Product Development

DEVELOPMENT ROADMAP

To achieve the 2028 Vision for Aboriginal Tourism in South West Victoria, the approach must be an intensely practical one – starting with an unvarnished appraisal of the current state and then mapping the required development over the next decade.  This development roadmap together with the aligned marketing and people development plans must be regularly reviewed to ensure that the milestones are being achieved and that visitor numbers are adequate to sustain and justify further investment.

 

1.    GOVERNANCE

A governing body is required to ensure that Aboriginal tourism for the region is properly managed and resourced, and that sustained focus is given to achieving the vision for the entire region. This body should also be responsible for promoting the region as a must-do, unique holiday destination in order to facilitate sustainable growth in the Aboriginal Tourism industry.

Where are we now?

There is currently no overarching governing body, and the three Traditional Owners of country in the area do not have a cohesive vision or approach.

There is no current overarching brand for Aboriginal Tourism in South West Victoria.

Where does this fit in the vision?

This body should have control of the marketing and overall infrastructure development to ensure that

·      there is a strong and consistent brand for the region

·      visitor demand matches the available product

·      investments are made to deliver to the broader picture and vision (e.g. infrastructure developments across the whole region)

·      Aboriginal tourism products are developed to complement, not compete with one another across the region

·      digital products are developed that genuinely service and benefit the whole region

·      the digital roadmap is managed in line with broader infrastructure development projects

·      training and development programs are delivered to increase Aboriginal skills and provide pathways into well-paid (leadership) positions in the region

·      Traditional Owner groups have a voice in how their cultural ‘IP’ is managed and monetised

How do we get there?

A governing body (Aboriginal Regional Tourism Board – ARTB) made up of all three Traditional Owner groups with some representation of other regional tourism authorities should be created. This body should not only manage and deliver the brand and marketing for the region but also provide governance to ensure that all milestones on the product development roadmap are being achieved. There may also be a role for this governing body to play in allocating funding for projects across the region.

KEY RECOMMENDATION

Set up and appropriately fund a governing body to oversee the development of the Aboriginal tourism industry and ensure a consistent approach across the region.

 

2.    REGIONAL ABORIGINAL TOURISM INFRASTRUCTURE

The region must be marketed as a destination to experience living Aboriginal culture. This can be an additional layer of experience that a holiday-maker can enjoy when visiting the region, or may be the main reason for the visit.

There is significant work that must be completed to cement the perception of the region as an Aboriginal centre. Much of this exists within the marketing function (brand; campaigns; industry events) but there are infrastructure requirements that will require investment and management over time.

1.1  SONGLINES

Aboriginal people along the Great Ocean Road hold traditions, lores and stories associated with the custodianship of their country or tribal boundaries. These stories change as visitors move through the region. The visitor journey and the intrinsic link that Aboriginal people have with their land can be shared through a connecting cultural narrative, or “Songlines”.

"Hear the Country...see the Country" Unc Denis Rose

Developing this journey can help enrich the Great Ocean Road experience for visitors, build their awareness of the Aboriginal culture and history in the area and help them find Aboriginal experiences across the region. The narrative will encourage the typical visitor (who may only see some sections of the story) to venture further and experience the entire region.

Songlines draw on the rich culture of the area and stories approved for sharing by Traditional Owner groups. These must to be approved by the groups – however, they would likely link closely with the coastal and volcanic features that are synonymous with the region (and central to many visitors’ experience of the area). They would tell the story of the region from the creation stories including the Rainbow Serpent, Whales, Eels, Volcanoes and how these places connect to the meeting places at Hall's Gap and Bunjil's cave. They would also share the stories of colonisation and the interaction with the early explorers. They would tell the story of the lake people, the river people and the sea people.

Songlines could utilise a variety of media; audio, video, augmented reality, physical signage and materials to provide an engaging story that fits appropriately with the natural landscape and journey and enhances the visitor experience.

 

Where are we now?

Cultural stories have existed for millennia – however, not all are appropriate for non-Aboriginal people to tell. Custodians of the stories from Traditional Owner groups understand what can be shared, and what must only be told by Aboriginal people themselves.

There is no current overarching brand for Aboriginal Tourism in South West Victoria into which these songlines are woven.

Where does this fit in the vision?

Songlines weave together to connect the stories of each place and are integrated into each part of the visitor journey. The physical signage and digital tools both contribute to the broader narrative and link all sites to each other in a cohesive whole.

The songlines also direct visitors to where they can discover the next ‘layer’ of story – which is an ‘up-sell’ to a more immersive Aboriginal experience.  This will have the effect of drawing visitors further into the region and bringing them back for repeat visits.

How do we get there?

Investment would be required to bring together the Traditional Owner groups to develop the narrative with subsequent investment required to develop the materials (physical signage, audio, mobile application etc.) required for visitors to engage with the story. It would be critical for the narrative to work in conjunction with the marketing of the Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal products in the area. This will ensure that its potential impact in promoting the area and improving visitor experiences can be realised.

KEY RECOMMENDATION

A multilevel strategy is adopted to document and develop tactical plans to share and communicate the connecting cultural narrative with all visitors coming into the region.

1.2  SIGNAGE

Consistent physical signage both on-site and on-road, will enforce the brand and help position the Aboriginal cultural tourism experience as a cohesive and interesting whole.

On-site signage helps tell stories, identify key points of interest and link the area to other cultural tourism locations – and can not only reveal a deeper layer of meaning to the site, but also create an awareness of opportunities to learn more.

