“GSTC has well-developed animal welfare activities” says a new academic journal article

Trade associations as corporate social responsibility actors: an institutional theory analysis of animal welfare in tourism Abstract In this article we argue that most travel trade associations ignore their responsibility towards sustainable development broadly and animal welfare in particular. We analyse the development and implementation of animal welfare standards across 62 national and international […]

The post “GSTC has well-developed animal welfare activities” says a new academic journal article appeared first on Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC).


We would like to extend a warm welcome to Yuraygir Walking Experiences and congratulate them on achieving Advanced Ecotourism certification on four of their tours!

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Operating on the Northern New South Wales coast, Yuraygir Walking Experiences brings together their extensive local knowledge, passion and collective experience to provide visitors with the opportunity to walk, explore and learn about the 65 kilometres of undisturbed coastline that run the length of the Yuraygir National Park.

On their longest tour, the four-day King Tide Guided Tour, guests have the opportunity to explore the Yurangir coast, cross rivers and learn about the native wildlife and coastal conditions before ending the day with a hot shower and meal with new friends. On this tour, visitors can expect to experience the best of the coastal Yurangir region without having to worry about organising river crossings, accommodation or food as the tour includes all necessary logistic requirements and comforts including hot showers and amenities. Guests can enjoy the tour with an experienced and knowledgeable guide who understands all relevant local conditions and can give unrivalled insight into the area, its history and its natural and cultural values. Now certified with Advanced ECO tourism certification you can experience the best of the Yuraygir National Park knowing that your in capable and sustainable hands.

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If visitors don’t have time for a complete four-day trip, then other options are available, including a guided two-day highlights tour in either the Central or Northern Yuraygir region. These walks are a great way to experience some of the best features and highlights of the area with a knowledgeable guide with breakfast, lunch and dinners included, accommodation in Minnie Water or Wooli is self-arranged.

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If guests are after a more adventurous experience, the Weekend Walk and Paddle tour is a great way to immerse themselves in nature with this combination walking and paddling tour. Balancing Adventure and relaxation the Weekend Walk and Paddle is a fully guided tour taking visitors on a two day and two night trip through the Yuraygir National Park. 

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Yuraygir Walking Experiences cooperate with the New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Service and with local Indigenous communities to ensure the benefits of tourism in the region are maximised and the negative impacts minimised.  The business also draws upon and utilises local expertise, produce and talent to offer a unique local ecotourism product offering high quality, personalised interpretive experiences of the natural and cultural values of Yuraygir National Park.

Ecotourism Australia would like to once again congratulate Yuraygir Walking Experiences on their development of sustainable ecotourism products and in achieving Advanced Ecotourism Certification for their above mentioned tours.

For more information about Yuraygir Walking Experiences, visit our Green Travel Guide.


[All photos retrieved from Yuraygir Walking Experiences’ website or Facebook page]




Congratulations to Gilberton Outback Retreat on achieving Nature Tourism certification on their accommodation and tours. 

A day’s drive from Cairns, the Gilberton Outback Retreat is a step into the historic past of the Australian outback, hosting luxurious eco accommodation built onto a scenic mountainside with panoramic views of the Gilbert River and surrounding outback landscape.

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Carbon neutral, solar powered and managing waste responsibly, with dedicated recycling policies, the retreat is the perfect place to escape the hustle and bustle of city life without losing the comforts of home or compromising on your own dedication to sustainability.

Initiatives to minimize impacts and educate visitors on local sustainability efforts and policy have led to the planned construction of the accommodation. Sourcing sustainable and recycled materials where possible, the construction of the Gilberton Outback Retreat’s accommodation was developed with low impact construction principals.

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Featuring an unobstructed view of the Gilbert River and the stunning outback stars untouched by light pollution, this is the perfect place to experience breathtaking views of the Australian outback at all times of the year from the comfort of a luxury eco lodge. 

