Tag: indigenous

Indigenous tourism’s new online travel agency

If you need to know how to quickly take the itch out of a swollen mosquito bite or find a crystal-clear, low-risk place to swim in the Daintree, Juan Walker can show you. The proprietor of Walkabout Cultural Adventures has been taking visitors around Kuku Yalanji country in far-north Queensland for almost two decades.



a woman standing next to a body of water: Photograph: Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images


© Provided by The Guardian
Photograph: Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images

Lately, many of those visitors have discovered Walker’s tours a new way – through Welcome to Country, a marketplace for Indigenous travel experiences. Walker estimates that Welcome to Country, which currently features 400 operators and over 1,000 experiences, is now one of his largest booking referrers. Given the website only officially launched on 2 December, it’s an impressive result.

Since the site soft-launched earlier this year, Walker says, “bookings started to come in straight away”. While Walker’s business is listed through many online travel agents, he has already noticed a difference with Welcome to Country. “They’re really trying to be respectful to the people of the country. When it comes to cultural appropriation, and to protocols, these guys are doing it the right way.”



a woman standing next to a body of water: ‘If you’re living in an urban environment, you’re still on country,’ says Rhoda Roberts, who sits on the board of Indigenous travel agency Welcome to Country.


© Photograph: Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images
‘If you’re living in an urban environment, you’re still on country,’ says Rhoda Roberts, who sits on the board of Indigenous travel agency Welcome to Country.

Rhoda Roberts, head of First Nations at the Sydney Opera House, who sits on the board of Welcome to Country, says this careful approach is critical to their mission. “Really ensuring that there’s authenticity, and the authorship and control from a cultural tourism operation perspective, that brings in all the ecology of who we are as First Nations.”

Highlighting operators – or even allowing them to use their own branding – is atypical for an online travel agency. When browsing through the services that dominate “things to do” bookings, even the name of the organisation you’re booking with will not always be obvious at first glance.

Another point of difference is Welcome to Country’s not-for-profit status. While they still charge operators a 20% fee, which is on the low end of average for an online travel agent (“not much at all,” Walker says), profits will be reinvested in improving the product and into the Indigenous tourism industry more broadly.

At the moment, the sector’s biggest challenge is awareness. Roberts points to findings by Tourism Research Australia which suggest the majority of both domestic and international tourists who are interested in having Indigenous cultural experiences do not know how to access them. “So we realised it was the visibility, and [understanding] of what is cultural tourism? Where can you go to find out?” She says people have preconceived assumptions about cultural tourism, but “we can offer everything from a day spa to being on the beach, or learning about the French history of Western Australia”.

Welcome to Country is backed by venture capitalist Roger Allen’s Indigenous Capital Limited, and the platform’s CEO, Jason Eades, says the platform’s primary purpose is “to

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Amnesty asks govt to stop luxury hotel construction to protect indigenous Mro people

File photo shows indigenous women at the Chitagong Hill Tracts Mehedi Hasan/Dhaka Tribune

“Members of the Mro and other Indigenous communities are also afraid that the construction of the hotel will damage sacred sites, forests, water resources and biodiversity in the region,” the letter said

Amnesty International has raised concerns over a possible forced eviction of the Mro indigenous people from their ancestral lands due to the construction of a five-star luxury hotel on the Chimbuk-Thanchi route in the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT).

In a letter to CHT Affairs Minister Bir Bahadur Ushwe Sing on Sunday, the international rights group also demanded immediate abandonment of the construction of the luxury hotel on the route to protect and develop the lives and livelihood of the Indigenous peoples in line with Bangladesh’s commitment in its Constitution and international human rights law.

In the letter, Amnesty raised concerns that the construction of the luxury hotel on the route between Chimbuk and Thanchi will eventually wipe out villages, forcibly evict a large number of the Mro people and destroy the social, economic, traditional and cultural fabric of the Mro Indigenous community.

“Members of the Mro and other indigenous communities are also afraid that the construction of the hotel will damage sacred sites, forests, water resources and biodiversity in the region,” the letter said.

Amnesty also said the action also contravenes Bangladesh’s commitment to protect the “institutions, persons, property and labour of these populations” under the ILO Indigenous and Tribal Populations Convention, 1957.

“The construction of a five-star hotel under these circumstances would violate the Bangladeshi authorities’ responsibility and commitment to protect and promote the rights of the indigenous peoples, rather than providing the indigenous community with the necessary support to realize their own development plans, such as improving access to education and electricity,” it added.

At the same time, community members said that the hotel and associated projects may ultimately lead to the direct and indirect taking away of at least 800 acres of land of the Indigenous people in violation of the customary laws of the community. 

“Furthermore, the hotel’s construction, on the land belonging to Indigenous peoples, would violate Bangladesh’s constitutional obligation to “protect and develop the unique local culture and tradition of the tribes, minor races, ethnic sects and communities,” Amnesty said in the letter.

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