The recovery of Australia’s bushfire-affected tourism regions is being given a boost, thanks to a new partnership between Ecotourism Australia and the World Wide Fund for Nature-Australia (WWF-Australia).
The partnership, signed by Ecotourism Australia CEO Rod Hillman and WWF-Australia CEO Dermot O’Gorman, sets forth a multilayered, long-term approach to assisting Australia’s bushfire-affected communities to build back better.
One of the first projects will be establishing six new certified ECO Destinations, which will utilise Ecotourism Australia’s Destination Certification framework to embed sustainable tourism and build community support. Funding from WWF-Australia will also support the development of a bushfire interpretation toolkit for ecotourism operators and a proposed bushfire recovery symposium for bushfire-affected regions to get together and share their learnings.
All of these projects build on Ecotourism Australia’s existing Bushfire Recovery Position Statement.
Quandamooka Country in Queensland and East Gippsland Shire Council in Victoria will be the first regions to benefit from the agreement, with both embarking on the journey to become certified ECO Destinations.
“It’s perfect timing for us,” said Cameron Costello, Chief Executive Officer of Quandamooka Yoolooburrabee Aboriginal Corporation (QYAC), the organisation leading the charge to have
Quandamooka Country (which includes Minjerribah, or North Stradbroke Island) World Heritage listed.
“We’re 100% committed to working collaboratively with our communities for the long-term sustainable management of Quandamooka Country. Being able to engage them through this process, especially as we celebrate Queensland’s Year of Indigenous Tourism in 2020, is just fantastic, and aligns perfectly with our vision of Tourism for a Glad Tomorrow.”
East Gippsland Shire Council Mayor Cr John White said utilising the framework of Ecotourism Australia’s internationally recognised ECO Destination program to rebuild the community after the bushfires was a logical step.
“We want to use the opportunity we have now to rebuild our region to be stronger and more resilient than what it was before, with a community-led approach,” Cr White said.
“To do that, we need to take a long-term, sustainable approach, and Ecotourism Australia’s ECO Destination Certification program is perfectly suited to that.”
For Dr Claire Ellis, Chair of Ecotourism Australia, the partnership with WWF-Australia is symbolic of the integral relationship between ecotourism and conservation:
“Ecotourism and conservation are essential to each other,” she said. “More than ever before we all need to find new ways of working to grow sustainability in our sector, to create rapid and lasting outcomes for tourism, our communities and conservation. Our new partnership with WWF-Australia highlights the significant value add collaboration with like-minded agencies brings and we look forward to growing this relationship.”
For WWF-Australia, the partnership is an opportunity to help bushfire-affected communities reduce their vulnerability to future disasters and revitalise local economies through nature-based tourism.
“Many communities that rely on tourism are hurting like never before after the devasting double blow of bushfires and COVID-19,” said Mr O’Gorman. “This partnership with Ecotourism Australia will lead the charge in helping Australia’s nature-based tourism sector get back on its feet and support tourism activities that are good for people and nature.”
Updates and more details about the partnership projects will be published in due course.