The Consultations - what you said and what we heard

CONSULTATION: METHODS

Who we consulted:

Initial consultations were conducted with 27 stakeholder groups and individuals across the region. They included both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal tourism operators, tourism bodies, local councils and Traditional Owner groups.

How we consulted:

Interviews were generally one-on-one and conducted in person or over the phone.

What we discussed

The conversations centred around understating the aspirations for Aboriginal tourism in the region, potential opportunities, current and future challenges and investment needs.

How we used the data gathered?

The consultation process helped complement research gathered about specific attractions or trends and provide insight into areas about which there was no research, or where the research was not available.

The information has also informed the Vision for the region.

 

WHAT THEY SAID, AND WHAT WE LEARNED: AN OVERVIEW

1.    Tourism: a positive force in the community

During the consultation period there was a strong consensus that Aboriginal people want not only to create a successful tourism eco-system in the region, but also to capture the benefits from that tourism to generate positive and sustainable impacts for their communities.

“Tourism needs to be a mechanism to reach the destination which is a strong, healthy community. This plan needs to be a game changer for the Traditional Owners and Aboriginal people in the region” – Jamie Lowe, Eastern Marr

The strategy must include considerations of social impact; and support Aboriginal people to develop businesses that provide both financial and social returns to their communities.

 

2.    Real and sustained support

Participants strongly expressed the desire that any strategy that was released was underpinned by an actionable, long term plan and appropriate resourcing. There is a view that any solutions that are presented must also acknowledge, and work to overcome, current impediments that have been preventing tourism growth.

There is a broad perception that other plans and consultations have not resulted in any change.

To genuinely deliver Aboriginal Tourism in the Great Ocean Road region requires significant investment in infrastructure, product development and marketing by government and industry. This strategy needs to build the business case for seeking investment to build a sustainable offer over the medium to long term.” Liz Price, Great Ocean Road Regional Tourism.

The vision must be supported by a comprehensive plan, appropriate funding and long term sustained support. A realistic understanding of barriers that currently and historically have prevented tourism growth must underpin the plan.

 

3.    Aboriginal culture and history in the region

Some groups wanted tourism to help build awareness and recognition of the Aboriginal culture and history. Tourism presents an opportunity and a means of generating investment required to protect important Aboriginal cultural and historical sites.

It is important that public access to midden sites is considered. To avoid site degradation, or because of cultural or historical significance, it may be necessary to retain protected status for some sites. Appropriate guided tours could access other sites to ensure that not only the environmental impact is controlled, but also the cultural significance is properly appreciated and understood.

The creation of an authentic Aboriginal product invariably involves sharing of cultural property (including stories). A sustainable tourism strategy must ensure that there are not only clear transactional benefits for each community (not just for the region), but also that the plans are consistent with the community’s aspirations for maintaining and enriching culture.

The Aboriginal cultural and spiritual ‘IP’ must be honoured and valued (both by developing a plan that is culturally appropriate, and by providing a pathway to financial recompense). Part of the funding generated must be reinvested into preservation and protection of the history of the area.

 

4.    Resourcing - people

The pipeline of available and trained talent in the area varies. The further west areas have the strongest pipeline of young people; towards Melbourne in the eastern areas there are very limited numbers of Aboriginal people who want to work in the Tourism industry, where competition for Aboriginal talent from other high-paying roles limits the pool of available talent.

There is a concern in the region that younger people have been cut off from culture due to a combination of lack of investment and past policies. There is a sense that there is appetite from young people to embrace this cultural identity.

There are genuine apprehensions about the balancing of supply and demand, and how that impacts the young people they would employ and train. There are twin challenges: bringing products to market and concurrently increasing appetite from visitors for those products as they scale. If these are unaligned, the disconnect risks unrealistically raising the expectations of young trainees and disengaging them. Instead, appropriate planning should focus on strategy; as well as establishing and maintaining continuity in business leadership.

This concern arises from experience. In the past, a pipeline of skilled and qualified staff (with certificate course qualifications as tourism guides) has been delivered successfully in the region. However, delays bringing products to market successfully have impacted these employees through unreliable working hours.

It was however acknowledged that part-time work in the current market is still a viable model as some staff are undertaking other training or other qualifications or pursuing other interests.

