Recently, I had an opportunity to pose some questions to Kym Cheatham, CEO of Ecotourism Australia, which is a non-profit organization that is Australia’s main ecotourism industry association. Here, she shares some great perspective on the importance of maintaining high ecotourism standards and encouraging triple bottom line sustainability.
Describe the most surprising (or perhaps misunderstood) facet of ecotourism.
- For many people now ECO means anything environmental – for us ecotourism is all about a tourism experience based on nature. However not all nature tourism is ecotourism.
- Ecotourism certification is based on triple bottom line sustainability not just environmentally sustainability. So, tourism operators need to run good businesses and also be socially and culturally
sustainable as well.
- Ecotourism includes interpretation and conservation as well as good environmental management – these experiences should help visitor appreciate and value the nature, and the tourism operators should contribute to ongoing conservation activities.
- The thing that most surprises me (and shouldn’t) is that most government marketing bodies still treat ecotourism as a niche’ and special interest, when nature (and all the research supports this), along with Aboriginal culture, clearly provide the experiences that differentiate Australia and provide a compelling reason to visit Australia. Australia’s nature and traditional culture are what sets us apart from the rest of the world.
In the last two years, we have introduced two ‘sub-brands’ to try and create some additional promotion. Green Travel Leaders are tourism companies who have been ECO certified for 10 or more years and Eco Lodges of Australia is a membership-based collection of Advanced Ecotourism certified accommodation.
Here are some operators’ comments:
- Certification provides an excellent framework to help you improve your business operations, achieve more sustainable goals and deliver a better customer experience. It is an ongoing partnership that helps you maintain a better business and help create a better world. – Christopher Warren, Proprietor, Crystal Creek Meadows, Kangaroo Valley, New South Wales (above, left picture)
- Eco Certification not only helped us formalise our practices but also provided an excellent baseline to measure continued improvements, as well as helping to create realistic performance targets for the future. – Tony Baker, CEO, Quicksilver Cruises, Great Barrier Reef (above, right picture)