OPINION PIECE | KEEPING AUSTRALIA’S BORDERS CLOSED MAY NOT BE A BAD THING

Australians are great travellers. For young people, travelling abroad in their early twenties remains a ‘rite of passage;’ empty nesters joining a river cruise through Europe and people of all ages going for their ‘cheap trip’ to South East Asia are still the dreams of most.

Within tourism, we’ve become dependent on an ever-growing international market for our tourism product at home – especially from China, which provides over a million visitors to Australia a year. But now, with the borders closed and Australians innately driven to travel, what happens if the borders remain ‘closed for the foreseeable future’ as has been suggested by our Prime Minister?

Studies from Bernstein Research (reported in Skift) show Australia may survive quite nicely with a possible increase in overall spend of close to $9 billion and a positive impact on our GDP of 0.6%, making Australia one of the winners from a post COVID – but not open border – business environment.

Tourism Australia is leading the push for Australians to take a ‘staycation’ this year, asking Australians to visit their backyard and explore our amazing country. Each state and territory will jump to push their case and regions will contribute to the momentum of competing interests with potential visitors about to receive some incredible offers and blanket coverage on social media, TV and everywhere.

Bendleby Ranges SA Adventure Outback 4 for Rod article

Photo: Bendleby Ranges (Advanced Ecotourism certified)

Nature based tourism has the potential to be exactly what this holiday at home market could be looking for. It provides the experience and reassurance that people emerging from an enforced isolation will be seeking. Ecotourism can provide the opportunity to reconnect people with what matters most and in a safe setting. People will shy away from large groups, crowded places and enclosed spaces and they will seek openness, wellness, connection, sustainably managed businesses and the opportunity to just be outside.

“Ecotourism can provide the opportunity to reconnect people with what matters most and in a safe setting.”

Adjusting to this opportunity will be challenging and will require a new approach by many. The tyranny of distance still applies to this huge country: for example, how do we get people to our remote regions with social distancing seeming to put a stop to domestic flights, leaving places like the Kimberley, South Australian Outback and Far North Queensland the domain of grey nomads? How can we afford to run tours with minimal guests, and how do we limit visitor numbers to be COVID safe, despite the forecast increase in demand?

Already we have seen some smart tour operators responding to these challenges by shifting their products to better cater for this domestic focused clientele and building interest and momentum while the lockdowns continue. These include:

  • Exceptional Kangaroo Island, which was badly affected by both the 2019-20 bushfires and COVID-19, conducting weekly live broadcasts on social media and working with agents and wholesalers to reposition their product to the domestic market
  • Sea Darwin launching an online business selling gin and other spirits that tell the stories of the local environment and history
  • King Leopold Air using the downtime to work on improving their business, using the ECO Certification criteria as a guide
  • Phillip Island Nature Parks launching a podcast telling stories of the penguins and locals who look after them to evoke interest in visiting the island
  • Ocean Free and Ocean Freedom focusing on maintenance and polishing paperwork and procedures, ensuring they’ll be ‘fighting fit’ on their return

Different states are taking different paths to reopening and whilst challenges will likely remain for the foreseeable future, our operators are resilient, agile and planning ahead to ensure they build back better for when they can once again welcome visitors.

Binna Burra Lodge QLD Forest Accommodation Night Sky 12 for Rod article

Photo: Binna Burra Mountain Lodge (Advanced Ecotourism certified)

There are plenty of reasons to be positive, but it won’t be a return to what was before. We need to be laser focused on what the market will be seeking and understand the crisis has truly shaken Australia, and the world. We can’t afford to pretend this was just an inconvenience and as if by magic it will all just disappear.

There is a real opportunity here. We can rebuild our industry with sustainability at its core, where communities welcome guests because they see the benefit to them; where the true tourism asset – our environment and culture – is protected and valued and where tourism contributes in all ways to the region’s own sustainability. Managing tourism sustainability is just good management and managing for the long-term benefit of all is not just a smart strategy for the recovery from COVID-19, but for the recovery of our planet for generations to come.

 

[Header image: Kimberley Tours (Ecotourism & ROC certified)]

CITY TERRACES APARTMENTS CAIRNS ACHIEVES CLIMATE ACTION BUSINESS CERTIFICATION

Congratulations to City Terraces Apartments Cairns for becoming a certified Climate Action Business! This accommodation identifies itself as a clean, caring, convenient holiday accommodation in the heart of Cairns CBD, but what it offers is much more. Popular with holiday makers and corporate guests who seek a quiet, green retreat, City Terraces Apartments Cairns has a communal feel which reflects the owners’ commitment to sustainability.

