Sustainability in tourism. The role of policies, of local communities and of the technologies involved: A literature review (2nd part): Tourism Education and Sustainability
Spirits are still, understandably, running high at Venture North Australia (VNA) as owners Hugh and Aaron Grange have recently returned from the Qantas Australian Tourism Awards in Canberra, where they were awarded gold in the category of Cultural Tourism.
We wanted to congratulate this outstanding Northern Territory business, who are Advanced Ecotourism and ROC Certified, on their win at these prestigious national awards. The business was eligible to enter this category as it won the 2019 NT Tourism (Brolga) Award for Cultural Tourism, which in turn qualified them for the national award.
The Cultural Tourism award specifically recognises ‘tourism operations that foster a greater understanding and appreciation of authentic culture, history, heritage and/or the arts’ and, as the Ecotourism Australia community is dedicated to continuous improvement, we thought we would take this opportunity to chat to Aaron and share with you some insights into how they sustain best practice within their business.
EA: Congratulations on winning gold for Cultural Tourism at the Qantas Australian Tourism Awards this year! What does this award mean to you?
VNA: Thank you! To win this national award is special, it’s acknowledgment for us and all our staff that we are doing a really good job. Our guides and staff often work long hours, going above and beyond so this award provides some recognition for this.
EA: With such consistent successes over the last few years at the national awards, what do you believe gives your business the edge with the experiences you offer?
VNA: We’ve been operating in the NT for 15+ years now and have developed some really strong relationships with many TO’s [Traditional Owners] and their families. This has allowed us access to places (particularly in Arnhem Land) which aren’t open to the general public where we are able to offer our guests some really amazing one-on-one cultural experiences.
EA: What are the challenges you face as a tourism operator in Northern Australia?
VNA: Being a seasonal business means staff turnover is something that is hard to avoid so providing the best possible workplace is definitely a focus for us. This year it looks like the bushfires and now COVID-19 will have an impact so we’ve been putting some strategies in place to tackle that.
EA: What are the biggest lessons you have learnt from building an ecotourism operation in the Top End that has such a strong focus on showcasing culture?
VNA: It takes time, especially working in some Indigenous communities so don’t try to rush it. We know now it might take 3 or 4 years to get say a ‘bush tucker tour’ from idea to offering it to our guests but that’s just the way it is. Another learning has been outsourcing, you can’t do it all, focus on what you are good at/have time for and pay others to do the rest – don’t burn yourself out!
EA: What advice would you give someone at the beginning of their ecotourism journey?
VNA: There is lots of support for tourism businesses out there, often it’s free so make sure you use it all! Work with your local tourism bodies, STO’s etc. go to the meetings and be involved. Also carve out a little time each week to work on the business, rather than just in the business (and stick to it!).
EA: What has Venture North set their sights on to strive for in the future?
VNA: Our goal is to employ more local full-time Indigenous guides throughout the season. Although we subcontract lots of Indigenous guides, we only have one Indigenous guide on full time currently so we are constantly working at that. We also have our fishing business Cobourg Fishing Safaris which we primarily operate in our shoulder seasons (April/May & Oct/Nov) which has some real room for growth so that’s exciting.
On behalf of the board and staff of EA, we would once again like to pass on our congratulations to Hugh, Aaron and their team on this outstanding achievement.
Planning a visit to the Northern Territory? Keen to experience remote Arnhem Land safaris, Kakadu tours, Kimberley expeditions and much more? Check out more information on Venture North Australia and the small group cultural and based tours they offer here.
[All photos courtesy of Venture North Australia]
Agritourism market witnesses strong growth due to rise in consumer demand for on-farm nature tourism
Ecotourism Australia is proud to welcome Great Keppel Island Watersports and Activities (Keppel Dive) to our community and wish to extend our congratulations for reaching Ecotourism level for their Guided Snorkel Tour and Certified Diving Tour.
Keppel Dive is the sole activities provider for The Hideaway, Great Keppel Island’s largest accommodation provider which also caters for day visitors, groups, functions and school or leadership groups. Transport to the Queensland island is via ferry which leaves from Rosslyn Bay Harbour, a short 10 mins drive from Yeppoon, on the Capricorn Coast.
Keppel Dive is passionate about promoting and leading by example in sustainable tourism by providing educational experiences and having as little of an impact on the reef and environment as possible. This commitment to quality education is one of the aspects of their operations which makes them unique.
