BC Metis Federation President Keith Henry Quoted in Australian News article today:
The head of an Indigenous tourism network in Canada says without strategic long-term investment in Aboriginal tourism in Australia, the sector will struggle to grow. Keith Henry is a Métis person and the chief executive officer of the Aboriginal Tourism Association of British Columbia.
He’s addressing an Indigenous tourism conference in Alice Springs today, attended by more than 160 people from all over the world, and which
Keith Henry is also part of the World Indigenous Tourism Alliance, formed in 2012, that met in Alice Springs this week at the conference. Mr Henry said with steady government funding and the right investment strategy, the Indigenous tourism industry has doubled in size in British Columbia the last five years. “It’s big business,” he said. “Just in British Columbia we have over 250 businesses.
“We provide employment to 3000 people on an annual basis. “We went from a $20 million industry in 2005, which wasn’t bad, to about $45 million this last year.” “We just finished the summer and we had about four million people looking for Aboriginal tourism in British Columbia and we don’t have nearly enough businesses to provide that.”
Mr Henry said it’s a long-term investment strategy and a focus on growing Aboriginal-controlled businesses that has contributed to the boom. “They [government] haven’t just talked about it or just created policy, they’ve actually invested in it,” he said. “What we’re seeing in Canada is actual investment in training and product development and marketing, through a commitment over five-years at a time.
“In 2005-2006 we saw a $10 million investment – $2 million a year for British Columbia towards developing and supporting Aboriginal tourism. Putting money into Aboriginal tourism – if it’s done right – benefits all tourism around the country. “Now we’re seeing a new investment of $10 million over the next five years to 2017.
“What that enables us to do is to have long-term planning, it allows us to work with communities to develop their products, it allows us to work with the industry on a consistent basis – not a one-off basis which is often what happens when the resources aren’t there. “We’re now seeing a [32-fold] return on those investments.”
The Northern Territory has about 100 Indigenous tourist products, but captures just 1.8 per cent of all holiday visitors travelling to and within Australia. And numbers are declining. Visitors to the Top End are down 6.4 per cent, and have dropped by 4.8 per cent for Central Australia since 2012.
While Mr Henry says he’s highly impressed with the depth of Aboriginal culture he’s seen throughout Western Australia and the Northern Territory during his visit, he says he hopes the state and federal governments see the need for a more strategic approach. “There’s a lot more that I hope governments will think about here.
“There needs to be a logical investment strategy within all your states and on a federal level – there needs to be a process and a clear path of action.
“I looked at some of the tourism plans in the different states – there’s some interesting policies, but is there investment behind that? “Putting money into Aboriginal tourism – if it’s done right – benefits all tourism around the country.
“Hopefully governments will take it seriously, and hopefully a real clear path of action comes out, because I don’t see that right now.”