The retreat also encourages visitation during the wet season when the Gilbert river reaches its peak flow for a truly unique experience. Sourcing food and produce from local producers and a sustainable garden on site, the retreat is able to provide fresh Australian produce to its visitors.

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Through the development of culturally relevant guided tours in protected areas, the Gilberton Outback Retreat aims to minimize impacts and educate visitors while showcasing the spirit of the outback through genuine and unique experiences.

The Gilberton Outback Retreat’s Guided tours utilize the natural beauty of the outback and the careful use of protected lands to provide direct natural encounters with many of the native animals unique to Australia. With a commitment to the cultures that share the Gilberton area, the Gilberton Outback Retreat is involved in continued initiatives to employ traditional custodians of the land and those with an affinity for country to best allow visitors a genuine understanding of the indigenous significance of the land and sacred sites.

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Visitors are also invited to explore the family history of the Martel family who developed the cattle station and still run the operations to this day.

Alongside the development of the cattle station, the land was also a part of the Australian gold rush and features tours based around the exploration of significant gold rush areas and the history of Chinese workers who ventured out to the area in search of riches.  This offers visitors a chance to help rediscover the cultural history of Gilberton in the search for lost Chinese cemeteries using historical mapping and guided tours.

Gilberton Outback Retreat

We are exited to welcome Gilberton Outback Retreat to Ecotourism Australia and congratulate them on achieving Nature Tourism Certification.

For more information about Gilberton Outback Retreat visit their website or Facebook page or check out our Green Travel Guide for more ECO Certified travel inspiration.

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 [Photos from Gilberton Outback Retreat website and Facebook page]


If you’ve ever tried catching a Barramundi, you’ll know that it can be a bit of a challenge. Our newest Ecotourism Certified operator, Hook-A-Barra, makes it easy for aspiring anglers by offering sustainable catch and release Barramundi fishing from its pond, employing the help of expert staff to ensure young (and young-at-heart) visitors have the best possible fishing experience.

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With no experience necessary and all equipment provided, Hook-a-Barra offers a great day out for visitors to Far North Queensland. Visitors can practice their lure and land techniques on farmed fish stock, and although caught fish can be purchased, visitors can rest assured knowing that they haven’t depleted Australia’s wild Barramundi stocks.

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By allowing their Barramundi to grow naturally, under free-range conditions in large earthen ponds which replicate their natural habitat, Hook-A-Barra provides assurance that their Barramundi are of extremely high quality. Hook-A-Barra’s fish farm component of the business, Daintree Saltwater Barramundi Fish Farms, have won multiple awards for the quality of their Barramundi over the past 13 years and the goal of the farm is to alleviate pressure on native marine species and ecosystems through land-based sustainable fishing techniques.

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Hook-A-Barra works hard to demonstrate and educate people about sustainable environmental business practices through running their business in such a way that it contributes positively to the natural environment, healthy lifestyles and sustainable farming practices within Australia. The business contributes to conservation, takes all efforts to minimise their environmental footprint, provides education on sustainable consumerism and agricultural practices and is actively involved in the local community, including through the #shoplocaldouglas campaign and by employing local tradespeople to minimise their carbon footprint.

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Hook-A-Barra has also been established as an all abilities facility, with wheelchair access ramps, bathrooms and disabled access to fishing areas. Set against the beautiful backdrop of the Daintree Rainforest, the grounds have ample space for BYO picnics and bird watching for those not wanting to cast a line, and a canteen selling hot and cold drinks and snacks, meaning no one need miss out on a fun day out.

For more information about Hook-A-Barra and its Ecotourism Certified Fishing Adventures, visit their website or Facebook page or check out our Green Travel Guide for more ECO Certified travel inspiration.

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[Photos: Hook-A-Barra Facebook page]

The Sustainable Travelogue: Conversations from the GSTC 2019 Asia-Pacific Conference

The Sustainable Travelogue help to understand what sustainable tourism is, and why it matters. Join world traveler and tourism professional Kathy Eow as she talks with industry leaders and unsung trailblazers from around the world about their work helping us travel better, forever. Season one kicks off with conversations from The Global Sustainable Tourism […]

The post The Sustainable Travelogue: Conversations from the GSTC 2019 Asia-Pacific Conference appeared first on Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC).


