The Kimberley region in Western Australia is not only a spectacular area; it is culturally significant.The area is also home to many traditional landowners who have a deep connection to the land and its history. About 6 years ago there was a proposal to introduce traditional landowner fees (TLO) for tourists visiting the Kimberley region. At the time this sparked controversy and heated debate.
The idea behind the traditional landowner fees is to provide the traditional landowners of the Kimberley with a fair share of the income generated by tourism in the region. These fees are collected by cruise companies and tour operators and then distributed among the traditional landowners. This provides an important source of income for the traditional landowners who have been historically marginalised.
Advocates for the traditional landowner fees argue that it is a way to recognize and support the rights and interests of the traditional landowners. They argue that the Kimberley region is not just a beautiful landscape but also a living cultural landscape that is shaped by the traditions and practices of the traditional landowners. By paying the traditional landowner fees, tourists would be contributing to the preservation of this cultural heritage and the wellbeing of the traditional landowners.
At the time opponents argued that the fees would have a negative impact on tourism in the region, making it more expensive and reducing the number of tourists visiting the Kimberley. However, demand for the Kimberley continues to grow (to say the least!) and the fees have not impacted tourism in a significant way.
There are reasonable concerns about the implementation of the fees. Early on the Western Australian government made a very lacklustre effort to coordinate the collection of the fees. Ideally visitors and tourist operators should pay one overall fee instead of having to pay individual landowner groups. Frustratingly these rates are often not finalised until the start of each year, making it difficult for cruise operators to plan ahead. When making initial reservations for a Kimberley cruise it is common to have a provisional rate for the fees on your invoice.
How does this affect you?
Travellers should be aware that everyone pays these fees in one way or another. Larger cruise operators tend to incorporate the TLO fees into their fares, while smaller vessels opt for a more transparent approach by setting out the fees separately on their invoices or collecting the fees on board.
2024 Traditional Land Owner Visitor pass fees as follows:
Dambimangari – $99pp
Uunguu Coast – $160pp
Despite the controversy surrounding the fees, they are here to stay. And It is possible (likely?) that the idea of traditional landowner fees may spread to other Australian destinations in the near future.
I’m an expert in small ship cruising in the Kimberley and have completed four cruises on different vessels along this spectacular coastline. With a family I now work part-time so if you would like to have a chat with me about Kimberley cruising at a time that suits you book in a call here and I will call you then.
Cruises in the Kimberley are not ‘one size fits all’ scenario; there are different ships and itineraries each offering their own special elements. If you would like some general information to start your research then download my free guide to Kimberley cruising here. I have also written some really interesting blogs (if I do say so myself) click here to have read.
Here are a few of the most popular ones.
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