On-road signage not only supports a better visitor experience for self-drive visitors by ensuring that it is simple to navigate to each site; it also provides a secondary marketing opportunity to inform or remind passers-by of the prospect of an interesting experience.

Where possible, signage should also be multi-lingual. This may not be possible on-road where space availability will inform the language.

Where are we now?

Signage is inconsistent within the region (which is unsurprising without a single governing body overseeing and implementing it), both on-road and on-site. Each site has developed its own signage and there is little linking the various sites to each other. On-road signage is generally poor and not engaging.

Positioned on the road to Torquay and at the gateway to the Great Ocean Road, Narana (ten minutes’ drive from Geelong and only an hour from Melbourne) receives a high proportion of visitors who find out about the site from on-road signage.

There is little to no multi-lingual signage used in the region – and certainly no consistent approach to multi-lingual signage.

Where does this fit in the vision?

Clear signage which is not only placed appropriately, but provides valuable information (not only on-site, but on-road) is a foundational element of the vision. Supporting a strong and integrated brand, consistent signage will strengthen and reinforce the concept that each site or experience is part of a cohesive whole.

On-site signage should provide the first step to learning about the feature or area, with an introduction to the stories that belong to that vicinity. Signage should be multi-lingual, either in its physical being or through easy-to-use digital overlays using QR codes or near-field-communication. On-site signage should also promote ‘Uncle David’ or ‘Auntie Beryl’ who can tell the next level of story through the downloadable app.

On-road signage should cover all approaches to a site or tourism product with count-down signs on all main roads (showing the distance until the turn-off or site). These not only provide direction, but also offer an opportunity for the independent traveller to discuss, look up or otherwise research the site and make a decision about visiting. For drivers that use the road often, these signs will also provide reminders of the availability of this experience (which should have the effect of not only driving up local trade, but keeping the product top of mind for referrals from locals).

How do we get there?

Investment is required to fund a survey of all current sites to ascertain signage requirements, content and placement for on-road and on-site signs. The on-site signs must also provide the required level of information / story, and link to the companion digital tools so a program should be in place to determine the optimal roll-out strategy in line with digital development and the mapping of songlines and story.

KEY RECOMMENDATIONS

A broad overarching approach is taken to signage to reinforce brand, invite visitors into the songlines and provide direction, not just to the current site, but further into Country and more immersive experiences. 

1.3  DIGITAL – WEB

Visitors increasingly gather information both prior to and during their trips from websites.

Providing an easy to use resource that brings together itinerary planning tools; accommodation booking options; and food and leisure activity information in an easy to use, intuitive format will allow prospective visitors to understand and engage more deeply with the area.

With well-deployed digital marketing, this site should be the first to appear for visitors or potential visitors searching for information on the region, and should have strong links to the Visit Victoria and Visit Great Ocean Road websites. 

Where are we now?

With no overarching brand in place and no current web presence specific to Aboriginal Tourism in the area, there is no foundation on which to build, and this element must be developed from scratch. However, the NT Tourism Corporate Site provides a well realised template on which the SW Victorian Aboriginal Tourism site could be based.

Where does this fit in the vision?

A dedicated tourism website for the area should provide the ability to map a journey, providing sample itineraries for different lengths of stay, interests and priorities. It should link to accommodation, dining and leisure options in addition to providing opportunities for smaller Aboriginal tourism operators to advertise their products.

Content (videos, blogs, articles, images) will help drive the consistent brand position of a must-visit destination, and digital marketing will ensure that the site is easy to find.

The website will also drive engagement with ‘Uncle David’ and ‘Auntie Beryl’, the virtual elder tour guides in an app who can tell the stories of the area before departure, during travel and at the sites themselves.

There is also a back-end website (corporate site) for Aboriginal tourism which provides an industry toolkit, with resources; checklists; fact-sheets; ‘how-to’ guides; links to grants and funding opportunities; and an events calendar for the region. This provides a comprehensive online resource for Aboriginal Tourism operators.

How do we get there?

A digital project of this scale is best delivered in stages and will require significant investment to scope and deliver a staged program of works in line with other infrastructure developments.

KEY RECOMMENDATIONS

An ongoing digital roadmap is developed through consultation with the Aboriginal Regional Tourism Board.   

 

1.4  DIGITAL – APP

With 67.7% of Australia’s population owning a smart phone; and the majority (74%) of international visitors coming from countries with high smart phone penetration (Europe (above 60%), UK (68.6%), Germany (68.8%) , States (69.3%)[1]), offering a personal tour guide app represents a significant channel to increase visitor stay and spend.

Where are we now?

There is no overarching app for the region, although Winda Mara Aboriginal Corporation has developed a Budj Bim Walking Tour App.

Where does this fit in the vision?

Using the GPS feature of smartphones, ‘Uncle David’ and ‘Auntie Beryl’ virtual elder tour guides can pinpoint visitor location and provide them with the stories of the area both during travel and at the sites themselves. ‘Uncle David’ and ‘Auntie Beryl’ provide the stories that are appropriate to be told through the medium and that are appropriate for a man / woman to tell.

‘Uncle David’ and ‘Auntie Beryl’ are available in an app that can be downloaded prior to departure based on the itinerary, or can be streamed on-the-go using location mapping.

This app can also interact with physical signage though near-field-communication or QR codes to provide more in-depth insight into each location. ‘Uncle David’ and ‘Auntie Beryl’, like all the physical and digital signage, are multi-lingual (as appropriate).

