Achieving the VISION requires a visitor-centric approach that also values and respects the needs of the Aboriginal people of the region who will need to deliver the product to meet visitor demand.  

1.    What is ‘cultural tourism’

For the purposes of this report, cultural tourism is defined as travel directed towards experiencing the arts, heritage and special character of Aboriginal Country in South West Victoria.[1]  This is a supplementary layer to any non-Aboriginal cultural tourism that may also be offered in the region. The approach to integrating Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal cultural tourism is discussed in more depth in the Marketing Strategy.


2.    Understanding consumption models

The consumption of culture and cultural tourism products tends to fall into three broad categories which align with different visitor needs and interests. It’s critical to ensure that product is developed to meet the range of visitor desires, from a shallower experience where tourist just ‘dip a toe’ into the culture; to a fully immersive, deep and absorbing experience which leaves the consumer feeling engaged with a deep understanding of the culture.


3.    Insights from current visitor segmentation

The Great Ocean Road is currently the main tourist attraction in the region, and understanding the drivers of their experience (what they’re interested in and why) provides insights into what cultural tourism products may entice them to stay longer in the region and spend more. 


4.    Insights from current journeys

Identifying and analysing the current visitor journeys provides insight into what current visitors are looking for: how they experience the region; what they expect before commencing the trip; how long they stay and how much they spend.

Understanding current visitors, their physical journeys and the potential to increase each segment also provides a base-line from which to develop plans to grow tourism in the region.


5.    What this means for the VISION?

The VISION will include elements from these visitor journeys but build on them with additional product; increased visitor demand for greater immersion in the region; and significantly upgraded infrastructure.



Approach and overview

Existing research from a variety of sources (including Great Ocean Road Regional Tourism, Tourism Australia, Australian Bureau of Statistics, Indigenous Business Australia and other sources) was collated and used to determine a base understanding of the tourism and broader context of the Great Ocean Road region and Aboriginal tourism.

This period also involved gathering research to build a better understanding of successful (and unsuccessful) Aboriginal tourism efforts throughout Australia and similar Indigenous tourism globally.


Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander regional population data

401,630 people live in the Great Ocean Road region.[2]

Geelong is the largest population centre in the region accounting for nearly 50% of the region’s total population. Other key population centres are Warrnambool, Colac, Torquay-Jan Juc, and Ocean Grove-Barwon Heads.

Over 4,500 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people live in the region (1,871 in Warrnambool and the South West and 2,713 in Geelong), representing 1.1% of the total population of the region.

Almost half this population live in Geelong with the western part of the region also home to a significant portion of the Aboriginal population. This Aboriginal population is a relatively small population and predominantly young, with more than half of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population nationally under the age of 25 years[3].

Given the large visitor numbers in the region, it presents a potential structural resource challenge to engage enough Aboriginal people willing and able to directly deliver tourism products as the tourism population continues to grow.

Current data on Aboriginal tourism

Existing research about the region and Aboriginal tourism across Australia provides an indicative context about the state of tourism in the region.

Low demand for Aboriginal tourism products

There is generally lower demand for Aboriginal experiences, both in Victoria (and Great Ocean Road) and Australia, than for Australia’s other key tourist attractions/experiences; natural beauty, food & wine and wildlife attractions.[4] 

Visitors do not associate Aboriginal tourism with Victoria & Great Ocean Road region

Those international and domestic visitors who are looking for Aboriginal experiences do not associate the Great Ocean Road or Victoria with Aboriginal tourism, which is more commonly associated with central and northern Australia.[5]

Demand for Aboriginal experiences is great in International visitors

International visitors, particularly from Western countries, have greater desire for and are likely to visit Aboriginal experiences more frequently than domestic tourists.[6] [7]

Day trip visitors on bus tours have limited time

Bus tours have a tight, set itinerary and run for approximately 14 hours (from 7am to 9pm). They primarily focus on seeing key attractions along the Shipwreck Coast (e.g. the Twelve Apostles) and natural/wildlife experiences (e.g. koalas at Kennett River)[8].


What other background data was considered?

Previous reports

While no similar reports have been completed specifically around Aboriginal Tourism in the Great Ocean Road region, there have been numerous reports delivered at a state or local level that have included Aboriginal engagement in the region. These include the Shipwreck Coast Master Plan, Budj Bim Master Plan, Strategic Master Plan for the Great Ocean Road Region Visitor Economy.

While not specifically within the scope of this report, there may also be potential linkages and useful insights from Aboriginal cultural and tourism ventures in neighbouring regions including Brambuk in the Grampians.



Whether travelling domestically or internationally, holidaymakers consume culture in three broad ways:

1.    Observers

Have an interest in culture but are content with an external view. They are likely to prefer to visit museums or galleries, and enjoy shorter cultural products and less likely to demand immersive cultural experiences.

2.    Intrigued

Have a superficial interest in culture. They believe that cultural elements (art, heritage) are essential to any trip and are more likely to opt for short cultural experiences in preference to visiting a museum or gallery.

