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Making It Happen

Making it happen is about the enablers that make implementation possible. While there are many actions, from little to major, there are four critical enablers that have been identified for the Wonder of Gondwana concept.

In addition, there is one other significant enabler: Creating Remarkable Content. This section is included within the Marketing Blueprint.

Working with NATOC

Working with the NSW Aboriginal Tourism Operators Council (NATOC)


NATOC is the peak Aboriginal body in NSW that assists NSW Aboriginal tourism and tour operators. The incorporatedentity has seven members who provided input into the inaugural Aboriginal Tourism Strategy, initiated by Destination NSW (DNSW) as well as the subsequent Aboriginal Tourism Action Plan 2017 – 2020 (ATAP).

A key 2020 goal is to have six businesses, which NATOC has assisted, represented at the Australian Tourism Exchange (ATE). In an operational sense, NATOC view themselves as the Indigenous Chamber of Commerce for NSW, focused on providing assistance to:

  • New and established Aboriginal Tourism Operators to navigate their way around the tourism sector

  • Aboriginal Tour Operators to better understand how the tourism industry works

Working together: NATOC and the NSW Destination Networks

a. Understanding & Respect


An example of this is understanding the significance of the lyrebird. The Lyrebird represents NAIN (a man). The land is divided up into men’s and women’s Country, depending on its topography and vegetation. If a NAIN strays into women’s country and a NGOWAL (a woman) into a man’s country, the Gerregang calls out a COY. That’s a signal to leave! If you hear a YADDUNG, then you are in the right place! 


At its heart, understanding and respect involves more than simply acknowledging Connection to Country and the inherent connection of Aboriginal people to their traditional lands. It is about involving them and respecting the right of their Elders to speak on behalf of Country. Importantly, interpretation of cultural sites of significance should be delivered by those who have the right to play that role and share their knowledge.

b. Communication & Collaboration


NATOC are looking for the Destination Networks to:

  • Connect them to relevant activities, discuss potential ideas and above all make sure they are aligned to ATAPand the NATOC Board’s strategic plan.

  • Work with them so NSW can create products and experiences that set it apart from other States in a genuine and authentic way.

  • Build an understanding of how to undertake B2BB (‘business to black business’) activities.

c. NATOC, DNCO and the Wonder of Gondwana


In developing the Wonder of Gondwana concept, there has been significant communication and discussions with representatives from NATOC, DNSW, the Aboriginal Enterprise Development Officer program. Initial feedback is cautiously positive about the role that the concept can play in strengthening Aboriginal tourism opportunities in Country and Outback NSW.


NATOC representatives have offered some preliminary advice on relevant locations within the Gondwana ‘footprint’. This involves;

  • Experiences that currently exist in these locations

  • How they could potentially be developed

  • What new experiences could be developed


Mark Saddler, the regional NATOC representative, has consistently emphasised the need to involve NATOC as early as possible.


“The areas that I have highlighted need to have NATOC get out to engage community and to set the pathway for you. The trails and loop journeys you are talking about are a great idea and I see them as also a good way to showcase Aboriginal culture and history. What we need to do now is to go back to the organisations and people who showed genuine interest in Aboriginal tourism, especially the ones who joined in our NATOC Aboriginal Workshops. NATOC need to be contracted to undertake this crucial and needed work…” Mark Saddler, NATOC


Two additional points worth noting:

  • NATOC operates on a contracted 'fee for service' business model.

  • Project owners, for example Dubbo Regional Council on behalf of Wellington Caves, will need to commence discussions with their local Aboriginal communities on their projects. The outcome of those discussions is likely to determine the extent of NATOC’s role in the project.


NATOC is preparing a business plan for DNSW. The plan will:

  • Be based on ATAP

  • Outline how NATOC can deliver on the goals of this plan, in partnership with all Destination Networks

  • Include mentoring, partnership and cultural awareness training


Once the plan is approved by Destination NSW, the next step would be for NATOC, in collaboration with DNCO where required, to identify tangible examples of the opportunities for NATOC and DNCO to work together on the Wonder of Gondwana.


The National Indigenous Australians Agency (NIAA) has $40 million to allocate to Indigenous activities over the next 4 years. This fund may be available to assist the development of new Aboriginal tourism projects and experiences.

For further reading, please download the Indigenous Tourism Fund Discussion Paper

Grants and Funding Opportunities

Potential Funding Opportunities

Community Engagement

Tourism and Community Engagement


A number of global research studies (SKIFT, Phocuswright, Euromonitor) indicate that the more closely a destination can engage and activate its local community with tourism the more positive the outcomes it can deliver for the destination.


The research indicates that people not product, are a destination’s most important asset. Indeed, residents are a key ingredient of a destination’s product.


In short, the research argues that the most effective way to market a destination is to engage a destination’s residents.