How do we get there?

As part of the ‘songlines’ project to identify and map the stories of the region and identify which are appropriate to be told in each format, the stories that can be told through the app should be highlighted.

Development of the app should fit within the broader digital development roadmap, and may also include mobile versions of the website tools (to book accommodation, plan itineraries etc.) The development roadmap should also incorporate the ability to add more sites and stories as tourism product is launched in the region.

KEY RECOMMENDATIONS

A visitor app is scoped and launched to engage tourists with the region through story and culture.

 

1.5  DIGITAL – VR AND AR

To deliver a world-class tourism experience, the region must engage with emerging technology.

Virtual reality (VR) is a three-dimensional interactive simulation of reality using surround film or computer graphics. It can be experienced using special headsets and other equipment – which is increasingly widely available at a low-cost.

Augmented reality (AR) is a technology that superimposes a computer-generated image on a user's view of the real world, thus providing a composite view.

Where are we now?

The region has no advanced technology solutions in place.

Where does this fit in the vision?

Developing the region as a world-class ‘bucket-list’ tourism destination will require investment into digital tools to help differentiate and elevate the offering.

Virtual reality has many applications within the region: from allowing visitors on day trips to catch a glimpse of destinations further west; to giving visitors on site an insight into the past or into areas which are not open to tourists. VR also provides a more immersive experience than traditional marketing collateral and increases conversion when used in travel and booking agents[2].

Augmented reality could provide an on-site view into the past – for example, showing how midden sites were used; or how Budj Bim looked when the eel traps were in full operation.

How do we get there?

Key sites must be identified for the development of interactive digital tools. Priority should be given to sites further west (with lower day-trip and bus-tour visitor levels) for the development of both VR and AR packages. AR can be used on-site, whereas VR may be more powerful delivered to the ‘observer’ market in key locations such as Narana and the Twelve Apostles Visitor Centre. 

KEY RECOMMENDATIONS

Advanced digital tools (VR and AR) are developed to enhance engagement both from a marketing and visitor experience perspective.   

 

1.6  TRANSPORT

Most visitors are either on a tour operated by a bus tour company or self-drive through the region.

Bus tours are typically day trips from Melbourne and the furthest point they reach into the region is the Twelve Apostles, although some are choosing to visit Tower Hill as an additional stop on the outwards or return journey.

Most self drive trips also depart from Melbourne to visit the area either for a day trip, an overnight or weekend trip or for a longer holiday.

With the withdrawal of passenger flights into and out of Portland airport in 2014, there is currently no other transport option to deliver visitors into the heart of the Aboriginal Tourism region.

Where are we now?

The majority of tourists visit the Great Ocean Road and do not venture north to experience other tourist attractions in the area.

With Budj Bim considered the furthest west that Aboriginal Tourism products will be offered, it is not an option to visit in a day trip and may even be too long a drive for one weekend.

Budj Bim’s impending World Heritage Listing will be a strong draw for visitors to the region; however, the length of the drive (a minimum of 9 hours’ round trip) means that tourists on tight schedules will be unable or unwilling to visit.

The Portland airport, although not currently used for commercial passenger services, does have the facilities for some service.

Three trains per day travel from Melbourne to Warnanbool, but these have not been leveraged as a visitor pipeline into the area – possibly due to the primary positioning within the tourism space of the Great Ocean Road and its reliance on road transport.

How does this fit into the vision?

A commercial passenger service from Portland airport out of Melbourne will provide an option for time poor visitors to create a fly/ drive trip (either driving to Portland and flying home or vice versa). Portland’s proximity to Budj Bim makes it a natural stepping off point for a tour of the region.

The costs of flying will mean that uptake of the fly/drive option is likely to be more from higher spending demographics. This means that the visitors may be open to more exclusive, bespoke products.

Stand-alone immersive Aboriginal tours leave from Warnanbool train station run by an Aboriginal guide to allow visitors to experience the region without having to worry about driving and navigating unfamiliar roads.

How do we get there?

Sharp Airlines stopped their commercial passenger service in 2014. Re-launching this, with Sharp or another airline, will provide the quick, easy access to the area that removes the barrier of the long drive or train trip from Melbourne.

There may be some development in addition to the works completed in 2014 (funded by the Victorian Government) required to upgrade the airport to service tourists.

Promoting the rail journey as an option to get to the heart of Aboriginal living culture will require development of day or overnight trips where passengers are picked up from the train station.

 KEY RECOMMENDATION

Re-launch Portland airport as a drop-in point to the region.

 

1.7  ACCOMMODATION

Delivering accommodation options to match a broad range of visitor demand and an increase in visitor levels is a critical component in attracting visitors and encouraging return visits.

Where are we now?

Currently accommodation in the region encompasses holiday homes, resort and hotel accommodation, bed and breakfasts, farm and home-stays, caravan parks and camping. Current projected visitor levels will not require significant investment into new build accommodation.

There may be room in the market to grow the trendy eco-lodge and ‘glamping’ type accommodation to meet specific visitor demand.

How does this fit into the vision?

With increased visitor levels, especially at the hero sites like Budj Bim and other sites in the west of the region, ensuring that there are accommodation options that allow easy access to the surrounding areas will be key.

For more immersive experiences, developing eco-lodges or even luxury ‘glamping’ accommodation with a light environmental touch provides the option of multi-day / overnight tours. 

To service the education sector, developing a residential ‘college’ type accommodation facility at or near Tower Hill will allow longer and more immersive educational trips including school camps and residential university units.