3.    Immersive

Are looking for an authentic and deep cultural experience. They seek out stories about the local culture and have a desire have a deep cultural experience.



The Great Ocean Road Visitor Economy Strategic Master Plan identifies “Lifestyle Leaders” as the main visitors to the region. This group is segmented out into four key dimensions:

1.    “Culture vultures” or Creative opinion leaders

Visitors that seek authenticity. They consume music, creative arts and are part of the Melbourne’s laneway coffee culture. They attend events and galleries and are influenced by designers, architects, artisans and craft bloggers.


2.    Food and wine lifestyles

Believe that food and wine are the heart and soul of life. They value excellence in food and wine: visiting highly awarded restaurants with high-profile chefs; enjoying wine tasting at cellar doors; and prizing local produce and farmers’ markets.


3.    Enriched wellbeing

Focused on wellbeing and living a rich and balanced life. They seek nurturing experiences such as natural mineral springs and geothermal spring and enjoy village atmospheres and spending time in the outdoors.


4.    Inspired by nature

Refreshed by and connected to nature. They seek out and are inspired by spectacular natural landscapes and experiences within the natural world. They are interested in wildlife and ecology, and enjoy spending time in eco-lodges as well as walking and cycling.


How could current Great Ocean Road region visitors consume culture?



Current Visitor Journey Mapping

The visitor profile and journey mapping below provides an indicative profile of the main visitor segments in the region. It has been prepared as a culmination of our research and consultations that provided insight into the behaviour and attitudes of visitors to the region.


Key data insights[9]

·      Domestic overnight and daytrip visitors are the clear majority of trips and spend on the region. Domestic is also growing most quickly.

·      International visitors stay for a longer time on average (6 days on average)

·      73% of international visits and 65% of domestic visits are day trips

·      83% of domestic overnight visitors are from within Victoria. Melbourne is a key point of origin

·      Majority (~74%) of international visitors from Europe, UK, Germany and the States

·      Both domestic and international visitors are spread across the range of age groups

·      Food and wine activities are a popular activity particularly for domestic travellers

·      International visitors more likely to stay in hotels and caravan/camping than domestic visitors.


What can we learn from this?

·      Most visitors’ current perception is that the area is a ‘daytrip’ area. This is likely because they only know about the most famous asset – the Great Ocean Road. There is an opportunity to change this perception with extensive and cohesive brand marketing, as long as the product is in place to support it.

·      International visitors are much more likely to spend time in the region. Growing the number of International visitors and capturing their spend with well marketed and engaging product will be key to achieving the VISION.

·      Providing food and wine activities are likely to appeal to domestic travellers; providing accommodation options may engage more international visitors.


What can we learn from the current visitor journey?

1.     Bus tour groups

Consumption of cultural tourism products

Tour groups, by their very nature, only ever receive a shallow insight into the area they are visiting, purely due to the time constraints of the format.


The type of product most suited to this visitor type is Observer. There is an opportunity to include this type of product in key locations along the bus tour itinerary, such as the Twelve Apostles Visitor Centre.



The visitors themselves have no control over the tour itinerary once booked, so to influence or change these visitor’s behaviour requires either:

·      A change in demand – which can be influenced with direct, brand marketing both into the countries of visitor origin; and onsite marketing to drive return and repeat visits

·      A change in itinerary – which can be influenced through the tour companies themselves


Tour groups spend little outside trip inclusions. Including spend opportunities within the defined itineraries (such as retail / hospitality and / or cultural experience) will not only increase spend but can also drive repeat visits (providing a taste of what else the region offers).


2.     Road Trippers

Consumption of cultural tourism products

With more flexibility, visitors on a road trip are more likely to develop their itinerary spontaneously and respond to visual cues or recommendations during the trip. This visitor type may respond to Observer and / or Intrigued products that are available along their preferred route, but is less likely to engage with Immersive experiences because of the time commitment involved (in arranging / booking and consuming).


Booking and planning / information sources while travelling

This group uses multiple sources to plan and book itineraries, accommodation and activities. Providing a central resource through a dedicated website that provides an integrated solution will increase visitor numbers; awareness about the product that is available in the region; and length of stay.


The region’s website will also complement and integrate with a number of tourist information resources such as ‘Uncle David’ or ‘Auntie Beryl’, the virtual elder tour guides in an app. This app can be downloaded prior to departure based on the itinerary, or can be streamed on-the-go using location mapping. The app can also interact with physical signage though near-field-communication or QR codes to provide more in-depth insight into each location.


On-road signage is also important for this visitor type as they have more freedom to change their route and incorporate new activities during the trip.



This segment currently spends on food, fuel and accommodation. The longer the stay, the greater the impact – so a key objective should be to increase the current length of stay in the region. The promotion and availability of engaging experiences further from their departure point (such as Budj Bim’s 4-wheel drive tours) should increase spend and duration of visit, and encourage repeat visitation.