The strategy should include expert advice and guidance to help tourism operators to scale effectively. In addition, the governing body should be able to forecast demand based on marketing activities and visitor numbers, and should cascade this information to further support effective and appropriate resourcing.

In addition, the strategy should provide for a pathway to leadership (with competitive remuneration) must be included to attract the right people into the sector. This pathway should not only include building business skills and experience in the tourism sector, but also frameworks for enhancing cultural identity – which will build a strong sense of identity and connection and build a pipeline of future leaders who can go on to work in immersive Aboriginal tourism products.

 

5.    Other factors

Tourism may not be the highest priority for some groups. There are concurrent cultural, social, environmental and economic agendas and land settlement claims underway which, naturally, are likely to take precedence when allocating time, resources and energy.

The plan should either leverage other competing agendas, or provide for alternate resourcing.

 

ABORIGINAL CONSULTATIONS

1.    Where are the perceived opportunities for Aboriginal tourism?

Aboriginal consultation

Areas of potential were identified where aspirations for tourism in the region could be realised (in no priority order).

Theme

Discussion

1.     Growing existing products

Currently there are a range of entry level products, offering different products that cater for varying tourist segments. These include experiences:

·      In a cultural centre (e.g. Winda Mara and Nirana)

·      Out on country (e.g. Tower Hill and Tyrandarrah)

·      Self-guided and guided (with Tyrendarah and Tower Hill catering for both options)

Entry level experiences such as these are perceived to be a first step to engage the education market, or other visitors who have had little past exposure to Aboriginal Australia.

For the tourist wanting a deeper experience, Budj Bim offers a guided tour to a nearby area or site of cultural significance leaving from the cultural centre at Winda Mara. This can include lunch.

Based on the growth in the previous year, many of the operators are looking to increase their tourist numbers with some targeting at least double or triple the tourist numbers in the next financial year.

Most operators commented positively about having “good product”, with “trained staff” and “good information”, noting the “great feedback on tours”.

How this informs the VISION?

Greater emphasis on hubs or nodes where tourists are engaged at an entry-level can drive greater engagement through connecting other, deeper experiences with the overarching cultural narrative.

The current ‘hero’ products are linked through this narrative and can also direct visitors to smaller providers with unique product offerings.

 

2.     Creating an interconnected region

There is a significant opportunity to develop an Aboriginal Tourism brand that changes the visitor experience from that of merely observation (looking at the 12 Apostles) to one of immersion in the rich and nuanced story, history and culture of the region.

Where it does not already exist, there is a broad appetite to develop this common narrative to support the promotion of the region as a tourist destination. There are stories and cultural connections (songlines) that would support that link, potentially even into other regions.

The connection to country, natural features and landscape is seen as a foundational element of any potential narrative.

Themes that emerged that could potentially drive this narrative include:

·      “Hear the country. See the country”

·      connecting the river and lake peoples

·      cultural knowledge and stories that follow the lava flows

How this informs the VISION?

A cohesive and comprehensive narrative will not only link the Aboriginal tourism product / brand to Country and landscape (which is already one of the key drivers for tourism in the region) but will also create a unifying lens through which the operators and brand managers can evaluate products, and how they support the narrative. This narrative will also help visitors understand the history and cultural context of the area, bringing together what can currently be seen as fragmented elements into a consistent story.

 

3.     Accrediting and training non-Aboriginal tour guides

For visitors travelling by bus, bus drivers often act as a tour guide and are the main source of information about the region, including any information about Aboriginal history or culture.

In many cases these drivers need further training or materials to provide more accurate and appropriate stories and information to their visitors.

Some operators are considering and/or pursuing opportunities to tap into the volume bus market. Two operators have already been approached or are in conversations with bus lines about becoming part of the itinerary for a multi-day bus tour.

Tower Hill has had some success securing bus tours (intermittently) from a range of coach companies:

·      AAT Kings on a Sunday morning

·      fun over 50’s bespoke tours.

Accreditation or licensing of bus tour guides would be considered in specific circumstances and under the control of the governing body. Through this accreditation, there is a significant opportunity to drive non-Aboriginal employment in the Aboriginal tourism sector: acknowledging that it is unlikely that there will ever be sufficient numbers of Aboriginal people to fully service visitor levels and be the sole channel of Aboriginal stories.