How do we get there?

Creating a cohesive and comprehensive long term development plan and funding both the development and the promotion of associated tourism products will be critical to ensure that any development adds value to the region’s tourism.

KEY RECOMMENDATION

Endorse a long-term development roadmap for accommodation services in the region and provide adequate funding and support for delivery.

 

2.    HERO PRODUCTS:

‘Hero’ experiences and products act to build awareness and draw visitors to specific parts of the region and/or at specific times of the year. The Twelve Apostles already serves as a ‘hero’ experience, attracting many visitors to the region to the site. To deepen visitor engagement, increase length of stay and level of spend, more ‘hero’ sites should be developed to broaden the awareness of Aboriginal products and culture in the Great Ocean Road region.

The large and steady flow of visitors to the region and its popular attractions also present opportunities for new products and services. Traditional Owner groups and individuals can offer visitors and tourism operators Aboriginal experiences and products that integrate with current attractions, tours and behaviours.

In addition, new product will attract new visitor segments, and with the infrastructure to support the new influx, should provide additional support to the Aboriginal Tourism industry in the region.

 

2.1. BUDJ BIM

Budj Bim National Heritage Landscape will become a ‘hero’ experience if (when) its World Heritage Listing application is successful. The listing is likely to drive substantive visitation to the region.

Appropriate infrastructure will be required to support this increase in visitor numbers, including physical and digital infrastructure and the development of appropriate visitor experiences.

Where are we now?

Budj Bim (the Gunditjmara name for the area, meaning ‘High Head’) is located in south western Victoria, Australia. The Budj Bim areas have been included on the Heritage List because of their importance in the history of the Gunditjmara people – and more broadly, Aboriginal and Australian history.

The Gunditjmara developed a sophisticated system of aquaculture which channelled the water of the Darlot Creek into adjacent low-lying areas, where they would trap eels and fish in a series of weirs, providing a year-round supply of eels. These were then harvested when required with woven traps.

The Budj Bim National Heritage Landscape includes the Budj Bim National Park and Tyrendarra Aboriginal Protected Area

The visitor infrastructure at Tyrendarra IPA, is managed by Winda-Mara Aboriginal Corporation. It is well established, and includes a visitor centre, virtual guide mobile application and interpretative signage.

Ownership

Gunditj Mirring is the prescribed body corporate of the native title land. They currently operate bespoke tours at Budj Bim which are by appointment only. These are high-end, immersive experiences delivered by traditional owners.

Winda-Mara Aboriginal Corporation delivers a wide range of services for local Aboriginal Communities. Primarily delivering health services, they also plays a role in cultural and heritage tourism for Gunditj Mirring and operate tours on 240 hectares including Tyrendarra cultural walks.

Gunditj Mirring is understandably focused on its UNESCO World Heritage application. That is likely to consume its focus up until the decision in July 2019. If successful, the World Heritage Listing will generate significant exposure and demand for visits to the area. Plans should be in place early to maximise the initial momentum of its listing.

Around 5,000 people each year experience Budj Bim tours of their cultural landscape. Most of these visitors have heard about the significance on Budj Bim landscapes and actively seek out the experience.

A significant proportion of their market is group tours, with strong demand coming from the education sector and special interest groups.

How does this fit into the vision?

Budj Bim will be positioned as the ultimate place to visit to understand and experience the Aboriginal way of life from 15,000 years ago to today. With remains of settlement older than Stonehenge, Budj Bim tours projection of 100,000 visitors a year is achievable if they are successful in their World Heritage determination.

Budj Bim will be a heritage and cultural site, and a cornerstone of the positioning of the area as the ‘Australia’s Aboriginal food basin’. By creating a working eel farm and processing operation, tourists will have the opportunity not only to witness traditional farming techniques but also to participate in the harvest and smoking. These eels could also form a significant revenue source if marketed through on-site retail; within Australia to restaurants; and out of Australia where demand for eel is high (Asian and European markets). 

Budj Bim can leverage its positioning to develop a range of products to meet different market needs. These could range from short self-paced tours (for the “observer” and “intrigued” segments) to week long stays on-country with an Aboriginal elder guide (for the “immersive” segment) and providing an experience of traditional life including catching and smoking eels, gathering bush-food and medicine and sleeping under the stars or in eco-lodges (when it rains).

How do we get there?

Having two organisations (whilst essentially the same group of people) managing different aspects of tourism in the area is confusing and will limit the future growth of the tourism operation. Gunditj Mirring and Winda-Mara should decide which entity is best placed to grow tourism and place all of its resources in the one area.

There are significant opportunities for Budj Bim to become the hero cultural experience for the region. The expected demand however will not be captured with the existing ownership and visitor product.

In 2016, the State Government committed $8 million to Gunditj Mirring Aboriginal Corporation to improve visitor infrastructure in Budj Bim National Park. To date none of this funding has been spent. This development will be a critical step in refining the visitor experience at Budj Bim.

Before this money is committed, the visitor experience and journey should be carefully considered to ensure that the infrastructure supports the visitor journey.

KEY RECOMMENDATION

Align the Budj Bim development plan with the overarching Aboriginal Regional Tourism plan.

 

2.2  TOWER HILL (WORN GUNDIDJ)

Tower Hill (currently operated by Worn Gundidj)

Tower Hill is a major natural landmark on the Princes Highway between Warrnambool and Port Fairy in south-western Victoria. Many people visit it to enjoy a picnic or walk and to see its wildlife or study its geology. As a giant maar or volcanic explosion crater it is of international and national geological significance.

