Australia’s Indigenous Tourism Future - A gap analysis

24 Oct 2013

New research into Australian Indigenous Tourism aims to help businesses and communities plan for a sustainable future.

The research which is being conducted by UQ School of Tourism researcher Dr Lisa Ruhanen and Dr Michelle Whitford of Griffith University, will investigate the unique demands and challenges of Australian Indigenous Tourism.

Tourism has frequently been promoted as an economic development activity that can address Indigenous economic and social disadvantage where income derived from tourism can contribute to economic independence, community well-being objectives and building social capabilities.

However, to maximise the positive returns and minimise potential negative implications, Indigenous tourism should be underpinned by an approach where economic growth and employment objectives are mediated with long-term strategic planning, stakeholder collaboration, community empowerment and effective and appropriate governance.

The tourism industry, can be a complex sector in which to operate and for Indigenous tourism enterprises has many further challenges. These include differing cultural dimensions, little previous formal or informal experience of the industry (either as a tourist or employee), and the cultural implications of responding to ‘on demand’ social interaction with highly expectant tourists.

This research will undertake a comprehensive analysis and evaluation of market demand for, and supply characteristics and constraints of, Australian Indigenous tourism to inform the development of appropriate and proactive business and policy tools and strategies. Concurrently, the study will focus on the demands of Chinese tourists as an emerging market for Indigenous tourism in Australia.

The outcomes of this study will benefit potential and existing Indigenous tourism businesses and operators to develop more sustainable business enterprises and will be valuable in guiding future product development for Indigenous individuals and communities around Australia. Additionally, the results will inform the development of appropriate and representative marketing of Australia’s Indigenous tourism product.

The research strategy will include a survey with international and domestic tourists, in depth, semi-structured interviews with a sample of Indigenous tourism operators, and qualitative interviews with Chinese inbound tour operators, and gap analysis of the market demand for, and supply characteristics and constraints of, Indigenous tourism in Australia on the basis of the issues identified.


Overall, the study’s objectives are to:

  • investigate the expectations, experiences and motivations, of both international and domestic tourists regarding Indigenous tourism products and services in Australia
  • investigate the expectations, experiences and motivations of indigenous tourism operators and suppliers against the demands and expectations of the market; explore the demand patterns and expectations of inbound Chinese tourists and operators for Indigenous tourism in Australia
  • undertake a gap analysis of the expectations, experiences and motivations of international and domestic tourists and Indigenous tourism operators to explore and then map and critically analyse identified gaps and associated emergent issues.