It was acknowledged that the world heritage listing of Budj Bim will drive opportunities for multi-day tours. However, preparations will need to be in place ahead of time to meet the potential demand.

How this informs the VISION?

Currently there are not enough trained Aboriginal tour guides to meet market demand.

Traditional Owner groups must retain “IP” to their stories and history, while still providing enough information to engage visitors and drive longer and more profitable immersion in the region.

In order to meet those criteria, an accreditation scheme must be created. This will be under the purview of the Traditional Owner groups and will allow non-Aboriginal tour guides to qualify to be able to tell approved stories. This licencing should carry a certification / logo / brand mark that will show that the operator has undergone training and been approved to share these stories.

This accreditation should only be awarded to operators who have completed and passed a training course run by the governing body. This will be a revenue source for this group and for the region.

This approach mitigates the issue of non-Aboriginal people telling stories that are not theirs to tell, in ways that are not culturally appropriate, whilst also ensuring that Traditional Owner groups retain control of their stories.

Some stories are appropriate to be told (through the accreditation program) by non-Aboriginal people; some must be only told by Aboriginal peoples themselves. The plan provides a structure for these important stories to be retained and told by Aboriginal people within more immersive experiences; and for these guides to be paid appropriately to operate in this space. This also opens up employment opportunities for non-Aboriginal tour guides to run the less immersive tourism products.

To facilitate longer trips, accommodation and other infrastructure should be developed towards the west. This development must align with forecasted visitor numbers in order to maintain high levels of visitor satisfaction.

Alternatively, to enable access to the more remote sites, the airport at Portland should be re-launched as an access point to the area for more time-poor visitors.

 

4.     Technology and digital products

There is interest in exploring how technology can support product development and marketing efforts.

There are already endeavours to incorporate digital products and aides into the tourism experience including the Budj Bim Walking Tour App which has been developed by: Winda Mara Aboriginal Corporation.

“Listen to Gunditjmara elders, rangers and tourism officers as you learn more about the cultural and environmental significance of the area… This mobile app provides a glimpse at the quiet charms of this place. If you keep your eyes and ears open, you may be able to connect to the cultural history of this place.”

How this informs the VISION?

Increasingly, consumers look to digital for pathways into physical experience. Where in the past, physical signage and collateral was sufficient to provide the information that tourists required, today and in the future, the demand will be for integrated infrastructure.

One of the key benefits of a digital approach is scalability. Whilst a physical sign can only be read within a few metres, and a human tour guide has limits on the number of visitors in each group – digital delivery is infinitely elastic in scope.

Virtual and Augmented Reality will revolutionise the way that visitors experience historical sites. Signage will link with spoken-word digital guides to tell the story of each site and link each narrative to the next. A bespoke website will provide interactive journey mapping, tourist information and booking services, and an app - a virtual elder tour guide -  will provide stories of the whole region both during travel and at the sites themselves, using location specific targeting.

 

5.     Collaboration

There are high levels of informal collaboration in the region:

·      between Aboriginal tourism operators

·      with local councils (e.g. for Welcome to Country)

·      involvement in local festivals (e.g. Wood Wine and Roses festival in Heywood)

·      with coach tour companies

·      with other local businesses

Some other, more formal collaboration arrangements also exist.

More broadly, there are collaborative relationships including understandings or practices that have evolved informally. Different parties might target different tourist market opportunities – for example, some targeting an entry level experience, where others are pursuing more bespoke (but more intermittent) special interest groups.

How this informs the VISION?

This broad collaboration already in existence indicates that an integrated approach will be successful.

With investment and resourcing there may be opportunities to focus the collaboration into a more targeted (but financially sustainable) co-delivery model.

The appetite for collaboration also suggests that a governing body made up of representatives of each of the Traditional Owner groups is a sensible approach.

 

6.     Market segment: education

Education is already a significant component of the market for many existing products. However, there remains significant opportunity to grow the education market for Aboriginal tourism.

The inclusion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Histories and Cultures in the National Curriculum Framework has presented a particularly strong opportunity for operators in the area. Schools and teachers (from K to 12, and even in higher education) are seeking engaging and educational activities for their students that help fulfil the teaching requirements.