Tower Hill has been operated by Worn Gundidj corporation since 2002.

Where are we now?

Tower Hill offers a range of well-established experiences to visitors including guided tours. They also have 5 regular coach groups and a steady stream of school groups that visit the attraction each year.

These tours include:

·      Personalised Bush Tour Walk

·      Twilight Bush & Nature Walk

·      School Programs

Tower Hill’s key revenue streams include

·      Retail and F&B = 80%

·      Indigenous Tours = 20%

Sales and marketing is limited to their internal capacity and budget, but they have strong relationships with the Warrnambool Visitor Information Centre and advertise in local publications targeted on key markets.

How does this fit into the vision?

Tower Hill positions itself as a Centre of Excellence, with product catering to the “intrigued” segment: retail, bushfoods, arts and crafts, workshops and short eco-tours. An education centre with comfortable accommodation for overnight and weekend school tours brings a steady stream of primary and secondary students; and Universities run week-long residential programs utilising the same space.

Separately, Worn Gundidj cultivates and markets high grade Aboriginal food both as stand-alone retail products, and to high end restaurants in the region and beyond. The land not only provides these products but is a hub for gourmet travellers wanting to see and experience traditional land management practices. They run highly successful tours that include harvesting your own food followed by practical experiences cooking and eating it on site.

How do we get there?

Worn Gundidj wants to increase the visitor numbers at Tower Hill and will establish closer links with tour companies who are already visiting the region. This will be supported by the brand and regional marketing activities which will drive demand.

Worn Gundidj has received a grant of $92,000 from Regional Development Victoria to improve the Tower Hill visitor centre, develop new products and create a marketing strategy to promote the reserve. The management team is currently working through the best way to implement this funding.

Tower Hill is ideally positioned to capture the FIT traveller with their own transport.

In addition, establishing a Worn Gundidj traditional land-care and bush foods generation area will provide revenue from food tourism and from retailing the products (and mitigates any risks currently around the potential change in ownership of Tower Hill).

KEY RECOMMENDATIONS

Tower Hill visitor centre is redeveloped using the existing grant money, to provide a higher quality visitor experience. A bespoke residential block for the education market is planned and developed (and funded).

Worn Gundidj develops a separate business stream filling a niche by providing bush foods and food tourism around land management and harvesting / cooking techniques.

 

2.3 NARANA CULTURAL CENTRE

Narana is one of the longest established Aboriginal products in the region. Narana is an Aboriginal Cultural Centre offering authentic, immersive, cultural experiences and is located 10 minutes from Geelong on the way to Torquay, on the doorstep of the Great Ocean Road.

“Narana” means Listening and Learning. It’s a deep, deep listening in which you take in and live out. It is this concept of “Listening and Learning for Life” which underpins Narana’s mission to be a destination for cultural education and tourism activities which promote greater understanding of Aboriginal Culture and history.

Narana is a division of the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress that is the Aboriginal arm of the Uniting Church in Australia. The Congress is wholly controlled by Aboriginal people and works with Aboriginal people building self-reliance and the skills and experience they will need in the future. Narana provides employment and training pathways for Aboriginal Australians. Currently 80% of Narana team members identify as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander.

Where are we now?

Narana is comfortable and welcoming place that meets the expectations of visitors.

Narana is funded solely from the Uniting Church Indigenous Congress and is not eligible or overlooked for grants or additional funding. The organisation works hard to maintain the facility within its means but would welcome additional support.

Narana is successful in attracting education (school and university) groups along with healthy numbers of Cruise Ship operators. Revenue sources include retail, art and café operation which are all free to access. They also provide cultural education programs that are developed to suit the interest, age and background of the group. They include activities like boomerang painting; learning to throw a boomerang; learning about bush tucker and medicine during a guided walk through the native garden; visiting native animals and dancing art and stories.

How does this fit into the vision?

Naranna Cultural Centre provides an introduction to the area, and a broad-strokes, entry-level experience with art, dance, story, animals and retail. In itself it provides a valuable and engaging stand-alone experience but it also showcases the benefits of a longer trip in the area and the experiences that are available as you travel the songlines deeper into Country.

Positioning Narana as the gateway to Aboriginal tourism in the area will both increase visitor numbers as it leverages the broader brand awareness but also provide a pipeline of new visitors to the region.

Providing VR experiences will be a significant value-add at Narana and will also provide insight into the Aboirginal cultural opportunities deeper in Country. This is likely to increase the currently low conversion rate for Aboriginal tourism product either as part of a vistor’s current trip or during repeat / return visits.

In addition, a residential facility to service the educational market will complement its current offerings. Some residential courses could be offered in partnership with Tower Hill, with some units offered at each location.

How do we get there?

Narana should receive financial and marketing support as part of the South West Victorian Aboriginal Tourism plan. This will help them develop services and product for the ‘observer’ markets (especially ‘education’ and ‘cruise ship’ visitors).

The corporation status should be reviewed to ensure that they are eligible for additional funding – or the ABRT should make an exception for funding them as part of the plan.

Narana should develop a residential facility on a parcel of land that has been acquired by the Congress. This will help broaden the footprint for school groups who could stay longer and have a deeper experience. A demand and feasibility analysis for this would need to be considered for this concept to progress.

KEY RECOMMENDATIONS

Position Narana as a key entry point into the region and channel to deliver visitors to the region. Develop a residential facility to provide bespoke services to the educational market.

