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Indigenous Tourism Surge

Tourism is Australia's largest services export industry, accounting for around 10 per cent of our total exports. In the year ending June 2018, international visitor arrivals to Australia reached over 9 million for the first time, while the tourism spend exceeded $42 billion.

Australia's Indigenous culture is a key point of differentiation in today's highly competitive international tourism market. The latest data from Tourism Research Australia shows more people than ever are choosing to experience the beauty and splendour of the world's oldest continuous culture.

Photo of woman speaking to an aboriginal man whilst drinking a cup of tea, infront of Uluru.
James Fisher. Credit: Tourism Australia.

Recent visitor trends

An Indigenous tourism visitor is one who participates in at least one Indigenous tourism activity during their trip. The number of international tourists taking part in at least one of the categories of Indigenous tourism activities of visiting an Aboriginal site or community, experiencing an Aboriginal art or craft or cultural display, or attending an Aboriginal performance, has increased by over 40 per cent since 2013.

The number of Indigenous tourism visitors has surged by an average 9 per cent per year since 2013. In 2013, 679,000 visitors participated in an Indigenous tourism activity. By last year the number had grown to 963,000.

Asian tourists are driving the segment's popularity. As a source market, Thailand has increased by an average 34.2 per cent per year since 2013, while India and Indonesia have expanded by 29.1 and 23.4 per cent per year, respectively. The United States (up 12.4 per cent per year) and Scandinavia (up 17.3 per cent per year) also grew strongly as source markets.

Expenditure by Indigenous tourism visitors is also on the rise, up by 8 per cent per year, on average, since 2013.


Experiencing an Aboriginal art or craft or cultural display was the most popular activity among Indigenous tourism visitors last year. In 2017, a total of 47 per cent of these visitors saw an art, craft or cultural display, 29 per cent attended a dance or theatre performance, 27 percent visited a cultural centre, 25 per cent a gallery, and 21 per cent a site or community. In addition, 14 per cent purchased craft or souvenirs to take home.


Among regional areas, the highest proportion of international Indigenous tourism visitor nights were recorded in the Lasseter tourism region (88 per cent), followed by MacDonnell (86 per cent), Litchfield Kakadu Arnhem (75 per cent), Katherine Daly (66 per cent) and Alice Springs (57 per cent).

Tourism regions outside of the Northern Territory with a high proportion of international Indigenous tourism visitor nights were the Barossa (64 per cent), Outback New South Wales (55 per cent), Flinders Ranges and Outback South Australia (48 per cent).

Type of holiday

Around 25 per cent of international Indigenous tourism visitors arrived on a package tour in 2017, with the number increasing 11.5 per cent from the previous year. Among visitors from Japan and China, 59 and 44 per cent travelled on package tours.

In 2017, 64,000 people from China, 35,000 from the United States, 28,000 from Japan, and 26,000 from the United Kingdom travelled on package tours that involved Indigenous tourism events or activities.


Most international Indigenous tourism visitor nights were spent in rented accommodation (36 per cent), or at a friends or relatives' property (19 per cent). Visitors also chose to stay in hotels (13 per cent of nights), other private accommodation (11 per cent of nights), or backpackers' hostels (11 per cent of nights).

International Indigenous tourism visitors used a variety of accommodation types during their trips. The most popular was staying at hotels or motels (64 per cent), a friends or relatives property (35 per cent), backpacker or hostel accommodation (19 per cent), rented private accommodation (17 per cent) and other private accommodation (14 per cent).

Visitors often used more than one type of accommodation on their trip.

Tourism Research Australia produces quarterly results from the International Visitor Survey, the data source for this article, as well as trends and forecasts of international visitor activity.

For more information see: Tourism Research Australia

Last Updated: 9 January 2019
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