Melissa Leong: ‘Indigenous Australian tourism is something we need to support’

Melissa Leong: ‘Indigenous Australian tourism is something we need to support’

TV star, food writer, Visit Melbourne ambassador and traveller Melissa Leong spoke exclusively to Travel Weekly about Indigenous tourism, how luxury travel can be more sustainable, and why she’s spending more time exploring Australia.

Whilst Leong is a keen global traveler – she often treats her nearly 400,000 Instagram followers to snaps of herself around the world – she says she, along with other Australians, can often undervalue the opportunities closer to home.

“I really owe it to myself as an Australian to explore my own backyard in a more remote capacity,” she said.

Melissa Leong runs on a beach in a green dress

Source: Melissa Leong Instagram

Leong says she was lucky enough to spend time on country at Uluru and the West MacDonnell Ranges during the filming of MasterChef Australia.

“We are so fortunate to have such a dramatically beautiful, spiritual, stunning environment right here on our own continent,” she said of the experience.

It is of primary importance that Australians support Indigenous businesses when they do decide to travel to remote locations, she added.

“Indigenous Australian tourism is something we need to support, especially indigenous-run and owned businesses.

“I was fortunate to be up in Broome in April last year and spent some time with a man named Bolo Angus (a Bardi-Jawi man) who has a company called Southern Cross Cultural Tours at Lullumb.”

As part of the tour, Leong went foraging with Bolo before cooking a huge barbecue feast on the beach.

“We learned about how to look for certain foods, how to forage, and how to do it respectfully,” Leong said.

“It is really important that our tourism dollar is going back into indigenous-owned businesses because that is how we contribute to the economy, to reconciliation, and to a greater sense of equality.”

Too often Australians don’t spend enough time listening to Indigenous communities, Leong continued.

“I think that’s where we fall down as a nation is that we have made a lot of decisions on behalf of our First Nations friends and family. Instead, we need to be listening to what it is that is important to the community and country.”

Leong says she “truly believes” in luxury tourism that is sustainable, however, she adds that there are important steps that must take place first.

“I think you need to consider, first and foremost, the land you’re building that tourism on and the custodians of it. What is it they want for themselves and their communities?”

“We all love a little bit of luxury travelling but it can come at a detriment to the ecology of the environment that we’re in.”

She was recently up in Cygnett Bay, where she says a “luxury safari” experience was created in a “respectful and sustainable” way.

“There are more and more businesses in Australia and overseas that are really considering their ecological impact and working in partnership with companies that are able to provide infrastructure that is going to give the consumer a luxury experience, whilst respecting the environment that it has been built into.”

‘The first episode of The Hospital: In The Deep End is available to stream now on SBS On Demand. The three-part series airs weekly, with episode two premiering on SBS and SBS On Demand this Thursday and episode three premiering on Thursday June 20.’

Lead Image: Melissa Leong Facebook

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