 

2      SUPPORTING PRODUCTS (CURRENTLY EXISTING)

3.1 TWELVE APOSTLES ABORIGINAL TOURISM CENTRE

Where are we now?

The Twelve Apostles is a major drawcard for the region and is the most visited site along the Great Ocean Road with millions of visitors each year (and a peak of 11,000 visitors in one day during Chinese New Year 2017). However, the average visitor spends less than 40 minutes at the site and only spends 18 cents. [3] The iconic landmark is both the furthest point of a day trip from Melbourne and a critical entry point for the longer-term visitor to the area.

How does this fit into the vision?

Providing enriched experiences to a captive audience through a new Visitor Centre will raise awareness of the significance of the area within Aboriginal culture. It will showcase deeper and more engaging Aboriginal tourism products and deliver greater share of wallet through retail and hospitality outlets. Comprising a curated museum display complete with immersive VR and AR experiences; a cultural centre with art, performance space and retail; a café featuring bush-food; and a well-resourced tour desk, the experience is designed to showcase the songlines opening up from this site to the rest of the area and provide the means by which to access them.

How do we get there?

As part of the overall Aboriginal Regional Tourism plan, the new Visitor Centre should be scoped and designed, and a development schedule created. Prior to any physical development of buildings and infrastructure, some of the elements should be included or trialled in the current facilities. These could include an outdoor performance space and ‘food truck’ type food outlets.

Longer term, this will require significant investment to ensure that the current visitor cohort is not impacted during development of the new facilities, and that the new Visitor Centre delivers a set of experiences that will engage and drive greater spend from visitors to the site.

KEY RECOMMENDATIONS

Develop a new Visitor Centre to showcase Aboriginal culture in the region.

 

3.2 CAPE OTWAY LIGHTHOUSE

Cape Otway Lighthouse is the oldest surviving lighthouse on mainland Australia and considered the most significant. Built in 1848, the lighthouse known as the ‘Beacon of Hope,’ sits 90 metres above the pristine ocean of Bass Strait. Hundreds of lives were lost along this shipwreck coast – a sad but fascinating history which led to the building of the Light station on the cliff’s edge. For many thousands of 19th century migrants, who spent months travelling to Australia by ship, Cape Otway was their first sight of land after leaving Europe, Asia and North America.

Where are we now?

Cape Otway Lighthouse’s Aboriginal experience (the Aboriginal Talking Hut) has been a successful venture for the Lighthouse, adding another level to their tourism experience and this has been reflected in improved visitor reviews for the attraction.

The Lighthouse has faced issues in the past finding qualified Aboriginal staff required to provide their Aboriginal experience but have worked to up-skill existing employees.

An opportunity to lease and operate Cape Otway Lighthouse was released to market in October 2017 and EOI stage 2 is currently in progress through Parks Victoria.

How does this fit into the vision?

The Aboriginal experience at Cape Otway Lighthouse should be linked to other Aboriginal experiences through the region. An AR package showing this site prior to colonisation could also provide a value add for visitors and more insight into the Aboriginal heritage of the region. This site should also be included in the ‘passport to living culture’ series.

How do we get there?

The operators of Cape Otway Lighthouse (when selected) should be engaged with the Aboriginal Regional Tourism plan to ensure continuity and consistency of visitor experience within Aboriginal cultural tourism in the region.

The operators could be supported in identifying, hiring and training other Aboriginal employees so that the experience can expand. An AR package should be developed and the stories told on site linked with the other songlines in the area. The operators could also be supported to partner with local groups or artists to sell souvenirs or other items.

KEY RECOMMENDATION

Engage with the operators of Cape Otway Lighthouse to ensure the site and its Aboriginal experience complements the Aboriginal Regional Tourism plan and provides ongoing financial benefits to Aboriginal people.

 

3      SUPPORTING PRODUCTS (OPPORTUNITIES)

4.1 INDIVIDUALS / FREELANCERS/ SMALL BUSINESSES

Where are we now?

Several Aboriginal people in the region provide experiences as guides, consultants and artists. These operators have difficulty getting consistent, reliable work in the areas -  in part due to difficulties accessing mainstream opportunities.

How does this fit into the vision?

In creating a structure of stories that reserves some stories for telling exclusively by Aboriginal people, sole operators will have a valuable asset and can provide a service set that is more immersive and bespoke.

Non-Aboriginal operators that licence content suitable for telling by non-Aboriginal people will also ensure that there is a revenue stream (through licencing and training) back to the Traditional Owner groups through the Aboriginal Regional Tourism Board.

The over-arching brand marketing will drive appetite for this more bespoke Aboriginal-led product, and the website and the app will provide easy access and booking tools for even sole-operators.

How do we get there?

The songlines mapping project will identify the stories that are appropriate to tell through different media and channels. This will give Aboriginal sole-operators a distinct value proposition against mainstream non-Aboriginal tourism vendors.

Retail and gallery space for cultural product within each of the ‘hero’ products will provide greater sales opportunity for arts and crafts.

Including marketing support to increase the visibility of these operators through the web and app development roadmap is a cornerstone in opening mainstream opportunities to sole operators and small businesses. These operators may also require start-your-own-business support around booking and technology solutions.

Funding for all these investments would need to be procured by the operators, however potential sources of funds may include the new Regional Aboriginal Tourism Board, Indigenous Business Australia (IBA), Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet and State Government grants.