The waters around Great Keppel Island are home to some of the most unspoilt reefs that the Great Barrier Reef has to offer. Whether you choose to explore the Southern Great Barrier Reefs by joining the Guided Snorkel Tour or by climbing aboard their vessel ‘Adventurer 1’ for the Certified Diving Tour, you know you will have the opportunity to see the many species of reef corals and fish, with a high chance of seeing rays, turtles and dolphins.
Those interested in participating in the snorkelling activity have the luxury of deciding how to get to the snorkel sites; walking, swimming or being dropped off in the vessel. There is also the option of a Guided Snorkel Tour, with a local in-water guide, which will provide a safe and thorough reef interpretation for an hour and a half, with a minimum of 45 minutes in the water. Masks, fins, snorkel, wetsuit and floatation devices are all available for hire and you have the choice of pre booking your activity and equipment or just popping in to see them on the day.
The Certified Diving Tour experience offers the choice of a single or double dive option which includes gear hire and tank fills. Explore the Keppel Island Region – which includes the Keppel Bay National Park area, Great Keppel Island and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park – and learn about the history, formation, diversity and current state of the Great Barrier Reef of the local area.
Visitors to Great Keppel Island have come to enjoy seeing the resident dugongs that are regularly present in the local bay, migrating humpback whales that pass in winter, the nesting turtles that return time after time creating future generations, or the pods of bottlenose dolphins which play near the vessel. It is of utmost importance to Keppel Dive that no alterations are made to their habitats.
Keppel Dive’s staff are passionate about protecting biodiversity and contributing to conservation efforts; this is a strong theme in their pre-activity briefings and interpretation messages. The ‘no touch, no take rule’ and ‘leave only footprints’ philosophy are implemented both on land and sea. Those enjoying water activities must always remain an arm’s distance away from the coral and are reminded that feet double in size with fins on. They are required to be vigilant in remaining mindful of these fragile underwater gardens which is the reason why only reef friendly sunscreen is permitted to be used.
As active members in their local community, Keppel Dive are involved in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park monitoring program called Eye on the Reef and plan to have their entire team trained in this initiative in the near future so they can incorporate reef health surveys into everyday practice.
The protection of the surrounding area continues on land with their involvement in the marking and notification of all nests during the turtle season. It will come as no surprise to hear they are consistent supporters of the Keppel Turtle Fund.
School or leadership groups are invited to be involved in the Eye on the Reef program, as well as coral reef interpretation talks, guided snorkel and dive tours, team building exercises along with general watersports and island walk activities.
A strong tribute to the Indigenous heritage of Great Keppel Island, with respect to the Woppaburra people who were the traditional inhabitants of the island, is also featured in all interpretation material which includes highlighting culturally significant sites. In fact, the elders were consulted prior to commencing a commercial operation on the island.
The ecotourism industry has a primary focus on offering experiences in natural areas that involve other important elements such as educating visitors around cultural heritage and the ongoing importance of conservation. Keppel Dive are a great example of a proactive operator in this space and EA are looking forward to being part of their eco journey.
[All photos courtesy of Keppel Dive]
As our campaign ‘Beauty from Ashes’ continues we would like to highlight solution oriented, positive thinking mindsets, such as that of Crystal Creek Meadows. This Advanced Ecotourism and ROC certified operator offers luxury accommodation in the stunning Southern Highlands and South Coast region of New South Wales.
As part of a small community in Kangaroo Valley, Crystal Creek Meadows is giving out first-hand tips to fellow tourism businesses and to visitors travelling in Australia. The operator is using their website as a platform to not only inform visitors about their offers, but also to share their knowledge about ecotourism.
Shortly after most of the bushfires were extinguished, Crystal Creek Meadows published an article titled “HOW YOUR $$$$ CAN HELP A SMALL TOWN SUFFERING AFTER THE 2020 NSW BUSHFIRES!”, focused on ways to help communities during the recovery phase.
Photo: Views at Crystal Creek Meadows. / Credit: Crystal Creek Meadows
Destinations around Australia are struggling to get everybody to know that their businesses are open. So campaigns such as #spendwiththem, #roadtripforgood and #emptyesky were implemented to encourage visitors to come to drought and bushfire affected towns and give back to these communities. Crystal Creek Meadows shows that there is so much you can do as a single visitor or business. Conscious spending takes centre stage.
