Le Soleal

A luxury French cruise ship is the first international liner to drop anchor at a remote community on the Tiwi Islands north of Darwin, delivering hundreds of high-end tourists hunting for art and unique experiences.

Two hundred international tourists visited the community of Wurrumiyanga on Thursday, curious about the local culture and keen to cash in on high-end local art.

"It's a surprise for us to discover this number of children ... it's very alive, very dynamic," one French visitor said.
"We did not know this kind of dancing and it's a good discovery for us."

The tourists packed into the local school hall and battled the extreme humidity to watch a traditional welcome ceremony.

Tiwi locals performed a number of dances including a traditional performance about the Bombing of Darwin.

"The dancing was very interesting ... we are discovering this culture, we don't know this culture in France," another tourist said.

The ship's captain, Michael Debien, said it was difficult to enter the community because of the narrow channel leading into that part of the islands.

The vessel anchored a few hundred metres from the shore of the community, and visitors took smaller boats to come ashore.

"This is our first time in Tiwi Islands ... we tried and it wasn't so easy to come here but we have a very good reef pilot on board and with his help, we managed to arrive here at anchor," he said. "It's a very narrow place for this kind of vessel but it's really beautiful."

Chief Minister says cruise ships untapped tourism opportunity The Northern Territory Chief Minister supported more cruise ships going to remote communities but said infrastructure to support the vessels was one of the main hurdles.

"One of the biggest challenges we have is what I would call the enabling environment or infrastructure to encourage and allow people to come into communities," NT Chief Minister Adam Giles said. "Those are the sort of investments that are really important."

The French visitors said art was one of the main priorities of the trip.
"I'd like some paintings, paintings on wood and other materials," one visitor said.

The Northern Territory Government estimated the tourists would spend about $250,000 on art alone in the community.

"There were a few well-healed French art lovers who purchased some very major pieces, so we're very excited about that," Tiwi Arts Centre manager Steve Anderson said. "The money definitely goes back into community and helps greatly."

Mr Anderson said it was a two-way street, allowing both locals and the tourists to experience different cultures. "We certainly would like to see more from a financial perspective but just in the case of engaging with the outside world."

Tiwi artist Mario Munkara endorsed the visit and said he wanted continued support from the Government to keep tourism on the islands going.
"We want more tourists to come here and experience our culture and Tiwi life," Mr Munkara said.

Source: abc.net.au