Some operators are reporting that they already service the majority of local students in the area. In order to access further opportunities some operators are mapping their product to Curriculum make them more marketable by ensuring that the experiences are relevant and valuable for students and teachers.

How this informs the VISION?

Education is a core element of historical and / or cultural tourism globally – and therefore products in this segment tend to appeal to both general tourism and education markets.

With an established (local) primary / secondary education market, the established tourism operators have an opportunity to scale by introducing complimentary products, and by appealing to a wider market.

Whilst there is near saturation in the local primary / secondary market, this does not currently apply to all operators, and this should be a core objective. In addition, developing complimentary products that sit in adjacent curricula could drive repeat engagement – for example offering traditional land ownership practices into geography modules, or cultural immersion modules aligned with Australian history modules.

A residential option for the primary / secondary market would allow teachers from outside the region to access the products over a longer duration, that will justify the longer travel times to visit the region. This will also drive demand for broad range of both educational and leisure activities.

Increased scale can also be achieved by engaging outside the primary / secondary market and looking to tertiary education. Melbourne Business School currently run programs designed for Indigenous business students. With the residential option, they could run intensive weekend or week-long courses on-Country. This would also have the added benefit of providing opportunities for advanced business training for young local Aboriginal leaders.

 

7.     Midden sites along the Great Ocean Road

Tourism opportunities are already being explored for the various midden sites along the road at Point Grey, Browns Creek and Point Richie/Moyjil to complement the existing offerings in the region.

These do not currently have the required infrastructure to support sustainable product but may present an opportunity in the future. However, consideration must be given to the risk of site degradation, and whether some sites are appropriate for visitation due to their cultural or historical significance.

How this informs the VISION?

Midden sites are part of a broader narrative and connect to the Songlines that weave together and allow the full region to be experienced as a cohesive whole.

Resources must be applied to evaluate each site to determine whether inclusion on the tourist map is appropriate (from a cultural, historical and environmental perspective). The sites that are appropriate should be developed and added to the narrative.

 

8.     Building on existing regional priorities and plans

Significant projects such as the Shipwreck Coast Master Plan are regional  priorities.

Traditional Owner groups have been engaged and are exploring the role that Aboriginal people and their culture will play in the development, implementation and eventual operation of this plan.

In the past, the paradigm of consultation and input has not produced sustainable impact for the Traditional Owner groups and their communities. There is a significant opportunity to break that pattern and deliver results.

With Eastern Maar’s ongoing Native Title negotiations that cover the same area as the Shipwreck Coast Master Plan, this will be particularly important. One of the groups felt that it is important to have linkages to neighbouring region operators (e.g. Brambuk in the Grampians).

How this informs the VISION?

Where previous plans have delivered enormous vision, they have not succeeded due to lack of tactical planning, a lack of governance, people support and development and appropriate financial resourcing.

Delivering impact will mean having a plan, governance structures in place, adequate support from experienced mentors, and ongoing financial commitment to achieve the vision.

 

9.     Marketing support and investment to boost visitation and/or accommodation

Some of the Aboriginal products in the region, such as Tower Hill, Narana and Cape Otway Lighthouse, are more mature products. These operators have some infrastructure set up – however, it is aging and not fit for purpose either to service current visitors or to sustain growth or change over time.

To expand their visitation these groups express the desire for investment to augment their offerings, signage (e.g. accommodation) and marketing support – and will need investment into operational systems to provide the levels of service required over time.

Several operators echoed a theme from GORRT’s strategic master plan in highlighting a lack of boutique and/or eco-tourism accommodation throughout the region.

Several operators and individuals discussed the opportunities that they saw to establish accommodation, either directly linked to an existing product (e.g. Budj Bim or Tower Hill) or as standalone Aboriginal owner and/or operated accommodation.

How this informs the VISION?

Incorporating existing product into the broader narrative is a key component of creating a cohesive brand and marketing story – and therefore underpins any visitor acquisition activity.

As part of the plan, a broader, overarching regional brand should be developed and launched. As part of the rebranding process, each existing product should be assessed and gaps filled in their marketing (rather than just re-branding what is currently in existence. Both the assessment and the development of supporting / additional collateral and campaigns must be funded appropriately.

