The Bama Way is an Aboriginal Journey through Tropical North Queensland from Cairns through to Cooktown (the lower Cape York region) The Bama Way links 3 established Aboriginal owned and operated tours in conjunction with Adventure North Australia.
Adventure North is proud to be part of The Bama Way Aboriginal Journey’s
It is a journey along story lines through 2 Aboriginal tribal lands of the Kuku Yalanji and Guugu Yuthimir people. The word Bama is widely used throughout our region by Aboriginal people to mean a person regardless of colour or race. “An Aboriginal person normally” It’s how they great each other, Hey Bama where you from. The three business are Kuku Yalanji Cultural Habitat Tours, The Walker Family Tours and Guurrbi Tours. Each of these business have been operating in excess of 6 years now and they started their businesses without any financial assistance from any Government department. Willie borrowed $600.00 to produce his first brochure and paid the money back in a very short time. I have been asked today to talk about how the business developed and how it now operates and how it gives back to the local community. Like most people in the room who have experienced the pains of starting a business or those who are one day wanting to…..it’s about the Dream and as with Aboriginal culture there is the Dreamtime, A story, everyone has one, when we can find someone to listen at the bar at 2 in the morning. To Aboriginal people is about sharing the dreamtime, the story, their culture. Let me share with you my story……………… I started Adventure North in late 2004 as I had a sales and marketing company in Cairns where I represented the small owner operator who was too busy running their business. One client was a transport company who had taken over the failed business of the bus service to Cooktown. To enable me to put bums on seats (so to speak) I arranged packages with accommodation in Cooktown and sold the destination as a package, rather than just a seat in a bus. A few months into the contract the client decided to discontinue the service and focus on their mainstream product. This left me with a dilemma, I knew people wanted to go to Cooktown but I also knew that they wanted more. They wanted a TOUR, they wanted to know more about the region that they were traveling through. I had previously for 5 years represented an owner operator who ran 2 day tours to Cooktown, so from my past experience, I knew people, backpackers especially wanted to go there.
But how was I going to do it. I didn’t have any money to buy a vehicle, a colleague and good friend offered to help me, so I used the infrastructure of another tour company in Cairns and Adventure North Australia was born.
The first year was pretty tough I must admit. On a visit to Cooktown I heard about a new tour starting up with an Aboriginal Elder, Willie Gordon and I thought to myself this would be great especially for the international visitor, I had my concerns and some reservations until I met Willie. Willie did a presentation at the YHA backpacker hostel to a group of backpacker agents I had taken from Cairns. And we have never looked back. I was deeply touched and changed forever listening to Willie speak about his culture and lores of his people. I also met a new friend and mentor for life
By this time I had purchased my own vehicle and decided to go it alone. (still with no money mind you.) A friend believed in me and what I was trying to achieve, and lent me $37000.00 as the banks would not look at me. I had been working closely with Willies business partner Judy Bennett as we were growing stronger business links together with Guurrbi Tours. Judy had done a thesis on Aboriginal entrepreneurship in the Cape York region and through this study she found out about the Kuku Yalanji Cultural Habitat Tours and the Walker Family Tours. (I had heard about these wonderful woman in Wujal Wujal doing tours, but their location being remote was not that assessable for your everyday visitor to our region. Yet here was Adventure North driving past Wujal Wujal community, literally their front door everyday on tour going to Cooktown. I met with the Walker brothers and went on their tour which left me with the same feeling as when I had first met Willie. The three tours had got together and were talking about how they could link their products for sometime and over coffee one day I said to Judy, that Adventure North could be the transport component and we could create an amazing tour, we could link all of the 4 businesses together. LET’S JUST DO IT. So began Adventure North’s journey with the Bama Way.
In June 2006 a brochure was produced which offered each of the tours on an individual basis and the 2 day tour which linked the 3 Bama products with Adventure North, We shared the cost of the brochure and Adventure North distributed the brochure in the local market. Only Guurrbi Tours at this time had their own brochure, so this helped the other two.
January 2007 I purchased a second vehicle as my business to Cooktown was expanding and I needed a vehicle for the Bama Way tours. I was dedicated and determined to share this wonderful experience with as many people as I could. The most important thing was being able to help the Aboriginal Tours educate the visitor about Aboriginal Culture and help them be independent. We launched the product in the local market and again shared the cost to have the vehicle sign written. We also received some money from our local regional Tourism office to build a website and helped pay for the drinks at the launch. We used my office location and had 50 people attend. Our first tour was with Tourism Queensland who had brought a group of Journalist from Europe. We did only 9 other passengers for the reminder of the year I was struggling. Fortunately my mainstream business to Cooktown was growing and this helped support the Bama Way financially. The vehicles I had bought were old and breaking down all the time, the costs of repairs was crippling. Both emotionally and financially. Being naive and female I thought if it had 4 wheels all was good. Not so I remember going to my first inbound symposium in Cairns and one of the guests speakers was John Anderson, the Founder of Contiki Tours. He was speaking about how he started his business which I found really interesting until he hit me with a big bomb shell, don’t buy second hand vehicles they’ll cost too much and send you broke. I just slide down my seat and thought shit what have I done. He’s recently written an autobiography and I recommend this to everyone in the room. Many of you in this room have probably been there or are experiencing it now. Please don’t give up………………….. We needed the international market, we needed help…………….I needed help
We again joined forces and went to Australian Tourism Exchange in 2006 and the costs were shared with additional business links in Cooktown. Accommodation houses, the Cooktown Chamber of Commerce. We couldn’t afford to go it alone. We did quite well for the first year, we started to get the message out there, but we also realized that there are some fantastic Aboriginal cultural businesses out there that had been operating for quite some time. We were by no means unique and on our own. No-one knew about us but they knew about the NORTHERN TERRITORY……and WAITOC. Again we came up against the norm, regarding reliability and of course who WERE WE, where had we come from, being a new product no one was willing to contract us. We extended our business links to include Tourism Queensland, our local Regional Tourism Organization, TTNQ and of course Tourism Australia. Without their help we would not be where we are today. It is so important to have these links.