Australian tourism is known for its sun, surf and sand. What is often overlooked are the fantastic underground experiences that can be found throughout Australia. Whether you are an adventurous traveller seeking a deep dive into the heart of the earth or just seeking a memorable event venue, this guide has something for everyone looking for a different underground Australian experience.

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1. See Glow Worms

Endemic to Australia and only found in damp tropical caves, glow worms light up the interior of caves as a means of attracting smaller insects. Only a few places in Australia offer tourists a chance to visit these seclusive creatures, but three of our fantastic operators run regular guided tours to visit caves with large glow worm populations. Ecotourism Certified Cedar Creek Estate Winery in Queensland, for example, not only produces great wine and hosts events, but also runs guided tours to the Mount Tamborine Glow worm cave. This cave has been artificially developed to help local glow worm populations grow and is combined with a rain forest walk for a truly unique experience.

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If you want to visit glow worms with a twist, Gogo Tours in Victoria and Doki Doki Tours and Global Travel Services in Cairns are both ECO Certified and both run guided glow worm tours to natural caves with Japanese guides. This is a great opportunity for Japanese travellers and students learning Japanese to experience glow worm caves while leaning facts and stories in fluent Japanese.

2. Cave events and functions

Ever dreamed of hosting a wedding underground?

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Capricorn Caves, only a 35-minute drive from Rockhampton in Queensland, holds Advanced Ecotourism Certification and hosts several cave-based activities that you might not normally associate with caves. Hosting concerts and weddings in their famous Cathedral Cave, Capricorn caves allows visitors to create truly memorable experiences that will be hard to top.

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With a history as a secret dance hall for the Perth elite, the Cabaret Cave at Yanchep National Park is another great place for special functions, dinners and themed events. Yanchep National Park is Respecting Our Culture (ROC) Certified and is part of Parks and Wildlife Western Australia.

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3. Caving experiences

Cave exploration, also known as spelunking, can range in difficulty from crawling through gaps deep beneath the earth, to taking a guided tour through a gigantic underground cavern. Several of our certified operators host various levels of cave exploration, from the hardcore spelunking tour to an easy open self-guided walk. This guide there has caving experiences to suite all levels of comfort. 

For those seeking a unique adventure, K7 Adventures hosts several adventurous activities throughout both the summer and winter seasons, including hiking, abseiling, skiing, photography workshops and most importantly, caving exploration tours.

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K7 Adventures holds Advanced Ecotourism Certification on their caving exploration tours in the New South Wales Snowy Mountains region, which involves abseiling down into the depths of the Wee Jasper limestone cave system where visitors get to explore the wondrous natural limestone formations with the expert guidance of the K7 team. This full day trip can be combined into an overnight camping track depending on the package that best suits your interests.

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Mentioned earlier for its event space in Cabaret Cave, Yanchep National Park also has over 400 recorded other caves to explore. With so much choice there are options for the professional spelunker as well as the casual tourist. Two main caves in the park are used for guided tours. Crystal Cave hosts an easy 45 minute walk through a glittering limestone cavern, or for a challenge and to push yourself out of your comfort zone, Yonderup Cave offers a 90 minute caving adventure guided tour where visitors can experience real spelunking with an experienced guide.

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(Left to right: Crystal Cave, Yonderup Cave)

Another option for caving adventures is Margaret River Busselton Tourism Association, which holds Advanced Ecotourism Certification on four different cave tours, Ngilgi Cave Semi-Guided Tour, Mammoth Cave Self-Guided Tour, Lake Cave Fully-Guided Tour, and Jewel Cave Augusta Fully-Guided Tour. These self-guided and fully-guided tours offer a fantastic opportunity to explore the caves of the Margaret River region at your own leisurely pace or at the direction of a knowledgeable guide.