Longer visitor stays will drive greater spend and engagement in the region – however, currently the area lacks accommodation options that are appealing to a segment that prefers boutique, eco-luxury or who are cash-rich / time poor.  The eco-lodges proposed by Budj Bim may begin to fill this gap – however, the development should then be marketed as such.

 

10.  Tapping into wider tourism trends

There are opportunities to leverage wider tourism trends to integrate Aboriginal products and services more deeply into the regional tourism ecosystem. This includes expanding existing products, and developing new products into growing parts of the tourism industry.

Food and wine

The region has a burgeoning food and wine tourism scene. There are opportunities to develop ‘standalone’ gourmet products such as smoked eel, which is in high demand internationally; and products like bush tucker ingredients that are integrated with mainstream food manufacture or used in restaurants. The region is already beginning to tap into this trend with the Great Ocean Road Chocolaterie and Ice-Creamery and their Coastal Bush Tucker range of chocolates.

Local festivals and events

There is some Aboriginal participation in local festivals, including the local Tarerer Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander festival held in Warnambool (February 2017), and the local eel festival on Lake Bolac.

Festivals and events are widely perceived as an opportunity to profile the outstanding continuing connection to country, and vibrant culture of the local Aboriginal population.

How this informs the VISION?

Wrap-around products minimise risk and maximise integration of Aboriginal culture into the visitor experience.

Marketing the region as a gourmet region will complement the current focus on natural landscape. Traditional food is intrinsically linked to Country, and provides a way to understand culture in a very personal way. In addition, ‘foodies’ are more likely to spend more time in the region as they experience the area meal by meal.

Ongoing Aboriginal participation in existing local events is critical to the integration and ‘normalisation’ of Aboriginal culture as a central feature of the region. Over time, development of specific Aboriginal events will raise the profile of the region and potentially drive off-peak visitor numbers (depending on when it is scheduled). A food and wine festival featuring eel and bushfood would reinforce the positioning of the region as the Aboriginal food bowl. This positioning is in stark contrast to the image promoted by NT tourism with their reliance on the traditional, desert culture. Instead, South West  Victoria can promote a richer experience: a fusion of contemporary and traditional cultures in an area where you can experience traditional lifestyle while on a beach holiday.

 

11.  Developing new product

There are currently several potential tourist destinations (from Moyjil, Glenelg to Bridgewater Bay, or boating on lakes and waterways including Lake Condah) that are opportunities to expand the Aboriginal tourism experience in the region. In addition, there are undeveloped local historical sites that would be of significance to both the non-Aboriginal and Aboriginal populations who are driven by an interest in Australian history. For example, there is increased tourist interest in the Native Police Barracks that attracts both the history seeking tourist and the educational market, with high visitation return rates.

How this informs the VISION?

The development plan must focus not just on supporting existing Aboriginal product, but also on connecting into the broader tourism ecosystem in the region to integrate other products into the narrative and provide a richer and more engaging visitor experience.

 

12.  Monetising current visitor levels and driving higher spend

There is ongoing discussion about what product can be developed to increase visitor spend and encourage tourists past the current boundaries of the day trip route which ends (currently) at the Twelve Apostles.

Given the current visitor journeys, one short-term revenue source could be pop-up shops at high through-put sites such as the Twelve Apostles; or pop-up shop opportunities in nearby towns including Port Fairy. These could include food trucks; retail opportunities (for arts, artifacts etc.) or cultural performances.

The option of levying a visitor fee to mitigate the fact that despite high volumes of tourism in the region, dollar spend is low was raised - citing other situations where a fee is linked to the investment (for example, tolls over the Sydney Harbour Bridge, park fees at Uluru, or the Las Vegas resort fee in the United States).

How this informs the VISION?

Bus tours and day trippers are unlikely to contribute a large increase of revenue in the area as they are typically time and / or money poor. However, providing opportunities for them to engage with Aboriginal tourism product with a visitor centre at the 12 Apostles will not only provide them greater impetus for a return journey but will also present opportunities to increase revenue through retail, hospitality and entry fees.

The licencing of non-Aboriginal tour guides will also provide a revenue stream.

However, the biggest increase in tourism revenue is likely to be gained through increasing the length of time visitors spend in the region. Providing attractive itineraries, activities, accommodation and wrap around services must be a key focus of the plan.

