA’s webinar Meet the Experts: Indigenous & Community-based Tourism: Challenges & Opportunities on 28th April 2022,

With thanks to Céline Fortin

Images: Aboriginal tourism (top, credit Tourism NT), John Barrett, founding member of WINTA (middle, credit: ATTA) Juan Walker/Karanba, founder of Walkabout Cultural Adventures (below, credit: ATTA).

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