KEY RECOMMENDATION

Provide support and structures for Aboriginal sole operators and small businesses to deliver specialised product.

 

4.2 ENTRY/POINT OF ARRIVAL

Where we are now?

The Great Ocean Road does not currently have a focal point that marks the entry to the region. The Memorial Arch at Eastern View is a key photo point for many visitors, but it does not have the infrastructure or space required to support the current, let alone expanded, visitation numbers.

From an Aboriginal tourism perspective, Narana represents the ‘entry’ level experience – close to Geelong and Melbourne and at the beginning of the Great Ocean Road.

How does this fit into the vision?

A ceremonial, physical entry to the region will enhance the perception that the visitor is arriving in an important and rich cultural space. The opportunity to stop for a photo opportunity also provides the chance to explore the breadth of tourism product available and set it within a cultural heritage. 

How do we get there?

Establish a ceremonial entry or arrival point to the Great Ocean Road and Aboriginal Tourism Region that serves as a critical stop for all visitors to learn more about the region and the experiences on offer and begin their journey.

This could be an archway or other architectural feature that can provide a photo opportunity, and should be supported by adequate parking and a visitor centre.

KEY RECOMMENDATION

Develop a ceremonial entry-way or arrival point that works for both the Great Ocean Road and the Aboriginal Tourism Region.

 

4.3 MOYJIL

Where are we now?

The Moyjil midden site at Point Richie, Warrnambool is in the process of being dated. It is possible that it may be one of the oldest midden sites in existence at up to 80,000 years old. If verified, this would make it a very significant site as it would considerably extend the date at which humans arrived in Australia.

Like Budj Bim, this could make Moyjil a potential experience for visitors.

How does this fit into the vision?

If the midden site is dated at 80,000 years old (which is likely[4]) Moyjil will reinforce the position of the area as a crucible of human development and a key anchor point to the Aboriginal history in the region.

From a branding perspective this makes Moyjil an attractive ‘hero’ location – however, the restrictions required to protect the site are unlikely to be overcome in a way that ensures high numbers of visitors can access the site sustainably. To restrict visitor numbers, only small tours run by accredited Aboriginal tour-guides at a premium price point should be granted access to the site.

To complement the ‘real life’ tours, however, a high definition VR tour of the area could be provided at other sites to give an insight into the importance of the region.

How do we get there?

Moyjil would require a significant investment in infrastructure to ensure that the site is protected and can handle visitor numbers. Creating that infrastructure; designing a premium-level tour and accrediting Aboriginal tour-guides to deliver it will also require funding and ongoing support.

Developing a VR tour will enable more visitors to virtually experience the area and will have the additional benefit of driving the premium product sales.

KEY RECOMMENDATION

Develop physical infrastructure, the accreditation process and the VR tour to productise the Moyjil midden site.

 

4.4 POP-UP CAFÉS AND RETAIL OPPORTUNITIES

Where are we now?

Parks Victoria has begun trialling mobile trading in some of its parks and reserves.

How does this fit into the vision?

Temporary, pop-up establishments at popular tourist attractions can help meet varying daily and seasonal demand at established tourism centres.

Mobile trading could be extended to the Great Ocean Road region and provide an opportunity for Aboriginal owned businesses to set up ‘tourism-adjacent’ businesses, including hospitality (e.g. coffee carts / food trucks) and retail (e.g. market stalls for art and souvenirs). These could be operated and/or owned by Aboriginal people but may or may not sell Aboriginal products (e.g. coffee)

How do we get there?

Create a licencing program for temporary retail and hospitality businesses at key tourism spots and provide the support (and finance) for Aboriginal businesses to set up or expand businesses in order to take advantage of the opportunity.

KEY RECOMMENDATION

Create the framework in which Aboriginal businesses can provide temporary retail and hospitality outlets at key tourism sites.

 

4.5 LUNCH STOP IN APOLLO BAY

Where are we now?

Most Great Ocean Road bus tours stop for lunch in Apollo Bay. Currently other than cafes and restaurants, there are limited products or experience offerings for these visitors to enjoy on their stop.

How does this fit into the vision?

To provide a consistent and cohesive experience to tourists visiting the region, ensuring that the Aboriginal heritage and culture of the area is evident at each touchpoint on the journey is critical. The Aboriginal ‘layer’ of tourism should be ‘baked in’ to experience of every visitor to the region – with the objective that every visitor, no matter their level of awareness prior to their trip, should leave with an understanding of the Aboriginal heritage and living culture in the area.

How do we get there?

The volume of visitors stopping in the town presents an opportunity to provide products and/or services to the visitors. Individuals or groups may be able to tap into this underserved market by selling souvenirs, food and wine products and art via temporary or permanent establishments. This is also an opportunity to provide virtual tours through VR and promote deeper and more immersive experiences in the region.

KEY RECOMMENDATION

Develop a strategy to embed Aboriginal businesses into the visitor experience at Apollo Bay. 

 

4.6 EVENTS/FESTIVALS

Where are we now?

There are a number of markets and arts festivals already running in the region throughout the year, including:

·      Port Fairy Jazz Festival, Port Fairy (Februrary)

·      Timandra by the Sea Garden - Pop Up Devonshire Teas, Narrawong (March)

·      Port Fairy Folk Festival (March)

·      Lorne Sculpture Biennale, Lorne (March)

·      By the Meadow, Bambra (April)

·      Terang Market (first Saturday of each month)

·      Henty Annual Market, Henty (April)

·      Skipton Market, Skipton (April)

·      Apollo Bay Farmers Market (April)

·      Lorne’s May Music Festival Weekend (May)

·      Falls Festival, Lorne (Dec)

 

There has also been an Aboriginal festival, the Tarerer Festival, held in Warnanbool intermittently over the last decade. The Tarerer Gunditj Project Association (TGPA) has a mission to encourage and facilitate cultural and environmental restoration in the region through the delivery of arts and cultural practice.