In addition, providing the opportunities to ‘take some of the region home’ through gourmet food (Budj Bim’s smoked eel; chocolates; other bushfoods and bush medicinal products; arts and crafts)  will increase spend.


Awareness of Aboriginal culture in the region

This segment is made up of both international and domestic visitors and will be well served by an overarching tourism brand campaign to raise awareness of the region’s Aboriginal culture and product.


In addition, because of the flexible nature of a self-drive tour, this segment will be especially influenced by physical signage on-sites and by the road-side; collateral at key tourism information centres (including the ‘passport into living culture’) and recommendations. To drive recommendations from non-Aboriginal tourism operators in the region, a series of industry events should be developed to increase awareness and knowledge of the available product.


3.     Holiday makers

Consumption of cultural tourism products

With more time in the region, longer experiences or experiences that need several days’ notice are an option for this visitor type. However, the key to greater investment in cultural tourism from holiday makers is likely to be creating family-appropriate product and marketing it to the children as well as the adult decision-makers. Products that cater to the Intrigued culture consumer are likely to be a good fit (children are less likely to be interested in a gallery / museum type product and more likely to engage in some level of activity).



Holiday makers tend to be families looking for a relaxing sea-side break and are focused on easy entertainment for the whole family. Developing and promoting family activities for school holiday periods that are easy to book, attend and which provide entertainment and interest for both children and adults will encourage this segment to spend more whilst in the region.


Awareness of Aboriginal culture in the region

The biggest barrier to engagement with Aboriginal tourism in this segment is a lack of awareness of the region’s rich Aboriginal history. This can be overcome through a range of channels:

·      Regular industry events that include real estate booking agents will increase awareness and knowledge of the available product

·      Partnerships with accommodation booking sites and real estate agents to provide information (either online or in packs at each site) about family friendly activities

·      Signage at popular tourist destinations

·      Collateral in tourist information centres in the main holiday maker centres (Apollo Bay, Lorne, Torquay)


4.     Weekender

Consumption of cultural tourism products

Weekend visitors to the region are looking to truly experience the area and products that are positioned as the way to experience the area’s living culture are likely to be attractive. These products may include both Intrigued and Immersive type of experiences. 


Booking and planning / information sources while travelling

Similar to the road-trippers, this segment seeks information online so a dedicated website for the region will provide inspiration and practical tools to research and plan a trip.


In addition, a campaign on social media with online influencers will drive visitor numbers. The influencer campaigns should be run in concert with the industry events.


While travelling, ‘Uncle David’ and ‘Auntie Beryl’, the virtual elder tour guides in an app will provide context and stories around each site, and interact with physical signage though near-field-communication or QR codes to provide more in-depth insight into each location.


Positioning the region as ‘Aboriginal Food Central’

This segment, more than any other, as part of the Lifestyle Leader segment, is looking for unique experiences. They value arts, food, nature and wellbeing experiences that are boutique or tailored and of high quality. Promoting culinary experiences like Budj Bim’s smoked eels, or tours where you can harvest and process your own bush food are likely to be attractive. Developing this product set will not only support a strong retail presence for Aboriginal product, but will also provide tourist product with a high price point.


5.     School / education groups

Consumption of cultural tourism products

Teachers are looking for products and experiences that are enjoyable for their classes but which also deliver an educational outcome. There may be some appetite for purely Observer-type product but shorter experiences are likely to be more engaging and enjoyable for the children.


Booking and planning

Teachers are the decision makers for this type of trip. They typically hear about educational opportunities by word of mouth. This can be leveraged in a number of ways to maximise teacher attendance:

·      Run residential professional development sessions for teachers and head teachers in the region (this will also enhance their knowledge and confidence in teaching the curricula)

·      Send information packs to each school in the region

·      Provide teacher information packs to parents who visit the region to take back to their teachers

Providing an easy way to identify the right product, and book for school groups through the website is a central tool to drive increased engagement from this segment.




Mapping and aligning the current cultural tourism product (and product that sits on the development roadmap) to the needs of the current (and future) visitor ensures that the right product set is being built out in the right time frame to meet the visitor demand.

BLUE – Exists – needs support to grow

GREEN – Exists, but needs development (to bring to market or of cultural product)

ORANGE – Does not currently exist, but on roadmap

RED – Does not currently exist (new concept)



[1] NT Government report: Cultural Tourism and an in-depth investigation into demand for Aboriginal cultural tourism

[2] Warrnambool & South West and Geelong Profiles, ABS Census 2016.

[3] ABS 2016 Census

[4] Demand and Supply Issues in Indigenous Tourism: A Gap Analysis, Indigenous Business Australia, 2013

[5] Travel and Leisure Domesticate Study, TNS, 2010

[6] Demand and Supply Issues in Indigenous Tourism: A Gap Analysis, Indigenous Business Australia, 2013

[7] Aboriginal Tourism Market Profile, Tourism Victoria, 2014

[8] Various Tour Operator websites

[9] Great Ocean Road Market Profile (2014)