The visiting Journalist program available through TA and your state Tourism board would have to be one of the most important aspects of any tourism business And of course in todays modern society links with facebook, twitter etc
SLIDE Avoid thinking that you do a few and that customers will come from everywhere, it is ongoing. The $ value is enormous. Follow up with the journalist, keep in touch with all your network and business links. Just this week we had Vanity Fair in Italy Result: Cairns and Great Barrier Reef media famil 2010“, FR + IT with CX Region: Cairns and Great Barrier Reef Circ : 280k, readership: 1 Mil EAV: 212k AUD
How we got it together without funding……We couldn’t afford to print another brochure so we put our thinking caps on and decided to offer advertising space on our brochure which linked other businesses to the Bama Way. Majority of these businesses were suppliers of Adventure North. These included accommodation from Cairns through to Cooktown , a car hire company, and the regional Airline. Their contribution covered the total cost of the brochure. This gave us stronger business links who were proud to be part of the Bama Way. We had stickers made up which the businesses displayed on their premises, We also had stickers for our customers who DID the Bama Way, which helped with our branding I had employed my first staff member in November 2007, previous to that I had been the sales representative, the Marketing Manger, the accountant and the Operations Manager. I was exhausted and had many sleepless nights pondering what to do. I didn’t want to give up but I didn’t want to loose everything I had worked hard for. I was working 24/7 At this point I was deliberating of pulling out of the Bama Way, the costs were too high and maybe I should just focus on my business Adventure North which was doing well.
I had bought a BRAND new vehicle, custom built for the Cooktown tours and I was expanding. I don’t own a house, I only have my passion and my business. You might think you are on your own but please ask for help, find people you trust. I spoke with TTNQ asking for their advise and help, who put me onto IBA. They assisted the Bama Way to get to ATE/ As a mainstream operator with no Indigenous business partners I was on my own financially.
We have had a marketing feedback form on each tour since we operated I have volumes of them stacked at home, literally thousands…… Listening to your customers gives you opportunity to grow your business and understand what their needs are. To me this is the most important aspect of my business and I read each form, it lets me know I’m on track Through this we have made changes to the product and adding more indigenous product to the tour
Through this I realized that we needed to offer a 1 day Tour as not everyone had the time to do an extended tour and the Daintree Dreaming Day Tour was launched at ATE in 2007
We’ve produced a dedicated brochure for the tours available with Adventure North and still have a separate brochure for the self drive options.
The rewards of being involved in the Bama Way are working with Aboriginal people who are genuine about sharing their culture, being part of a unique experience where we deliver and achieve the expectations of the traveler. It’s being able to share the oldest living culture on the planet with those wanting to learn. The stories have been passed down through generations, and it is now our responsibility to keep them alive by sharing them with others.
The rewards are helping each other build strong BUSINESS LINKS and most importantly cultural links with each other – being one big family
In Linking People, it allows us to connect people locally and from around the world.
In Delivering Business, it allows us to have a commercial approach which emphasizes on innovation, productivity, profitability and customer service and we can all do this together There are no borders when it comes to Aboriginal Culture and Tourism, we are now expanding our links to include other Aboriginal products around Australia.
As Neville from WAITOC said to me one day, I’ve got this idea about a Black Highway, linking all Aboriginal products around this wonderful country, Theres the Warlu Way on the West Coast and The Bama Way on the East Coast ……………. Australia is a big country and there are no limits to what we can achieve with Aboriginal Tourism In this great land of ours. Thank you for listening to my story……………………..
Thank you for listening to my story……………………..
The Bama Way Aboriginal Journeys
Tropical North Queensland
Cairns – Port Douglas - Cooktown
• Excellent mix of rainforest and beach, informative,
educative, mangrove walk and time with locals in their
own home, a stroke of authenticity and quite genius,
really feel like you know the country, well done
Want more time with Aboriginal people to learn more
Nice tour, interesting and fun, however expected more
Aboriginal experience & culture
Best part was walking in the footsteps of Brandon
Walker and his ancestors
First part with Brandon was by far one of the best things
I’ve done in Oz
Sharing special cultural places…
Through a commercial approach
THE BAMA WAY packages from Cairns & Port Douglas are available through
Adventure North Australia
Ph. +61 (0) 7 40407500; Fax +61 (0) 7 4040 7516
Become part of our story…