The Argument

Promise-based marketing is not enough. Instead, a place needs something much more powerful. It needs brand credibility. Residents play a crucial role in helping deliver this credibility and visitors will see their behaviour as an authentic extension of it when they visit.


Engaging local residents in tourism not only helps deliver a more authentic and positive visitor experience it also creates valuable destination advocates who, through word-of-mouth communications can significantly affect and influence perceptions of the destination.

In the traditional tourism model, the industry has often focused on revenue and transactions. But in the new world, destinations must establish a relationship with their residents before moving on to a transaction with their visitors. Residents, for example, need to become the first-line ambassadors for a destination. They’re an important internal client for any destination. And if they’re not happy, they will not support your efforts, welcome your visitors or become destination advocates.


The Evidence

Global research from organisations such as SKIFT, Phocuswright and Euromonitor have indicated a range of potential benefits for destinations that build stronger community engagement with tourism. These insights are being embraced and implemented by a growing number of destinations around the world. From Eindhoven in the Netherlands to Cleveland Ohio, in the United States. 


A recent article from Destination Think outlines how The Swedish Tourist Association (STA) have even run an international marketing campaign focussed entirely on their residents. They wanted potential visitors to get the real story about Sweden straight from its residents. To help facilitate this they became the first country in the world to have its own phone number. This became the call to action of their “Call a Random Swede” campaign. The phone number gave the world a direct and transparent link to speak with Swedish locals.


The campaign ran from 6 April to 25 June 2016 and the results were overwhelming. Almost 30,000 ambassadors taking 182,000 calls from 186 countries, with a total “talking time” of 367 days. The media interest was enormous, with publicity all over the world and in all major channels, newspapers, radio and TV. It has been a success on social media and the app was the most downloaded in Sweden for the period of the campaign.

The campaign was also designed to leverage another significant global trend, which is that increasingly, a key motivation to travel is to have authentic, local experiences. Tourism today is very much about being part of everyday life in the country or destination you visit or are interested in.


To this end, publicity was only one half of the objective. Building local pride in the country was also important to ensure Swedes would play a role in sharing local experiences. Local experiences that would help make the overall visitor experience a more positive one.

To help facilitate this the Swedish Tourist Authority have created a virtual platform that provides a forum for collaboration with members, stakeholders and residents on a range of tourism and visitor experience issues.


The platform provides them with an open, efficient and effective way of communicating and collaborating with its members, guests, franchisees and residents.


“More and more, we are including our members and residents both in steering our product and concept development and as part of our marketing process. We help them facilitate their experience and adventure, and they help us market them through our platforms and channels, including social media” explained Magnus Ling, Chief Executive Officer of the Swedish Tourist Association


Local Research


Our local research has also highlighted that improved collaboration between a destination’s tourism organisation and the destination’s local community is both a key challenge and a potential opportunity. 


A challenge in that there was often a level of apathy and a lack of engagement between a destination’s residents and a destination’s tourism activities. Sometimes even hostility.


An opportunity in that it was felt that if there was a stronger level of engagement and support than there would be better outcomes. Outcomes ranging from greater support and community collaboration on tourism-related projects to increased visitor expenditure from tourism.


A Solution


A platform that enables destinations to better engage and activate their local community with tourism. The benefits are summarised below:


  1. Encouraging residents to ‘discover their own backyard’ helps develop a greater sense of civic pride.

  2. Stimulates the local economy (not just the visitor economy).

  3. Improves ‘In-Destination’ visitor servicing.

  4. Improves the visitor experience through local knowledge.

  5. Addresses specific tactical issues. For example:

    • Seasonal troughs and demand management during peak periods

    • Promotion of local initiatives, such as Buy from the Bush

  6. Generates additional revenue for the visitor economy through visiting friends and relatives.

A closer look at Visiting Friends & relatives (VFR)


Every destination has a free media channel that can reach around 30% of their visitors. Residents are the media channel. Just about every resident has a computer, access to email and their own social media accounts (primarily Facebook or Instagram). Not only are these FREE media channels but they cannot be used by your competition. This potentially makes your residents a very cost-effective audience to engage with.


Most importantly, it’s a channel that is trusted more than any other form of marketing. And that is the real power of VFR.


Word of Mouth

Word of Mouth is arguably the most effective marketing weapon available. This is why they will deliver more visitors to you than your other marketing activities; including advertising? Yes.


Trust (Nielsen Research)


According to a Nielsen Research report (Nielsen’s 2015 Global Trust in Advertising Survey, which surveyed more than 28,000 Internet respondents in 56 countries), 92 percent of consumers say they trust recommendations from friends and family above all other forms of marketing. 


Advertising, both traditional and digital, was ranked between 8% and 14% respectively. Importantly, less than 2% of advertising is remembered.


Trust (Travelsat Research)

Travelsat’s international tourism survey ranked recommendations from friends or relatives as the most influential source of information when it came to choosing a destination to visit.


