Status Report and Heaps of Questions about Indigenous and Aboriginal Tourism

For the past few years I’ve had the pleasure of conducting/hosting/motivating the Indigenous Tourism and Biodiversity Website Award  and what strikes me is how different indigenous tourism experiences are around the globe.

There are intimate group tours and large-scale shows. There are businesses that focus first on art, sport or food and then the indigenous component and others that place their indigenousness at the forefront of what they offer visitors. There are museums and art centers that connect visitors and locals. Heed the Long Tail. Different approaches work with different groups. What are visitors seeking? What are locals offering? It depends who you ask.

Governments have a critical role to play in promoting this tourism niche, but let me mention an important caveat — far too often the leaders ‘check the box’ in which say the government has worked with its indigenous citizens but rarely do they connect with other programs in their own government and even less so with institutions and individuals beyond the immediate horizon.

Far too much ‘indigenous tourism’ (and the same goes for ‘responsible tourism’) remains in a silo. We need to embed indigenous tourism in travel planning at the professional level and in travel writing at the popular level. Success comes from listening to indigenous voices and inviting them into the conversation.

Tourism marketing is all about building relationships within the mainstream industry, and I have yet to see a government program that helps people develop and maintain these relationships.

So I have a few questions about the current state of affairs:

How many ‘Maya’ are leaders in the Mundo Maya? Who are the indigenous tourism operators in the USA? How are the Sami promoted in Europe? In Ecuador how can one visit any of the 200 indigenous tourism companies mentioned by Freddy Ehlers at the recent International Congress on Ethics and Tourism, organised by UNWTO?

What about Maori representation in New Zealand’s World Rugby Cup? It’s great that the matches begin with the teams welcomed to the field by a Maori warrior,  but it would be so much more awesome if the sporting event showcased more indigenous culture. The best I’ve seen is Maori Television’s Bring Your Boots, Oz. Each episode provides a mix of Maori and English commentary about contemporary New Zealand and how communities are hosting the world’s elite rugby teams. That said, can we find the link to this program from NZ Tourism or any other site focusing on New Zealand?

I am a bit jaded. This week on Peter Greenberg’s website, I read Leslie Garrett’s essay Can ‘Aboriginal Tourism’ Be Authentic? with great interest. For my taste, the blog jumped around too much and was far too superficial. The photos embedded in the article were all taken from Flickr Commons and were simply a distraction. Please, no more photos of anonymous indigenous peoples in publications! Also irksome was the lack of differentiating that ‘Aboriginal’ in Australia means something quite different than ‘aboriginal’ in Canada.

Which leads me to related news of a new e-book available from Tourism Australia showing local indigenous champions, the businesses that are at least 50% owned by the indigenous peoples themselves. It’s great to see this proactive approach in getting the word out to potential visitors. It’s also gratifying to see that four of those mentioned have been nominees or winners(!) in the ITBW Award!

More Wiki Goodness (Suggestions are welcome)
Aboriginal Australia
Ayuuk (Mixe)
Ecuador’s indigenous people
Maori
Maya
Mexico’s Indigenous Foods
Quechua
Sami
Zapotec

Indigenous Tourism Champions Profiles

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This entry was posted in 2011, Announcements, australia, indigenous, Web 2.0 in Action and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Status Report and Heaps of Questions about Indigenous and Aboriginal Tourism

  1. This is a very interesting and thought-provoking article Ron and thanks for taking the time to write this. Please do check out our Auckland Maori Tours brochure http://www.newzealandtours.travel/PicsHotel/TimeUnlimited/Brochure/latest%20brochures/Maori%20Rack%20Card_L.pdf where we give our guests a highly-personal insight into Tamaki Makaurau (Auckland) and Maori Culture in general. Go the All Blacks! Thanks, Ceillhe

  2. Good questions and points, Ron. I think its important to point out that most Indigenous Peoples have some kind of traditional leadership or government. The agencies and operations undertaken by Indigenous Peoples with the blessings of their leadership are mostly carried out by Indigenous Peoples themselves (although not always a completely “authentic” experience, it is often the closest). I’m with Ceillhe – Go the All Blacks! (was in NZ earlier this year and there was so much excitment!). – Deborah McLaren, Local Flavor

  3. xplorer says:

    A Quick comment Ron as I like the questions you are raising and would like some time to reflect on them. I agree 100% about the problem with labels and silos. The word “indigenous” has been applied by one culture to lump together others. I guess it’s the best we have and, again, will take some time to see what the word is supposed to encompass. If it relates to the people who have had the longest relationship with the land, then all persons born in the Pacific are indigenous but it’s a term they don’t relate to. My ancestry is Scots, so in that sense I am an indigent of Scotland, even though I grew up in England and have spent half my life in Canada and at least a quarter of it in airports, waiting!

    • There are reasons for this. You might want to read the following document from the United Nations. It was formed after many years of working together during the Decade of Indigenous Peoples. Also, Indigenous is to capitalized just like American, Scots, Maylasian, etc. And Peoples includes the “s” as there so many nations. Indigenous Peoples are more concerned with rights than formulating an all-encompassing label. Reading thru this will give you some insight. http://tinyurl.com/3wxo2l5

  4. ronmader says:

    Many thanks! What we are seeing is that there are different interpretations of which words to use and when to capitalize them. That said, is everyone focused on the rights issues? What about those who simply want to provide or take a tour?

    What I’ve decided for my personal use is that Aboriginal used in Australia is spelled with a capital ‘A’ and ‘indigenous’ is spelled with a lowercase ‘i’ … that said, I’m no professional linguist. I’d rather focus on learning (and sharing) news about the tourism services owned by indigenous peoples and the enterprises that are not indigenous-owned but which benefit the indigenous community.

    For example, next year — 2012 — there will be a lot of promotion for travel in the Maya World but my question remains: which are the tourism businesses that owned by the Maya or that benefit the Maya? Please give visitors some practical tips and clues!

    In Oaxaca, there are plenty of indigenous artisans and farmers but somehow they are not considered a valued part of the ‘value chain’ so tourism does not do nearly enough in terms of promoting and educating visitors about this wonderful local culture. My friends here are certainly interested in their rights but the best way I can help is promoting the sale of their lettuce or pine-needle baskets or weavings or ceramics or chocolate.

    On a sidenote, I submitted a response to the Peter Greenberg site but that comment has not been cleared by the moderator.

  5. Rhiannon Batten says:

    Hi Ron

    Thanks again for the links you sent me. My article on indigenous tourism should come out in the Jan/Feb issue of the UK edition of National Geographic Traveller. I thought your point about “listening to indigenous voices and inviting them into the conversation” was really crucial to get across so I’ve quoted you on that, which I hope you don’t mind.

    Best wishes

    Rhiannon Batten

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