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Finally, while we already mentioned Capricorn Caves for their event space, they also offer caving exploration tours for those looking to push their comfort zones. Capricorn caves also run exploration and fossil discovery activities designed for families, school groups, and team building exercises.

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4. Cave Kayaking

If spelunking is not your style, and you’re not looking to organise an underground event in the near future, how about some cave kayaking? While not completely underground, the concept of visiting sea caves in a kayak is too unique to pass up. Making its way onto this guide, Roaring 40°s Kayaking Tours are Advanced Ecotourism Certified and are a must do for those travelling to Tasmania. Their unique tours offer visitors the chance to paddle along the Hobart coastline in the Hobarts Cliffs, Caves and Beaches tour.

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5. Sleep underground

Opal mines, blistering heat hot enough to cook an egg and houses like no others in the world: Coober Pedy in South Australia is well known as the opal capital of the world, but what you may not know is that many of the houses, buildings and shops are underground. Groovy Grapes Tours offer a Rock Patrol Tour through to the centre of Australia, including a stopover in Coober Pedy to visit a local opal mine and stay the night in an underground bunker like the locals.

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The Rock Patrol tour is Ecotourism Certified and takes visitors on a six day tour from Adelaide to the town of Alice Springs, stopping off at unique landmarks and attractions along the way. Being a bit off the beaten path, this is a great way to visit Coober Pedy and experience a unique underground lifestyle.

Have you visited any of Australia’s caves? Tell us about them in the comments below.


While in movies superheroes command the spotlight, in real life heroes often work behind the scenes. Whether it’s their humility, commitment or diligent focus on creating positive change, normal, everyday heroes – like the ones we’ve been telling you about for the past couple of months – are often the ones who are changing things without you realising it, the ones who encourage and inspire, but in a natural way, because that’s just how they are.

For no one is this truer than for Back Country Bliss Adventures’ manager and part owner, Margaret Heffernan. Owner Jason Heffernan describes her as committed, conscientious and caring, and notes that she is always encouraging others to be better.

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“Margaret works behind the scenes, however by frequently educating our tour guides, they are better educated to share our eco friendly ways with guests,” he explains. Jason notes that Margaret has been the one responsible for Back Country Bliss Adventures’ waste reduction strategy, ensuring that as much as possible is recycled, staff are educated on waste separation, leftover food is frozen or donated to local wildlife carers and food scraps are used for Margaret’s worm farm.

“Margaret has gone above and beyond to ensure we reduce our day to day waste,” Jason notes. He also explains that Margaret is the one who sorts the business’ rubbish to reduce the company’s footprint and makes sure that that they are leading by example, including by providing reusable BPA free water bottles to all their guests to use, and washing and refilling these at the end of every tour.

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Margaret has also set up educational signs around the workplace to help people sort their waste, keeps the team up to date at staff meetings and has replaced as many chemicals and cleaning products as possible with eco-friendly versions.

The results? Back Country Bliss’ food waste has been reduced dramatically, with almost none ending up in regular waste. Thousands of single use water bottles have been avoided, and local animal carers, to whom spare and leftover fruit is donated, are better equipped to rehabilitate injured animals.

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Margaret, thank you for all that you do for Back Country Bliss Adventures and for protecting and preserving our beautiful planet! Thank you to Jason for this nomination.

For more information on Back Country Bliss Adventures, visit their website or Facebook page.

For more information on our other Everyday Ecotourism Heroes, check out the other articles in this series:

Is there someone in your business who you think is an Everyday Ecotourism Hero? Tell us about them!

Have we piqued your interest in travelling sustainably? Make sure you check out our Green Travel Guide and news page for some eco travel inspiration!


[All images sourced from Back Country Bliss Adventures’ Facebook page]



This week’s “Harmony Day” on March 21 (commenced in 1999), is a day when all Australians celebrate our cultural diversity. This day is often celebrated by Indigenous Australians and people from a range of cultures within communities.  Ecotourism Australia wants to promote the work in Indigenous tourism in Australia and around the world.