Recommendations from Friends & Relatives


Friends and relatives are not only the most important source of information when it comes to choosing a destination to visit, they are the most trusted and therefore influential on why people choose to visit a particular destination. 


The million-dollar question is will residents get involved in marketing their destination to attract more visitors? 


In our research in Newcastle, the Tweed and Eurobodalla the overwhelming majority said they would. Most for reasons of pride. Some because they connected the dots between more visitors and a more vibrant community. And a few, because we told them that there would be rewards for their involvement. But the single biggest reason given was that most residents saw a big difference between tourists they didn’t know and friends and relatives, people who they trust.

Tourists versus Friends & Relatives


More visits from friends and relatives means you are attracting the type of visitors your community prefers. A visitor, who, because they have a connection with someone in the community they are visiting, tend to be more respectful to that community and the locals that live there.


Our research conducted in destinations such as the Newcastle, the Tweed and Eurobodalla indicates that the the majority of residents made a positive distinction between tourists and visiting friends and family (VFR). The perception is that friends and family who visit a destination are more respectful to the community and the locals that live there because they have a connection with someone in the community they are visiting. 


Rightly or wrongly, tourists were viewed less favourably. More likely to be noisier. Leave more litter. More selfish about parking. It is clear that the social cost of tourism is becoming an increasingly ‘heated’ community issue.


Research Learnings – delivery format and content


A global consumer marketing survey conducted by Yankalovich research identified the top 2 consumer preference and source of influence. They were:


  1. INFLUENCE: Recommendations from trusted sources were much more powerful than advertising. Essentially, consumers are saying they are sick to death of being interrupted by unwanted messages.

  2. PREFERENCE: Messages that were short and to the point


And when it came to tourism, visitors were looking for LOCAL KNOWLEDGE. The trend to hyper local information. Discovering what the locals do and where the locals go is a visitor’s most important travel objective. For example:

  • Portland pizza trail or Southern Highlands pie trail

  • The Tweed’s best picnic and photographic spots

  • AirBnB City Guides 

Partnerships Beyond Boundaries

Collaboration and partnerships are key to growing regional visitor economies. At the heart of this project is the recognition that developing partnerships between the public and private sectors is essential to long-term success.  These partnerships provide a fantastic opportunity to create innovative and engaging experiences to attract visitors to a region and importantly, build local civic pride.


What has really become apparent in developing this concept plan is that there are many other projects being implemented that can support as well as leverage the Wonders of Gondwana – A Journey into Ancient Australia. Whether, they are major infrastructure developments and enhancements, such as Wellington Caves or the creation and development of Geotrails across the state.


Positioning and showcasing NSW and the DNCO region as a rich and inspiring destination to experience Ancient Australian has created a home and a platform to elevate awareness of the projects, locations, sites and experiences. 


There are partnership opportunities beyond the regional or industry boundaries that are varied and at times ‘left of field’. Some of the partnership opportunities will be with other sites and destinations that are in themselves a signature experience for showcasing the Wonders of Gondwana even though they are outside of the DNCO region. Places such as the World Heritage-listed Mungo National Park already offer tours and experiences that showcases the First People’s stories and archaeological discoveries.


Mungo is a sacred site and a destination that delivers on the overarching positioning of the Wonders of Gondwana - A Journey into Ancient Australia, from footprints of a timeless culture through to the resting place of some of Australia’s prehistoric Megafauna, many of which have similarities to mythical creatures from the Aboriginal dreamtime. This provides a wonderful opportunity to work with NPWS, the local Aboriginal communities and other institutions such as the National Museum of Australia.

Other partnerships that already exist are relationships between places, specific sites and institutions, such as Universities and Museums. Many of these partnerships are in relationship to a collection or educational programs. There is an opportunity to develop more experiential style experiences and to profile them by creating engaging content to showcase experiences such as a fossil dig or sapphire fossicking in Lightning Ridge and the New England. Often these one of experiences are difficult to find and book online. These relationships can be furthered strengthened by working with the institution to share insights into what motivates tourist or leisure markets to ensure that there are opportunities to promote workshops, masterclasses and tours beyond those that are simply for education.


Looking outside the box at potential partnerships is also a great way to raise awareness of a site, destination or experience. Approaching a company such as Lego presents a whole new opportunity. Lego opens a whole world of opportunities for specific sites. For example, Wellington Caves could build a relationship with Lego. Below are a couple of links to Lego initiatives that should whet the appetite to think outside the box when looking to partnerships opportunities and infusing fun into learning. This approach could involve other partners in the creative sector to develop innovative ways to engage an audience.


See the Lego Dinosaur Fossils website.


Below, is a table that identifies some of the potential partnerships and collaboration opportunities. This list can be continuously updated and is only the start. Let your imagination run wild to think about what other possibilities exist.

Working NATOC
Potential Funding
Community Engagement
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