 

2.    What are the perceived challenges for Aboriginal tourism?

Several challenges that were or may impede achieving these aspirations were highlighted:

1.     Back end infrastructure (booking systems)

Booking systems that are not user friendly or fit for purpose (or in some cases inoperable) present a significant challenge to growth.

The reported increase in tourist numbers in the last financial year is part of an upwards trend that is perceived to be unsustainable unless back-end infrastructure is upgraded.

It is acknowledged that some of the issues are not unique to Aboriginal businesses but are common to many small businesses – however, the lack of Aboriginal people with the appropriate skills mean that these businesses are at a significant disadvantage. 

How this informs the VISION?

The digital improvement roadmap will deliver not only customer facing digital solutions (such as the website, app, AR and VR experiences, digital signage etc.) but also work to upgrade and integrate back end booking platforms into a workable and cohesive system. This is likely to require significant scoping and development over time, as well as maintenance, support and training. Priority should be given to removing digital ‘barriers’ (e.g. ensuring that current product is not undermined by inoperable systems).

The plan also identifies simple, out of the box solutions that would support the growth trajectory of these businesses – from cloud based, widely used accounting packages, to business planning software and forecasting tools. Supported by training and mentors, the implementation of standard systems across the sector will not only raise the levels of service delivery but will also increase knowledge and skill level within Aboriginal communities.

 

2.     Human resourcing to develop and manage products

The further west from Melbourne, the less accessing talent (e.g. cultural guides) is an issue. Towards Melbourne, however, this is seen to be a significant challenge as tourism remuneration fails to compete with government and corporate salaries.

Newer and developing products (including Budj Bim and Tyrendarra as well as individual guides/operators) require support to help turn aspirations and vision into practical, tactical action – for example assistance to start a new business and build the market. While there is a product available they do not yet have the structure and/or dedicated resources required to translate into servicing meaningful and stable visitation.

Traditional Owner or community organisations also must manage competing priorities alongside any tourism activity.

How this informs the VISION?

With Aboriginal people making up a small percentage of the region’s population, to scale and deliver a consistent service level to volume tourism, Aboriginal tourism products are likely to require non-Aboriginal staff. The vision must include a development pathway for Aboriginal talent to take on leadership roles and the support to train both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people to ensure appropriate staffing levels can be provided as visitor numbers grow.

The programs required to ensure adequate numbers of trained staff should be aligned with forecasts of visitor numbers and underpinned by a comprehensive marketing plan over time.

 

3.     Integrating into existing tourism marketing

Currently there are challenges establishing links into established marketing networks such as Melbourne-based coach tour companies, local tourism networks and the education sector. This is particularly challenging for sole operators and small businesses that lack the resource or bandwidth to engage, especially in forming partnerships with larger tour operators which would require complex and lengthy negotiations.

How this informs the VISION?

The marketing plan must integrate with and link to existing marketing platforms and campaigns through a globally and nationally recognised brand, social media and PR, Trade and Industry marketing and distribution channels. This should be a cohesive and well managed approach to market.

The digital solutions that are developed for the region should also provide simple, structured toolkits to help smaller businesses access the information and develop the relationships that they require. This could be in the form of online help sections with checklists and ‘how-to’ guides as well as contact details for key contacts in each network. In addition, face to face industry training and networking events would foster relationship development and peer to peer support.

 

4.     Signage and materials

There is a lack of signage acknowledging Aboriginal history and Aboriginal tourism experiences along the Great Ocean Road.

This is a missed opportunity to build awareness of Aboriginal tourism which could appeal to visitors during their current or future visits to the region.

Both Tower Hill and Tyrrendarah have few signs present on the main roads: Tower Hill signage does not denote any Aboriginal experience or cultural centre, Tyrendarah’s sign appears to mark it as a prohibited zone.

Language barriers with international tourists is also emerging as an issue with Tower Hill noting the increase in tourists from China who are not able to read or engage in signage and information around the park.

How this informs the VISION?

Tourism infrastructure in the area should be world class and should give accurate and consistent direction to both visitors that are seeking the product and to passing trade. Directional signage systems should differentiate between different types of experience (cultural; food and wine; historical etc.). On-site signage should be tell the story of each site and link each narrative to the next – this should also link to digital storytelling which can be presented in multi-lingual formats.

 

5.     Managing resources against supply and demand

There are difficulties associated with providing a consistent, year-round tourism experience.

