Three of Australia’s bushfire-prone regions are joining the push to build Australia’s tourism sector back better using sustainability principles, thanks to funding from the World Wide Fund for Nature-Australia (WWF-Australia) and Ecotourism Australia’s internationally recognised ECO Destination Certification program.
The Great Ocean Road (VIC), Barrington Coast (NSW) and Bellingen Shire (NSW) are the three newest destinations to embark on the journey of certification, joining 18 other destinations around Australia.
Ecotourism Australia CEO Rod Hillman said it was a sign the industry was moving in the right direction.
“Australia’s destinations have been impacted by bushfires, COVID and a host of other natural disasters. To rebuild with a focus on the principles of sustainability will not only help these destinations to have long-term economic stability but ensure that any growth in the region is managed with the natural environment, community and culture at the core,” said Mr Hillman.
Each destination will be supported by WWF-Australia with a two-year $30,000 package that covers all costs to progress through Ecotourism Australia’s ECO Destination program.
“Communities that rely on tourism are hurting, but we know when COVID restrictions ease there will be travellers who are hungry for sustainable tourism experiences. We hope this growing partnership with Ecotourism Australia will lead the charge in helping Australia’s nature-based tourism sector get back on its feet and support attractions that are good for people and nature,” said Dermot O’Gorman, CEO of WWF-Australia.
In Bellingen Shire, it’s the community itself which is driving positive change:
“The residents of the shire have given council a very clear mandate with respect to tourism,” said Michael Grieve, Manager of Economic and Business Development at Bellingen Shire Council.
“Bellingen Shire Council places a strong emphasis on tourism management as opposed to tourism marketing. It manages tourism in line with community ideals, which include celebration and protection of our natural environment, respect and acknowledgment for Gumbaynggirr Culture and preservation and recognition of our unique, diverse community and culture.”
For the Great Ocean Road Coast and Parks Authority, becoming a certified ECO Destination is providing a framework for the new destination management authority to protect, conserve and rehabilitate the region’s natural assets and also determine policy directions and infrastructure development for the future of the region.
“We decided to start the journey to become an ECO Destination as the process will support us to assess existing practices and develop a plan to achieve responsible tourism for the Great Ocean Road region,” said Jodie Sizer, Chief Executive Officer of the Great Ocean Road Coast and Parks Authority.
“We are eager to partner with Traditional Owners, local government, fellow land managers and the tourism sector to ensure the Great Ocean Road is a strong, well-managed destination - that offers high quality experiences while protecting the remarkable natural and cultural values of the region.”
For visitors, travelling within a certified ECO Destination provides reassurance that the region is backed by a strong, well-managed commitment to sustainable practices and provides high-quality nature-based tourism experiences.
“The Barrington Coast region is highly regarded for the quality and diversity of its natural areas and biodiversity values. A significant part of our visitors’ activity time is spent within a natural area or with a focus on the experiences these natural areas provide. We want to continue to build an environment in which ecotourism thrives, offering genuine and authentic ecotourism experiences,” said Sharon Bultitude, Destination Management Coordinator from Mid Coast Council (Barrington Coast).
It is in these immersive ecotourism experiences that conservation and tourism intertwine.
“For the last two years, we have been excited to work in close partnership with WWF-Australia, driving real positive change for our regions and showcasing how the conservation and tourism industries can collaborate for mutual benefit,” said Mr Hillman.