To achieve this goal, we need to understand what Indigenous tourism is. Quoting the Indigenous Tourism web portal (2008):

“Indigenous tourism is tourism that directly engages Indigenous people, either by allowing them to manage a site or making Indigenous culture the focus for a destination. An Indigenous-focus tourist is generally an international or domestic tourist who participates in or undertakes at least one Indigenous tourism activity during a holiday, such as visiting cultural sites or Indigenous communities, experiencing traditional dances, arts and crafts, and travelling to remote Indigenous areas.”

According to The United Nations Economic and Social Council, it is estimated that there are around 400 million Indigenous peoples, or five percent of the total world population, spread over 90 countries.

Indigenous tourism can be an opportunity for Indigenous people to show their culture, nature, traditions, and so on, in a respectful manner if managed correctly. The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) – with whom Ecotourism Australia has just formed a partnership –  is correct when it says: “As one of the most thriving economic activities, tourism is well placed to contribute to Indigenous people in improving their livelihoods. If managed responsibly and sustainably, Indigenous tourism can spur cultural interaction and revival, bolster employment, alleviate poverty, curb rural flight migration, empower women and youth, encourage product diversification, and nurture a sense of pride among Indigenous people. However, this type of tourism also raises a series of ethical, social, economic and human rights-related challenges that need to be addressed by the sector.”

Working with Indigenous people in tourism can be a very rewarding experience.  One of the key elements is to take the time to learn all you can about their culture, traditions, rituals, family priorities, etc., specially if you have staff in your business with Indigenous heritage, is important that you sit down with them and discuss all the differences between cultures. This can help you understand for example, why they may need a number of days off to attend family matters like funerals or other family rituals. 

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Raramuri community in Chihuahua, Mexico. Image credit: Ximena Alvis


If you want to start a project with Indigenous peoples or in their territory, you will need to understand and follow the Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) principle:

“In 2007, the UN General Assembly adopted the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, recognizing their rights and making specific mention of Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) as a pre-requisite for any activity that affects their ancestral lands, territories and natural resources.”

Following FPIC is crucial to ensuring that Indigenous peoples are well informed of any project or tourism activities on their lands, giving them the power to authorise them and be part of them, benefit from them and ensure that these projects or activities are being respectful with their culture, beliefs and environment.

In the end, it is an exercise of communication, learning from one another, being respectful with everyone’s beliefs, culture, environment, and sharing the same goals of the project.

If you want to get involved with Indigenous tourism in Australia, Ecotourism Australia offers a ROC Certification program. This program encourages the tourism industry to operate in ways that respect and reinforce Indigenous cultural heritage and the living cultures of Indigenous communities.

ROC certified tourism operators are committed to protecting cultural authenticity and integrity, developing sound business practices, environmental protection and acknowledging Indigenous people’s spiritual connection to the land and water.

For more information about ROC Certification, visit our certification website.

Has your business had experience in working with Indigenous people? We’d love to hear about it. Any lesson learned is worth sharing!



–          Tourism Australia 2008, The Indigenous Tourism Web Portal, located at http://www.indigenoustourism.australia.com/home.asp, accessed June 2009.

–          UNWTO Panel on Indigenous Tourism: Promoting equitable partnerships http://ethics.unwto.org/event/unwto-panel-indigenous-tourism-promoting-equitable-partnerships

–          Free Prior and Informed Consent An indigenous peoples’ right and a good practice for local communities http://www.fao.org/3/a-i6190e.pdf

–          Aboriginal Cultural Tourism Business Planning Guide. Checklist for Success. Author: Aboriginal Tourism Association of BC (AtBC)

–          www.ecotourism.org.au/assets/Resources-Hub-Indigenous-Tourism/Working-with-Indigenous-Australian-Staff-Guide.pdf


[Header image picture credit: Kimberley Wilderness Adventures]