This may be due to a lcompeting priorities within job roles (e.g. tour guides at Budj Bim who are also employed as rangers who need to spend weeks maintaining the national park) or from management who do not have adequate resources to both manage the business and invest time and funds into building consistent demand for the product through marketing. In addition to the back-end technology systems, such as booking systems that are needed to effectively manage staffing levels, resources to deal with requests / bookings are also required.

Consideration must also be given to how to manage staffing where visitor demand is erratic. It is understood that tourists often want tours at all times during the week – however, management of this is challenging. Solutions under consideration include providing staff time in lieu, or increasing prices for bespoke requests outside the scheduled times.

How this informs the VISION?

Building and managing demand to provide more consistency in visitor numbers is a key consideration of the plan, and must be closely monitored by the governing body. The ability to forecast peaks and troughs will be refined over time, and marketing can be accelerated or decreased to help manage this. In addition, events or festivals should be scheduled for traditionally ‘off-peak’ times to provide more consistent visitor numbers.

The issues around staff resourcing are not unique to this area and there are many solutions that have been developed globally. This requirement highlights the need for support from experienced tourism managers to help design resourcing plans that can scale in line with demand, and also remain profitable for the operator.

 

6.     Managing resourcing against mental health and ‘burnout’

Employees can suffer ‘burnout’ because of the intense (and personal) nature of conducting Aboriginal tourism. Operators already monitor this and have some strategies/policies that help address potential issues, knowing that it contributes to difficultly attracting and retaining Aboriginal people.

How this informs the VISION?

Training courses that focus on building resilience could be considered as part of a broader education and professional development program for tourism operators and their staff.

Experienced tourism managers will also be able to help design appropriate resourcing plans to support employees and ensure that they are able to work sustainably while maintaining their mental health.

 

7.     Report and consultation fatigue

There is frustration about continued attempts to engage operators and the community for reports and plans (similar to this) that have not resulted in tangible results.

There is a strong desire to see recommendations for substantial solutions that create meaningful change that are funded appropriately.

How this informs the VISION?

The vision for the region is supported by a granular plan including investment and funding to support operators or groups to acquire the resources and human capital that they need to develop the right products and bring them to market.

 

8.     Product mix

There is a perception that it is difficult to maintain a business that provides only cultural tours, and therefore for sustainability reasons, a mix of products and experiences may be required.

This may be a combination of:

·      Souvenirs / retail to drive volume and revenue

·      Balancing volume tours (lower dollar yield but more predictable income) with bespoke tours (more lucrative but time intensive and less frequent)

Budj Bim tours has the capacity to offer boating and overnight tours with gourmet food – however an inability to forecast demand makes it difficult to manage consistent cash flow.

How this informs the VISION?

Building sustainable and prosperous businesses to deliver ongoing positive social impact will require a holistic approach and a plan that  includes structured support to help develop sustainable product mixes across category.

 

 

NON-ABORIGINAL CONSULTATIONS

Consultations with Non- Aboriginal people and groups in the GOR region included tourism operators, local shire councils, Visit Victoria, Parks Victoria, visitor information centres and other individual stakeholders.

 

1.    What are the aspirations for Aboriginal tourism?

Many non-Aboriginal operators are keen to see more market-ready, reliable Aboriginal tourism products available in the region and believe they have the potential to augment their current offerings and improve visitor experiences. Most were realistic about the short-term potential of Aboriginal tourism to become a significant draw card to the region.

 

2.    What are the challenges for non-Aboriginal tourism operators?

These groups and individuals highlighted challenges that were or may impede achieving these aspirations:

1.     Past sub-optimal experience

Some non-Aboriginal operators spoke of poor experiences with Aboriginal operators in the past. They were unable to provide the promised product in a reliable way.

The strategy must provide for product support and development and industry briefings and tours to regain confidence.

 

2.     Inconsistency

Uncertainty about the availability of offerings was identified as a limiting factor for many non-Aboriginal operators (such as tour companies) who were keen to include Aboriginal products on their tours

The plan must include a comprehensive, ongoing marketing and communications plan both externally (to visitors) and internally within the sector to ensure that availability is clearly articulated and any changes are publicly available.

