Indigenous Tourism to Boost Visitors to Rottnest Island

As Rottnest Island experiences a surge in summer visitors, authorities are looking to Indigenous tourism to attract new arrivals to this iconic Western Australian destination. Known as Wadjemup in the local Noongar language, Rottnest Island is a must-visit for interstate and international travelers, as well as attracting a steady stream of local visitors throughout the year. The Western Australian government has identified authentic Aboriginal experiences as a key strategy to further enhance the island’s appeal and draw more tourists in the coming years.

Expressions of interest are now being sought from Indigenous operators to introduce new recreational attractions, with a focus on hospitality, water activities, and pop-up services in the Settlement area. Tourism Minister Rita Saffioti highlights the opportunity for experienced operators to bring exciting new experiences to Rottnest Island following a successful summer season that saw a record number of visitors.

With almost three-quarters of a million people visiting Rottnest Island annually and generating around $60 million in revenue, the government aims to encourage longer stays on the island, as the majority of visitors currently opt for day trips. While the Rottnest Island Authority (RIA) has traditionally been cautious about new developments to preserve the island’s unique ecological and cultural heritage, recent upgrades to accommodation and hospitality offerings have resulted in visitors extending their stays.

Recognizing the significance of Indigenous history on the island, the Wadjemup Project aims to acknowledge and honor the experiences of Aboriginal people who were forcibly imprisoned on Rottnest Island between 1838 and 1931. Through cultural initiatives and consultation with Traditional Owners and custodians, efforts are underway to memorialize the Indigenous men and boys who were incarcerated on the island, with plans to recognize their cultural significance and legacy.

CEO of the WA Indigenous Tourism Operators Council, Robert Taylor, highlights the growing interest in authentic Aboriginal culture among tourists and the resilience of Indigenous tourism operators. Research conducted by WAITOC has demonstrated the substantial economic benefits of Indigenous tourism, including employment opportunities and the recognition of First Nations people.

The RIA’s management plan for 2023-2028 prioritizes new accommodation offerings, hospitality developments, enhanced visitor experiences, and cultural heritage initiatives. Projects such as the Lodge Wadjemup redevelopment, spearheaded by investment firm Pendulum Capital, are set to further elevate Rottnest Island’s status as a luxury and alternative tourism destination.

With Indigenous tourism playing a pivotal role in the island’s future, Rottnest Island is poised to offer visitors unforgettable experiences that celebrate both its natural beauty and rich cultural heritage. For more information on the Wadjemup Project, visit here.

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Tony Clemenger

Chief Executive Officer

0419 431 649

Level 1 397 Chapel Street South Yarra 3141


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