CCT Reception

Photo credit: Booking.com

Recognised as a local business sustainability leader (Cairns Post July 2019), City Terraces Apartments Cairns is a champion of local products, services and events. It sources locally grown and manufactured products wherever possible and partners with climate change action committed business Bunzl who supplies it with sugarcane pulp toilet paper, vegetable-based soap and pump bottle refillable amenities.

Cairns City Terraces bedroom FB

Photo credit: City Terraces Apartments Cairns / Facebook

Whilst still on the grid, City Terraces Apartments Cairns has invested in solar panels and investigated the electricity reduction benefits of LED upgrades in an effort to reduce its carbon footprint. Each quarter it rewards the apartment which uses the least electricity and publicises its “Eco Warrior Winners”. Reusing and sharing of resources to reduce waste and emissions is encouraged by the free-cycle basket and community bookshelf where departing guests can drop off anything useable that they no longer need. Guests can also borrow Boomerang Bags for their shopping, a bike for travelling and request a City Terraces ceramic mug at the adjacent café. A fridge magnet teaches guests how to separate waste to make the most of Cairns’ modern waste treatment facility, which will be able to process PET plastic locally from mid-2020.

Cairns City Terraces bikes FB

Photo credit: City Terraces Apartments Cairns

As part of its commitment to sustainability, City Terraces Apartments Cairns has become a member of the Cairns and Far North Environment Centre where the managers attend climate change talks including “Anthropogenic climate change: what can we expect in the Wet Tropics this century.” City Terraces Apartments Cairns is further involved in the local community via its support of Smile with Kids by donating room nights to charity auctions each year. The accommodation’s Facebook page abounds with posts promoting local sustainability and cultural events and initiatives including theYarrabah Music & Cultural Festival, Plastic Free July & Waste Levy 101 (library talk), and Cairns Indigenous Art Fair.

Cairns City Terraces garden FB 

Photo credit: City Terraces Apartments Cairns / Facebook

With its lush gardens, saltwater pool, barbeque area and community herb garden, it’s easy to see why this accommodation is popular with visitors to Tropical North Queensland. The waterwise choice of native plants means the grounds provide living space, food and shelter to local wildlife, too.

Cairns City Terraces outdoor area 2 FB

Photo credit: City Terraces Apartments Cairns / Facebook

Once again, we welcome City Terraces Apartments Cairns to the Ecotourism Australia family, and congratulate the business on achieving certification!  

Cairns City Terraces balcony FB

Photo credit: City Terraces Apartments Cairns / Facebook

 

For more information, check out City Terraces Apartments Cairns on our Green Travel Guide.

 

Finalists for Healing Solutions for Tourism Challenge

HEALING SOLUTIONS FOR TOURISM CHALLENGE UNWTO received over 1,000 applications from over 100 countries for the Healing Solutions for Tourism Challenge, launched to identify the most disruptive startups, entrepreneurs and drive solutions to mitigate COVID-19’s impact on tourism. The selected shortlisted semi- finalists announced below: Finalists Healing for people: CleanScan /Chameleon  Welcome Back (Canada/USA) Outpost Healthy Destinations (Canada) SeeTrue (Israel) […]

ACROSS AUSTRALIA JOINS ECOTOURISM AUSTRALIA BUSINESS COMMUNITY

Ecotourism Australia (EA) welcomes Across Australia as a Business Member. Across Australia is an inbound tour operator with 20 years’ experience. With a mission to give travellers the memories of a lifetime in Australia, New Zealand and Oceania, their tours are focused on tailormade travels that provide high quality experiences to their customers. 

Across Australia emu man

Credit: Across Australia / Facebook

Across Australia’s passionate team of travel enthusiasts loves the beautiful anad endless Australian landscape and works hard to create immersive trips to allow customers to discover unusual places. The company’s goal is to match every passenger’s budget, requirements and expectations, and because of their experience, consultants are able to offer their own expertise.

Across Australia cheese platter

Credit: Across Australia / Facebook

Going on a tour with Across Australia means joining a responsible travel tour with up to 30 passengers. The tour operator is committed to partnering with Australian suppliers and to offering eco experiences. Their tours are in alignment with the local ecosystem and inhabitants, and as a customer on one of Across Australia’s tours, you will be offered eco-friendly products such as ECO certified accommodation or attractions.

