Product Development and Distribution for Aboriginal Tourism in Central Australia: a focus on the 4WD Market

Product Development and Distribution for Aboriginal Tourism in Central Australia: a focus on the 4WD Market Thesis

  • Author(s): Schmallegger, D
  • Published: 2007
  • Publisher: IMC University of Applied Sciences
  • Volume: Masters

Abstract: In recent years, tourism in desert and Outback regions in Australia had to face a number of challenges. Desert tourism stakeholders have therefore recognised the need to open up new markets and develop new products in order to maintain a viable tourism industry in the future. In this context, four wheel drive (4WD) travellers have been identified as a particularly interesting market for tourism development in the desert. They have continued to grow in contrast to other market segments and are more likely to disperse from high volume tourism routes in order to explore new and remote regions. They have also been considered as a potential market for new tourism products provided by remote desert communities, especially for Aboriginal tourism products. Aboriginal cultural tourism has been recognised as one of the main pillars and competitive advantages of tourism in central Australia. However, despite substantial investment by government marketing and economic development agencies, the sector is characterised by a lack of product variation and no clear marketing strategy for promoting and distributing products. Available commercial products are largely focused on the organised tour market and are concentrated around major tourist hubs, such as Alice Springs or Uluru/Ayers Rock. Increasing the opportunities for Aboriginal tourism development in central Australia, as well as in other remote desert regions, might require an extended range and diversity of products and new distribution strategies to access new markets. Very little is currently known about the demand for Aboriginal tourism products from the desert 4WD market and the potential for Aboriginal desert people to develop viable products for this growing market sector. To address this gap in knowledge, this research sought to identify to what extent 4WD travellers in central Australia are interested in getting indigenous cultural experiences on their desert trips and what kind of products they might consume. The study further investigated information seeking patterns and trip planning characteristics of 4WD travellers to find out whether current marketing and distribution methods of indigenous tourism products are appropriate for this market. A qualitative study with domestic and international 4WD travel parties was conducted in central Australia to assess their demand for Aboriginal tourism products and their information search and trip planning strategies. The findings suggest that Aboriginal cultural experiences only play a minor role in the overall trip experience of 4WD desert trips. In addition, the region’s current Aboriginal tourism offer, which primarily consists of highly structured commercial tours, and a perceived lack of authenticity constitute major barriers in marketing Aboriginal tourism products to 4WD travellers. Aboriginal experiences that would be desired by 4WD travellers include for example tours and activities, which incorporate educational aspects, personal and informal interaction with Aboriginal people and individual or “off the beaten track” experiences as opposed to experiences offered to tour bus groups and the mass market. The findings furthermore suggest that 4WD markets generally do not plan their trips in all details. Decisions about products to be consumed and activities to be undertaken are normally made spontaneously on the way to or at the destination. Information sources are often extensively used prior to departure to enhance the knowledge about a certain region but do not necessarily lead to a purchase decision in advance. In addition, 4WD travellers expect information about tourism products to be readily available at places where they normally tend to get information. Even if they notice a lack of information about a certain product they would be interested in, they do not actively pursue and extend their information search to chase a particular experience but rather substitute it by another activity that turns out to be available at the location. Aboriginal tourism businesses interested in targeting 4WD travellers will have to consider that information about available products needs to reach the market both prior to departure and at the destination itself. This paper finally emphasises the need for Aboriginal product suppliers to enter partnerships and alliances with existing businesses that are already catering to the current 4WD market to facilitate a more effective distribution process.

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Suggested Citation
Schmallegger, D, 2007, Product Development and Distribution for Aboriginal Tourism in Central Australia: a focus on the 4WD Market, Volume:Masters, Thesis, viewed 11 December 2023,

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