The term ‘Indigenous’ comes from the Latin term ‘indigenus’ which literally means ‘sprung from the land’. The word has different terms from one country or one culture to another, but it primarily refers to the original inhabitants of the region. This is usually for the natives who lived in countries which were eventually colonised by European settler populations. Some examples include the First Nation, Metis and Inuk of Canada, Aborigines of Australia, and American Indians or Native Americans in the U.S. Indigenous tourism is defined as a form of tourism where indigenous people are involved either through direct control, or their culture is the main attraction.
A tourist visiting an indigenous attraction may witness cultural tourism by looking at a fish wheel and understanding the modern day importance of salmon to the natives for example. Some examples of indigenous tourism are restaurants serving indigenous food, hotels, wineries, resorts or gambling casinos owned by the indigenous people, museums or interpretative centres and eco-tourism activities like whale watching, dog sledging trips, trail riding, and fishing and hunting expeditions. Indigenous tourism is currently one of the fastest growing subsets of the industry and can provide economic opportunities and employment to the locals who may have been historically wronged by settler communities.
Indigenous Tourism: Drivers
A desire for greater cultural understanding is one of the biggest drivers of indigenous tourism. The relations between white settler European populations and the natives of North America and Australia were never very harmonious from the 16th century all the way up to the 20th century. In the 21st century, there is a noted increase in the number of individuals wanting to understand the customs, traditions, and way of life of the indigenous people to foster communal harmony and improve inter-community bonding. The second driver could be government encouragement. Indigenous tourism is both a revenue generator and employment opportunity for the native people who have faced severe hardships like disease, poverty, illiteracy and neglect through the centuries. As per information from the University of British Columbia, indigenous tourism generates $750 million of revenue on an annual basis in Canada alone. Thus, there is strong government support for promoting and developing indigenous tourism.
Indigenous Tourism: Restraints
There are some challenges faced by the indigenous tourism sector today. A major one is inadequate government funding. While governments of countries like the U.S, Canada, Australia and New Zealand have recognised the importance of their indigenous people and have pledged to support them, it is not enough at the present time. The second issue may be that of marketing these tours. Potential tourists may be scattered in different locations around the world, and speak several different languages. They might also have psychological barriers and be worried about the safety of these excursions. The Internet and word of mouth have gone a long way in eliminating most of these concerns. The third challenge is preserving the indigenous communities’ way of life. There is a risk that heavy commercialization and exploitation may make these communities assimilate into mainstream society, which may make them lose their customs and traditional way of life. The government might even impose strict quotas on the number of tours allowed, restraining the unencumbered growth of the indigenous tourism segment.
Indigenous Tourism: Key Regions
The main regions for indigenous tourism are Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the U.S. Some tours include mud crabbing, whale watching, kayaking, fishing, hunting, sledding, and 4WD tours.
Indigenous Tourism: Players
Some companies offering indigenous tourism packages in various countries include indigenous tours WA, indigenous tours & charters, Aboriginal Australia Tours, Broome visitor centre, Lomdadina indigenous tours, and Indigenous Walks.
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Indigenous Tourism Sector Overview
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