Talking tourism in Coffs

Talking tourism in Coffs

Local Aboriginal Land Councils from the Mid-North Coast have taken advantage of an opportunity to network and share stories with tourism operators at a two-day workshop held in Coffs Harbour.

The workshop, organised by Destinations NSW, allowed operators to learn from each other’s experiences in setting up tourism businesses.

Participants also continued work to establish a new industry peak body, the NSW Aboriginal Tour Operators Council to be launched next year.

Among the workshop speakers was Unkya Local Aboriginal Land Council CEO, Michele Donovan.

In 2014, Unkya LALC established a cultural and eco-tours business based in Macksville.

Focusing on school students from Kindergarten to Year Nine, the tours teach children about cultural stories, local ecosystems and plant life as well as maintenance of cultural sites and language.

Growing demand for the tours and the need to employ more guides has led the Land Council to develop a Certificate 3 course in Tourism with the local TAFE. Fifteen students will enrol in the course next month.

Michelle says that while the potential economic benefits are significant, the social and cultural impact of Aboriginal tourism shouldn’t be overlooked.

“Tourism can help educate non-Aboriginal people about our culture and history and for our mob, we can do this while maintaining our own connection to country.

“By sharing our country, culture and knowledge we can change people’s attitudes and open their hearts and minds,” she says

A study by Tourism Australia found that during 2012, more than 600,000 international visitors to NSW participated in an Aboriginal experience while in Australia.

Although this is only 21 percent of all international visitors, 42 percent of those who didn’t have an Aboriginal tourism experience said they would like to if given the opportunity.