We would like to thank Crystal Creek Meadows for letting us publish their below article, so that all of our Ecotourism Australia members and visitors are able to read the fantastic suggestions which owner/operator Sophie Warren put together.
Without further ado, we welcome you to read:
‘HOW YOUR $$$$ CAN HELP A SMALL TOWN SUFFERING AFTER THE 2020 NSW BUSHFIRES!’
Photo: Kangaroo Valley. / Credit: Destination NSW
SO HOW CAN YOU MAKE A REAL DIFFERENCE TO THESE COMMUNITIES RIGHT NOW?
Firstly, don’t be scared to visit these little towns – even the hardest hit villages are “Open for Business” and need your support now, and you will be welcomed with absolute open arms. The best way is to spend your hard-earned dollars in a way that multiplies its value. Here’s how. The ‘multiplier effect’ means if you spend $20 in your general store, they keep $6 and pay $14 to local purveyors, those local foodies then keep $6 and spend $8 on ingredients in a local shop. Now your $20 has become $54 in economic benefit as the money is re-spent locally. Spend at chain store and only a small proportion is re-spent locally as the majority goes back to the HQ. So, every $1 you spend locally can be maximised.
WHAT YOU CAN DO AS A VISITOR
Here are eight ways to get the best bang for your buck and spread the LOVE in rural Australia.
- Remember, our small retailers do not have the competition of big city deals for stock. There are less people passing by to make a profit. Don’t begrudge a local business because it is 10% more than in Woolies or the city – your hard-earned dollar will have a much bigger impact in a small store. Think of it as an insurance policy to keep variety in our towns and interesting places for you to visit
- Yes, do come with an empty esky, and even better, an empty car. Get your provisions locally, not just locally made honey, wines and olives, but even your basics from a general store or bakery or shoe shop
- Go to all the little shops and spend a bit of money in each. Go out for dinner and buy local wine from the pub, buy the kids an ice cream, get your sunscreen in the little pharmacy, pick up some bread on the way home
- Come with ½ tank of fuel and fill up in a small town, check your oil and coolant while you’re there
- Buy souvenirs, artwork and local crafts. Buy early for family birthdays and upcoming special occasions, send postcards, buy socks and hats
- Go to local events like garden shows and donate to community fundraisers – so you don’t want to win a garden mulcher, buy a ticket anyway and if you win ask for it to be redrawn
- Visit museums and heritage sites even if they are not your cup of tea – pay the entrance fee and feel grateful that these volunteer run organisations are here for ours and other’s enjoyment, education and for prosperity
- If you stay overnight don’t bring the kitchen sink! – use that linen service and stock up on loo roll and shampoo at a locally owned independent grocer.
Photo: Enjoying drinks locally. / Credit: Destination NSW
The above ideas help your tourist dollar make a big difference to the NSW South Coast communities where the 500,000 hectare Currowan Fire brought heartbreak to the residents and stress to the visitors to these little villages and towns.
On 2 January 2020 the entire length of the Shoalhaven, all 160 km of it, was declared a ‘Tourist Leave Zone’ and the fire was not declared officially out until 9 February, when summer holidays were over and school had gone back. The enormous economic impact hasn’t just affected the tourist-based businesses, but many suppliers are suffering too.
I recently spoke to businesses as diverse as an ice cream distributor and the paper products supplier, both of which provide stock for stores and accommodation up and down the coast for hundreds of kilometres. In January business was almost non-existent due to road closures, fires and lack of tourists. Drivers had their shifts cut and casual staff hours were at an all-time low. And all this in what the industry and the community see as their most profitable time of the year. Everyone had a terrible start to 2020.
So that is why it is so important to get tourists back to the area to spend a little, or preferably a lot. I heard of one shop in a bushfire ravaged town where a customer spent $1000 on alcohol in a little village bottle shop. He said he drove down from Sydney specially to bring the money into the area instead of buying at his usual ‘duopoly’ supermarket.
That gesture would have made a significant impact on a business suffering after the fires. The Facebook post about buying from a small business and helping a little girl get dance lessons, a little boy buy his team jumper, and a family put food on the table is true.
Photo: Dinner in NSW. / Credit: Destination NSW
HOW YOUR LOCAL BUSINESS CAN MAKE A BIG DIFFERENCE
Think your little business can’t make a difference? Think about the pioneers in Australia when they first arrived. They set up little shops in faraway locations and everyone had to rely on everyone else. It is much the same today, except that we now have juggernauts to compete with. But many little towns have survived for over 200 years with their businesses and communities thriving. Here’s some things you can do to ensure the financial sustainability of businesses in your area:
- Make a conscious decision to always use local suppliers – it’s just too easy to buy everything online and the money goes straight out of your town. If a shop doesn’t have something you have seen ask them to order it in for you – be it the bathroom shop, linen, or electrical appliances, car parts, etc.