How does this fit into the vision?

A range of festivals and events throughout the year encourage year-round tourism. Aboriginal businesses participate in existing festivals by providing hospitality and retail options and also develop bolt-on tourism experiences as value-adds for visitors to the festivals.

In addition, Aboriginal artists exhibit in local art fairs such as Lorne Sculpture Biennale; Aboriginal musicians feature in the music festivals of the region and traditional bush foods are retailed through the network of local regional markets.

How do we get there?

Supporting Aboriginal businesses to participate in current, mainstream events will help build capacity and capability in the sector. These businesses may require start-your-own-business support including seed capital and operational technology solutions.

Developing a dedicated Aboriginal event or festival (or re-igniting the Tarerer Festival) to celebrate Aboriginal culture and promote Aboriginal products will focus attention on a certain area and create an attraction. This could be linked to important events/seasons for the Traditional Owners of the region.

An event/festival would likely be most beneficial for the more westerly part of the region, which does not yet have any natural ‘hero’ experiences. For example, the eel migrations that occur in the western part of the region could provide a natural seasonal event around which to base a gourmet food event.

Ensuring that such an event/festival is run by the Aboriginal community is critical and would present an opportunity for Aboriginal operators to promote and sell their products while also exposing the offerings of the region to a larger audience.

KEY RECOMMENDATIONS

Identify key opportunities for Aboriginal businesses to leverage existing events, markets and festivals. Create an event / festival based around an annual cultural feature that is run by the Aboriginal community.

 

4      TOUR OPERATOR ACCREDITATION

Where are we now?

Hundreds of tour operators visit the Great Ocean Road region every day. These operators require licences to operate tours on public land such as Port Campbell National Park. Many operators discuss Aboriginal history and culture to some extent. In some cases, the information provided by these guides may not be accurate or approved by the Traditional Owner groups to whom the stories belong.

How does this fit into the vision?

To develop the perception of the region as having a living Aboriginal culture, it is critical that all tourism operators are delivering appropriate and accurate information to visitors.

Non-Aboriginal guides are trained and accredited to provide accurate information and appropriate stories to the public. The accreditation (a logo or certification that can be displayed on all marketing materials) provides a level of verification to the public that their experience is culturally appropriate but also that the account of the history and heritage of the region is likely to be true.

Only accredited tour guides are given access to sites of Aboriginal importance (which will include much of the Great Ocean Road and Parks Victoria land).

Aboriginal guides deliver a deeper level of story and can therefore be freed up to work in higher value, more immersive tourism experiences.

How do we get there?

To improve the quality and accuracy of information and to ensure that only culturally appropriate stories are shared, an accreditation process must be developed with associated materials and training. This accreditation should be managed by the Aboriginal Regional Tourism Board, and should have strong input from Traditional Owner groups and an appropriate body like GORT or Parks Victoria.

Payment for the accreditation process is directed back to the Traditional Owner groups through the Aboriginal Regional Tourism Board in a licensing fee model for the ongoing use of their cultural material.

KEY RECOMMENDATION

Develop and roll-out a tour guide accreditation process including training and licencing fees.

 

6. EDUCATION SECTOR

Where are we now?

Many existing operators, particularly Tower Hill and Budj Bim, have already seen the growth in visitation by educational institutions. This growth has been achieved without significant investment in marketing or product development to match the curriculum.

There are nearly 60,000 school students in the GOR region and another 570,000 in Melbourne, presenting a large market for these operators to appeal to. The education market opportunity also extends to tertiary education, corporate cultural awareness and visitors seeking educational experiences as part of their visit to the area.

How does this fit into the vision?

Narana and Tower Hill both house residential education centres which provide comfortable accommodation for overnight and weekend school tours, as well as the week-long residential programs run by Melbourne Business School.

A residential option for the primary / secondary market allows 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 a 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.

How do we get there?

The education market is large and has the potential to deliver large numbers of visitors across each sub-segment (primary, secondary, tertiary). 

Capturing this growing education market will support existing products with more reliable visitation and act as a marketing tool for the region with students promoting their experiences with their friends and family.

Existing and new operators must supported to capture the opportunities that this market offers, while providing an educational and authentic experience. This should involve ensuring their programs fulfil the objectives stated by teachers, national curriculum or cultural awareness programs.

Augmenting the educational experience with the services (such as accommodation/ camps) will require investment into infrastructure with the more permanent residential blocks taking more time to plan and deliver. In the short term, camps or ‘glamping’ type accommodation could begin to build the demand and awareness of the region as an area delivering longer-form educational experiences.

KEY RECOMMENDATION

The existing market share and demand for education groups can be strengthened to increase demand across all operators by offering product mapped to curricula, and by developing residential options for longer duration experiences.

REFERENCES

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_smartphone_penetration

[2] https://www.rezdy.com/blog/vr-change-tourism-industry/

[3] http://www.standard.net.au/story/4510262/record-tourist-numbers-at-twelve-apostles-over-chinese-new-year/

[4] http://www.moyjil.com.au/how-old

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