Across Australia Indigenous art

Credit: Across Australia / Facebook

Whether it’s the ‘Surrounded by Nature – Eco Self Drive’ or the ‘Australian Adventure’ Tour a traveller chooses, Across Australia offers their personalized attention in different languages and with around the clock assistance. Travellers need not worry about missing out on any of Australia’s greatest gems, as Across Australia cares about their customers throughout their whole travel journey.

Across Australia view

Credit: Across Australia / Facebook

For more information about Across Australia, check out their website.

 

[Cover image: Across Australia / Facebook]

The Red Sea Development Company identifies optimum location of overwater assets

To optimize the protection of the rich coral habitat and the local ecology, The Red Sea Development Company is deploying unique techniques in the field to safeguard the environment in line with its sustainable goals. The company is using hi-tech survey equipment and drones for mapping sites for over water assets to safeguard the environment, in line with its sustainable goals.The results ensure the careful integration of buildings within this existing environment.

MICROADVENTURES: WHEN SIZE DOESN’T MATTER.

 “A microadventure is an adventure that is short, simple, local, cheap – yet still fun, exciting, challenging, refreshing and rewarding.”

This is a quote from Alastair Humphrey, a British adventurer, author and keynote speaker, who developed the trend ‘microadventure.’ The idea of a microadventure is that it’s a movement to try to be in the moment – a form of mindfulness. A microadventure is easy, in front of our doorstep and we can do it today:

“As the world’s population becomes increasingly urbanised, busy, and stuck in front of a screen, microadventures offer a realistic escape to wilderness, simplicity and the great outdoors, without the need to ski to the South Pole or go live in a cabin in Patagonia. The appeal of microadventures is that they make adventure accessible to people who may have very little outdoor experience.”

We all know the feeling of needing a change. The everyday routine sits above us like a dark cloud and we ask ourselves: what can we do to flee this situation? We get stuck in daily routine, with our heads full of work issues or family related things. But we don’t have to wait or prepare for the perfect moment for an adventure. We can go outside and do it today.

Notepad Pixabay

Credit: Pixabay

Yes, we know the excuses that will come up right this second: The kids are too little for adventures, we have no appropriate equipment or no annual leave days left to use. Time has always been the biggest issue in making excuses to do things. But taking a microadventure does not have to be that hard.

The most important thing is to ask: What would a microadventure be for myself? There is no general rule on what to do that can be applied to everybody. Everyone has their own comfort zone with their own microadventure ideas. There can be ‘rules’ such as taking a time span of six hours for a microadventure or using no vehicles such as cars or planes, but in general, Alastair Humphrey recommends taking a small adventure in your close surroundings that doesn’t need a lot of time or money. Simply move outside of your own comfort zone and embrace the uncertainty.

Hike collective FB advent glamping microadventures

Credit: The Hike Collective

Saying this doesn’t signify that we should make a challenge out of a microadventure. There is no need to always go higher, for longer or to travel further away (especially at the moment, with COVID-19 restrictions still in place in many areas). Instead of constantly comparing ourselves to others’ adventures we should see what is important to and will benefit ourselves.

A first step to a microadventure could be to spend time outside during the night. We can leave the house as soon as the sun sets and go for a walk without any explicit goal. We simply walk and decide at each corner which turn to take. Preparing a meal on the camping stove outside could be a great end to a night walk. But microadventures can be all sorts of things. We can spend a night in a hammock, drive our bicycle instead of our car to the next town or help the farmer next door. We can climb a tree, sleep in our backyard or hike up the highest hill in our town. Let us sketch our view from our balcony or make our microadventure about ‘making a difference and leaving no trace,’ by going for a walk and picking up all the rubbish we find along the way. Alastair Humphrey offers some of his ideas online or we can mind map together with our families. Keep in mind that microadventures are about ‘firsts’ and also about doing regular things differently. Let us break our routines!

Bicycles pixabay 

Credit: Pixabay

Microadventures are fun when not everything is planned beforehand. Goals make us move and leave the house, but we should try and loosen them along the way and be prepared for spontaneous changes by simply embracing the way.

Adventure shouldn’t be dependent on a destination. Fleeing thousands of kilometers away by flying to the other end of the world will bring us right back to our doorstep eventually. But with microadventures we can transform our daily life in a sustainable, exciting and fun way.

Microadventures help us grow and teach us to live without constant stimulation. We can even go on our own and accept the silence on our own doorstep.