- Order supplies from local wholesalers, they will get to know your business and be able to better advise you and they usually deliver too – bonus! Find local businesses by asking at markets or browsing other stores at home and in nearby towns.
- Use local tradespeople from small family businesses – IT, hardware, steer clear of chains, we want local businesses to be able to thrive without having to resort to paying huge fees to join franchises
- Form strategic alliances with other businesses – make packages that include a dinner out, or a kayak trip, or cinema/restaurant discounts. Small business has the flexibility to be innovative and offer what the customer wants
- Actively promote reciprocal links with others in your town, if you can’t fulfil an order or booking recommend a competitor and be sure to let them know – lots of successful businesses makes the town much more attractive to visitors and a nicer place to live
- Avoid large multinationals and chains which suck the profits out of town – the only thing they are paying into your town is wages, and there will still be plenty of others looking to buy the cheapest at the expense of local business. Shop in your local IGA or corner store
- Accommodation providers make sure you develop and promote your own website and avoid having busy periods and weekends available on third party sites where the profit is taken straight out of Australia. We need to re-educate Australians to book direct to avoid owners losing more than 20% in commission for all their hard work. Offer incentives for guests to book direct with you
- Have a map showing exactly where other great places are located and what they offer – take the guess work out of what’s open when – book your guest in for dinner or wine tasting.
My little home town is the small community of Milton-Ulladulla, and I have lived in many different places all over the world, before settling in Kangaroo Valley, between the NSW South Coast and the Southern Highlands almost 20 years ago. The thing I love about these towns is the diversity and authenticity of the shops and cafes – these towns are thriving due to the wonderful little businesses run by Mums and Dad. Australia has over 2 million actively trading small businesses (0-19 employees) in Australia, which is 97% of all Australian businesses, accounting for 33% of Australia’s GDP, and employing over 40% of Australia’s workforce. So, our little small businesses make a massive difference to the financial health of Australians, and right now these towns need our help to ensure businesses stay afloat, and to help the economy overall.
Photo: Township. / Credit: Destination NSW
PRIORITISE LOCAL PRODUCT OVER PROFIT – CRYSTAL CREEK MEADOWS’ CASE STUDY
We established Crystal Creek Meadows Luxury Cottages in 2003 in Kangaroo Valley, NSW, Australia – we are a micro business with just a few of us working here. From the very beginning we decided to spend as much money locally as we could. Here’s what we achieved and you can do too!
- Over the years we have spent over $2.5 million dollars with our local community, of which 58% was to micro and small businesses, and a total of 60% in the South Coast – from kitchen manufacturers, bakery, general store to the local chocolate shop. Our first choice has always been, and will always be, to buy local, and even one little business like ours makes a huge difference to community wealth.
- We have encouraged our guests to do the same. On average our guests spend over $288 per person in Kangaroo Valley village, with 92% eating in the village, 65% buying food, 54% buying wine and 38% taking activities.
- Of course our ethos has to also be sustainable environmentally and socially. We have always supported local charities and over the years we’ve donated $68,000 in donations and volunteered 180 days. In January we donated $50 for every new booking for that month to The Kangaroo Valley Wildlife Initiative, which was born from the ashes of the bush fires and has been instrumental in getting water and feed to wildlife in the fire areas.
Photo: Enjoying the scenic grounds and views. / Credit: Destination NSW
When we arrived our property we planted many different species to attract native wildlife back, and while doing so realised our guests also wanted to plant trees. With that we implemented a ‘plant-a-tree’ scheme where guests get their hands dirty and learn about biodiversity. The Plant-a-Tree scheme has also become a significant event for many celebrating an anniversary or remembering a loved one, child. We are now providing our guests with information on The Kangaroo Valley Wildlife Initiative “Donate-a-Tree” project which allows others to donate funds towards native grasses to citrus trees to the gardens of bushfire struck properties – what a wonderful way to provide future food and habitat for the many birds, insects, reptiles and mammals affected and at the same time help rehabilitate the barren ashy remains of someone’s once thriving garden.