 

3.     Time limitations

Operators and stakeholders expressed the difficulty in finding time on trips, particularly on single day tours, to stop and explore add an Aboriginal experience.

The vision includes incorporating several Aboriginal products into current day-trip itineraries – such as the Aboriginal Visitor Centre at the 12 Apostles. Opportunities to up-sell day trippers to appropriate longer and / or overnight stays should also be developed.

 

3.    What are the opportunities for Aboriginal tourism?

These groups and individuals highlighted several opportunities that could contribute to achieving these aspirations:

 

1.     Point of arrival to the Great Ocean Road

The proposed ‘GOR Experience’ plan at the Australia National Surfing Museum in Torquay is slated to be a major experience on the GOR. This may be an opportunity to introduce the Aboriginal story of the area.

How this informs the VISION?

As another entry point, information about the songlines or connecting narrative of the region should be included within or around the Australian National Surfing Museum. There is an opportunity to provide more than just collateral – an AR or VR Aboriginal story-telling experience sitting alongside an exhibition of art and retail.

 

2.     Integration with other products

Opportunities are available for Aboriginal products to be integrated into existing tourist attractions (e.g. Aboriginal interpretation at Twelve Apostles) to improve the tourist experiences at these attractions.

Current Aboriginal products, particularly those using native ingredients, could be more highly promoted alongside other food and wine offerings in the area.

How this informs the VISION?

A Visitor Centre at the 12 Apostles will provide insight into the Aboriginal history and culture of the region; will promote other experiences and products within the brand and will provide some opportunities for an ‘entry level’ Aboriginal experience.

The brand for the region will encompass the strengths of the area including the abundant Aboriginal and bush food products.

 

3.     Building on existing regional priorities and plans

The opportunities of working cooperatively on key regional priorities and plans are well recognised. It is critical to ensure that any new plans for the region are integrated into existing programs and are beneficial for Traditional Owner groups, local communities and visitors.

How this informs the VISION?

The governing body should establish a working group with the key contacts from other regional planning authorities including state and local government and the Great Ocean Road Tourism Authority; and any investment should be reviewed to align with the objective of strengthening tourism in the region and providing the best possible tourist experience.

 

CONSULTATIONS

Completed (28)

Traditional Owners (3)

Aboriginal Operators (7)

·       Gunditj Mirring Aboriginal Corporation (Gunditjmara) -  Denis Rose

·       Eastern Marr – Jamie Lowe

·       Wadawurrung - Paul Davis

·       Worn Gundidj (Tower Hill) – Terry O’Keefe

·       Winda-Mara (Budj Bim Tours) – Michael Bell & Aunty Eileen Alberts

·       Narana -  Kaley McGough

·       Indigicate – Shawn Andrews

·       Cape Otway Lighthouse – Trish Goodlet

·       Brett Clarke

·       Richard Colopy

Non-Aboriginal Operators (7)

Other groups (12)

·       Echidna Walkabout Tours -  Roger Smith

·       Walk 91

·       GOR Chocolatery & Ice-Creamery – Ian Neeland

·       National Treausres Touring

·       Auswalk Walking Holidays -  Brett Neagle

·       Suffoir Wines – Michelle Badehorst

·       Bunyip Tours – Polly Gibson

·       Colac Otway Shire – Adrian Healey

·       Corangamite Shire – Michael Emerson

·       Surf Coast Shire – Gordon Johnston

·       Karryn Ross

·       Vicki Couzens

·       GOR Visitor Information Centre - Lisa

·       Parks Victoria – Brigid Issac, Prue , Dale Antonysen, Alysia Brandenburg, David Lucas

·       BusH-to-Sea Path – Andy McClusky

·       Tourism Victoria -  Chris White & John Huggins

·       Aaron Clark

·       Geelong & Bellarine Tourism – Roger & Brett

·       Guli-Gad Aboriginal Corporation -

 

Unavailable (11)

Aboriginal Operators (1)

·       Brambuk

Non-Aboriginal Operators (6)

Other groups (4)

·       Searoad Ferries

·       Twelve Apostles Lodge Walk

·       Abercrombie & Kent

·       Oceania Tours and Safaris

·       Sightseeing Tours Australia

·       Lorne Visitor Info Centre

·       Port Fairy Visitor Info Centre

·       Warrnambool City Council

·       Corrina Eccles