We all engaged in microadventures as children, but don’t let being an adult stop you from venturing out of your normality zone and exploring what surrounds you with fresh eyes.

Microadventures Back Country Bliss QLD Adventure River 10

Credit: Back Country Bliss Adventures

 

 

[Cover image: Pexels from Pixabay]

INTRODUCING AUSTRALIA’S NEW FRONTLINE ECOTOURISM RESEARCHERS

The Ecotourism Australia team had its first meeting last week with the new cohort of ecotourism PhD candidates from the University of Queensland, who have now begun their studies into some of the most pressing matters facing the industry.

Four students, hailing from a diverse set of backgrounds, were offered scholarships last year following an extensive and competitive selection process. The four PhD topics were collaboratively designed by The University of Queensland Business, Economics and Law faculty staff and Ecotourism Australia, taking into account the future needs of the industry as well as current challenges. The establishment of the PhD placements and securing of scholarship funds were made possible through a Memorandum of Understanding signed by both organisations at Ecotourism Australia’s Global Eco Conference in Townsville in 2018.

Regular updates about the progressing research will be provided through Ecotourism Australia’s communication channels over time. If you are interested in learning more or being involved, please contact Lina Cronin at [email protected].

Candidate profiles

Csilla phd cropped

Name: Csilla Demeter

Research topic: Transitioning to a Low Carbon Future

Professional/academic background: I hold a master’s degree in International Business and Economics from the University of West Hungary and a masters in Tourism, Hotel and Event Management from the University of Queensland. I held various positions in the hospitality and event industry. I worked as a casual academic tutoring across courses like Hospitality Small Business Enterprises; Tourism Policy and Planning; Managing Resources in Tourism, Hospitality and Events and Global Hospitality Operations at the University of Queensland.

Your favourite outdoor activity: ocean swimming, snorkelling

Your favourite ecotourism destination: Great Barrier Reef

Ximena in Tasmania phd 2

Name: Ana Ximena Alvis Gonzales

Research topic: Sustainable Tourism Destinations

Professional/academic background: I’ve worked in the field of tourism for more than 10 years in 3 countries. In Bolivia, I coordinated with communities, and the public and private sectors to implement best practices in sustainable eco-tourism. In Mexico, I supported the development of cultural tourism in indigenous communities with the goal of improving rural women’s livelihoods. In the USA, I supported CREST, an international NGO focused on promoting sustainable tourism.”

My academic background both at the graduate-level and undergraduate-level complements my professional experience. I completed a master’s degree in Sustainable Tourism from the Universidad de Cooperacion (UCI) in Costa Rica. In Bolivia, I completed a bachelor’s degree with a specialization in eco-tourism, with a focus on tourism design and customer service.

Your favourite outdoor activity: Bush hiking in all the green spaces that Queensland has to offer.

Your favourite ecotourism destination: Too many to count!! But my favourite so far is Whitsunday Island, Queensland.

Hieu nguyen phd 

 

Name: NGUYEN, Thi Hieu

Research topic: Overtourism in National Parks

Professional/academic background: Hieu possesses a Master of Environmental Management degree from the University of Queensland in 2015 and a Bachelor of Environmental Science (the major of Human Ecology) from Vietnam National University in 2008. Hieu has led a number of research designed to conserve natural resources, assess impact of development projects and to improve livelihoods of rural people, particularly ethnic minority/Indigenous peoples and women, whose livelihoods rely on the natural resources in Vietnam. These projects have applied the views of both environmental and social sciences to align the technical, legal, policy and management factors which are needed to address social environmental issues.

Your favourite outdoor activity: bush walking and trekking

Your favourite ecotourism destination: cultural and natural heritage sites

Sonya phd 2

Name: Sonya Underdahl

Research topic: Researching the social licence of conducting commercial tourism into National Parks

Professional/academic background: Ecoguide, National Parks, Environmental Sociologist, Tourism Resort Manager, and PhD Candidate.

Your favourite outdoor activity: I love swimming and snorkelling, walking through forests, eating Tim Tams with a coffee, and gardening, although the latter I am not great at!

My favourite ecotourism destination? Each has something different, something unique to offer, making a singular destination impossible to choose. However, with Covid-19 I am rediscovering the magic of the rainforest in my back yard – Springbrook National Park. It captured my heart when I was a young girl and continues to do so now.

 

 

[Header image: Port Douglas by gyuste17/Pixabay]