The bottom line is that your $100 can make a difference to the small towns and villages ravaged by the fires. We have seen the difference we can make. Our guests feel good too for making a positive difference with their holiday money. Use your dollar wisely focus on the local businesses and help a small town flourish. And don’t forget, have a really wonderful getaway in NSW.
Credits to Crystal Creek Meadows. For further information click here.
Thanks again to Crystal Creek Meadows for sharing their knowledge. This now is a great opportunity to learn from each other so keep an eye on our news and social media pages for more on our Beauty from Ashes campaign.
Ecotourism Australia’s 28th annual Global Eco Asia-Pacific Tourism Conference will be held in Margaret River, Western Australia from 1 – 3 December 2020.
The event – the world’s longest running ecotourism conference – was last held in Western Australia, specifically Rottnest Island, in 2015. It was last held in Margaret River in 1998.
“Ecotourism has come a long way in that time and now represents some 25% of the industry Australia-wide,” said Ecotourism Australia Chair, Dr Claire Ellis.
“The conference is usually held in late November/early December, so we are hopeful that by then travel is again a normal part of our lives.
“[The event] will be an important time to re-calibrate, focus on rebuilding affected markets and creating strong returns to businesses, destinations and communities through tourism.”
The role of partnerships, collaboration and cooperative marketing will come to the fore as the industry moves into a recovery mode.
The conference is being supported at a state level by the Tourism Western Australia and The Department of Biodiversity and Attractions, together with Margaret River Busselton Tourism Association, Augusta Margaret River Shire and the South West Development -Commission.
CEO of Margaret River Busselton Tourism Association, Steve Harrison said “We are proud in playing a part in attracting this conference to the Margaret River Region as it reflects the focus that many of our members and the shire have on ensuring a sustainable future for our region.”
Global Eco is Ecotourism Australia’s premier annual event and is the most respected ecotourism conference in the world. It attracts leading tourism industry operators, ecotourism professionals, tourism bodies and researchers.
It is expected that this year’s conference will attract some 200-250 delegates from across Australia and around the world.
More details on the conference location and theme will be released in the coming days.
For questions and comments, please contact:
Lina Cronin – Communications Manager – [email protected], 0422 325 488
Congratulations to Daydream Island for achieving Ecotourism certification! This island resort, which has just undergone a major redevelopment following damage from Cyclone Debbie in 2017, offers an incredible Great Barrier experience for both domestic and international guests.
One of 74 islands in the Whitsundays region, Daydream Island offers one of Australia’s most unique reef experiences with its amazing Living Reef, a free form coral lagoon wrapped around the central building, 200m in length and holding over 1.5 million litres of water and over 100 species of marine fish, rays, coral and invertebrates such as starfish, sea cucumbers and crabs.
Photo credit – Daydream Island
Another special feature is the underwater observatory, which allows visitors to look through a large acrylic window out at a typical reef system. With qualified marine biologists on site, experiences such as reef ranger programs and guided snorkel and night tours allow visitors to a deeper level of learning and fun for children and adults alike. The resort also participates in reef monitoring, coral restoration and research on sharks and rays.
Photo credit – Daydream Island
Each of the 277 fully refurbished modern rooms and suites offers a delightful view to wake up to – across lush, tropical gardens or looking out to the impossibly blue waters of the Whitsundays. All of these rooms use LED lighting and natural lighting, and green power is purchased to cover the additional energy necessary for the resort’s office and other operations.
Guests are transported to the island on Cruise Whitsundays, another ECO certified operator, and products are purchased locally by the resort to reduce transport emissions. These products include building materials, furniture and produce. There is a no email print policy at the resort and recycled paper is used when printing can’t be avoided. All ink cartridges are refilled instead of being replaced. The recycling system in place includes separating general waste from recyclable materials including glass, hard plastics and aluminium, and emission sources are identified and assessed, recorded monthly for comparison and reduced where possible. Unavoidable emissions are offset through the purchase of carbon credits.
Photo credit –Daydream Island
Daydream Island is committed to continuous improvement. Initiatives have been proposed for the next 12 months to combat environmental impacts and these will be closely monitored. These include a composting system for kitchens, improved rubbish disposal and recycling, reduced water consumption, reduced power consumption by 5%, staff awareness and training and ensuring suppliers are aligned with the resort’s environmental values.
Once again, congratulations to Daydream Island and welcome to the Ecotourism Australia family!
Photo credit –Daydream Island