In a remodelled world, who better to guide visitors than the people of the land, writes Bryony Cottam
Today is the International Day for the World's Indigenous People and around the world, indigenous-led tourism is on the rise. And from Africa to Australia, it's changing the way we see the world. If we are to build back a better future for tourism, we need a new perspective on the places we visit, one that includes local indigenous voices.
Indigenous tourism in Australia
In Australia, indigenous tourism has increased by 40 per cent in recent years. Janine Duffy is the founder of Australian wildlife conservation and nature tour company Echidna Walkabout, and strongly advocates working with indigenous communities. She emphasises the importance of mentoring non-Aboriginal guides about the protocols and correct language to use when talking about indigenous people's culture and history.
"Some guides talk about Aboriginal people as though they were fauna, almost as if they had read a field guide to indigenous people. We need to stop this."
She says one of the most important things non-Aboriginal guides have to share with travellers is their own colonial history.
"Awful things happened and you should know about them, it's appropriate to talk about them," she says. "And why on earth should Aboriginal people have to talk about it? It's your history, learn about it and own it."
Why indigenous-led tourism is best for travellers
Indigenous communities have the most in-depth knowledge of their own history and culture. By employing guides from within these communities, travellers are able to experience their stories and learn from them firsthand.
In addition, Duffy says indigenous communities can be the best wildlife managers - she points to the need to listen to and consult indigenous communities on wildlife conservation. In Australia, areas jointly managed by Aboriginal people, such as Mungo National Park in NSW, have a higher density of wildlife.
Indigenous communities across the world protect approximately 80 per cent of global biodiversity, while lands managed or co-managed by indigenous communities typically have higher biodiversity than protected areas such as parks and wildlife reserves.
The tour operators leading the way
Worldwide, there are already many great examples of tourism enterprises that have partnered with local indigenous communities. One such success story is in Kenya, where tour company Basecamp Explorer runs safaris on land owned entirely by the Maasai community. The community is paid a lease fee for its use, jointly manages it and decides how tourism can operate there.
In the Amazon, where the persecution and dispossession of indigenous people continues, community-owned and managed enterprises like Chalalan Eco Lodge in Bolivia provide essential income and help to prevent the disappearance of local communities, their culture and territory.
And in Australia, there are signs that tourism is becoming a more inclusive industry. Guides in Kakadu National Park must go through training run by Charles Darwin University with traditional owner input. At the end, there is an interview instead of an exam, which includes questions about culture and country.
There is still much progress to be made. But as travellers, we all have the responsibility to do our research and to choose to travel with companies that provide a platform for indigenous voices.
Bryony Cottam is a writer with holiday company Responsible Travel
Manaakitanga: Indigenous tourism in Aotearoa
The current travel situation has brought the opportunity to explore our country on a deeper level than ever before, and also to reflect on the kinds of local experiences we want to have. Of course, we'll always love adventure tourism, beach bumming, family camping trips, and carving up the ski slopes, but what about holidays that give us a deeper understanding of the spiritual history of Aotearoa?
We know many places have histories that are well-known from a Pākehā point of view, but there is an ever-growing number of outstanding Māori operators who can give us a perspective that hasn't always been easily available to the tourist market. Walking through the Waipoua forest to see Tāne Mahuta is amazing, but doing it with a local guide from Footprints Waipoua takes it to another level as you learn why this area is so sacred to local iwi - and in fact all Māori. Exploring Ōtautahi (Christchurch) on a walking tour is great - no one can deny its English charm - but doing it with Āmiki Tours run by three proud Ngāi Tahu local Māori will show you another side you never knew existed - from a Māori scholar in a great hall to traditional kai still swimming down the local river.
And it's not just walking tours. Watch the sunrise atop Maunga Hikurangi, the mainland's "first place in the world" to see the sun, and learn about the pou, legends and significance of this mountain to Ngāti Porou people - you even get to plant a native seedling; paddle the Abel Tasman in a waka with Todd (Ngāti Raukawa) and Lee-Anne's (Ngāti Māhuta, Ngāti Pou, Ngāti Raukawa) company Waka Abel Tasman or gaze at the breathtaking view of the night sky in Otago Peninsula with Horizon Tours , as you listen to stories detailing Māori myths of creation, and how Te Ao Marama (the world of light) emerged.
This is only a small sample of what's available. A bit of research will reveal so many other incredible ways to learn about our indigenous history and experience manaakitanga unlike anywhere else in the world.
- Alexia Santamaria