The East Arnhem Land region is situated in the far north-eastern corner of the Northern Territory, covers an area of 34,000km2 and has a population of 9,120 people – mostly Yolngu people, the traditional owners of the region. East Arnhem Land is made up of more than 50 Indigenous communities including. Commercial enterprises such as tourism, mining and pastoral properties are scattered throughout the region. Following curtailment of the Gove Alumina refinery in 2014, the region has recognised the need to focus of greater economic diversification which supports traditional industries and supports the growth of new emergent industries, such as tourism.
We undertook a product audit, gap analysis, consultation and marketing analysis, to develop a Cultural Tourism Plan for East Arnhem. We discovered that the region has been built on traditional visitor markets that are linked to either extractive activities (such as hunting and fishing) or low spend activities like four wheel driving and camping. Due to a decline and imminent stagnation of the resources sector, we discovered that the traditional visitor markets have now peaked in growth, and may even decline over the coming years. So the purpose of our project became a bold move to shift the target markets and positioning of the region, to become a region entire based around Indigenous tourism.
The Cultural Tourism Plan was shaped to help adapt the destination to make Indigenous culture not the add on, but the primary product of the destination. We repositioned the changing market and products to: support & build the local economy; reposition East Arnhem Land towards a higher yield more engaged visitor; and enable Aboriginal people to remain on country.
Through the tour company Intrepid, we undertook market testing of cultural tourists to test and refine our concepts, to ensure that the bold strategies would be supported in the marketplace.
We are now working with Developing East Arnhem to implement the Plan, which includes product development, marketing and capacity building in the Indigenous tourism sector.