Outside Magazine: Is Your ‘Eco-Lodge’ Really Eco-Friendly?

According to a 2019 report by Booking.com, 70 percent of global travelers would be more inclined to book eco-friendly accommodation. The industry seems to have taken the hint: eco-lodges and “green” hotels are trending. But these days, it can be difficult to discern between environmentally friendly digs and those just trying to profit from the craze. So […]

The post Outside Magazine: Is Your ‘Eco-Lodge’ Really Eco-Friendly? appeared first on Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC).

INTRODUCING OUR NEWEST CERTIFIED OPERATOR, BOOBOOK ECOTOURS

Ecotourism Australia (EA) is proud to welcome Boobook Ecotours, another outstanding sustainable ecotourism operator, to our ECO Certification program. We offer our congratulations to this team of professional ecological consultants on their recent achievement of reaching Advanced Ecotourism Certification for their Discover Carnarvon Ranges Day Tour, Wheat Wells and Wildlife Day Tour, BOOBOOK’s Eco-Science Expedition, BOOBOOK’s Roma Town Tour and Wildflower Wander Tour.

The award-winning Boobook Ecotours operates in Roma, within the Sandstone Belt of south-west Queensland. Roma is accessible via a one-hour flight, which run daily from Brisbane or, alternatively, it is an easy six-hour drive from the state’s capital. Their ecotours provide the opportunity to experience the Australian outback the way it was intended, with exclusive access to privately owned properties, family-run farms, little-known national parks and state forests.

With an ecological expert as an interpretive guide, small groups of two to twelve visitors can immerse themselves in the natural ecosystem, encounter lesser known wildlife and hear unique stories of local pioneering history, all while being educated on the local industries of agriculture and coal seam gas.

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Curly-bark Heath-myrtle (Micromyrtus sessilis)   / Credit: BOOBOOK Ecotours, Facebook

Craig Eddie is the director of BOOBOOK Ecotours, Principal Ecologist and tour guide. He is a walking natural history guide, book author, published expert, has sat on numerous panels regarding Queensland fauna and has a healthy obsession with snails, which has led to the discovery of new species.

Craig is considered the David Attenborough of the south-west.

Other members of BOOBOOK’s specialist team, with 20+ years of experience, include Meryl Eddie; Business Manager, Richard Johnson and Michael Cunningham; both senior ecologists and Rosamund Aisthorpe; Botanist. These highly experienced and passionate professionals offer visitors a unique and unforgettable tour experience while ensuring they maintain the pristine quality and untouched natural landscape within their offbeat locations.

You can be assured when wandering around Australia’s real outdoors, with an ecologist tour guide, that you are in for something special, and BOOBOOK’s ECO certified tours reflect just that. A range of individual fitness levels are considered in relation to the terrain explored, with tours clearly rated from easy to moderate through to more difficult levels. Specialist equipment such as walking poles is supplied if needed as are headtorches, with rechargeable batteries of course, for overnight stays.

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Overnight stay / Credit: BOOBOOK Ecotours, Facebook

BOOBOOK Ecotours are committed to reducing their environmental footprint as much as they can and although all tours are fully catered, you won’t see any disposable cutlery offered. All meals are transported with reusable containers, leftover food is composted on the group’s return to the office and visitors are required to bring their own water bottles, which will be topped up with rainwater.

Visitors will be thankful for limited Wi-Fi as they see and connect with parts of Queensland rarely seen by most people. In preparation, BOOBOOK Ecotours recommend bringing a sense of adventure, good humour and to be prepared to ask plenty of questions!

So, let’s have a closer look at the tours which BOOBOOK offer.

Head off on an adventure to Discover Carnarvon Ranges and explore a 71,000-acre working cattle station where nature and farming co-exist. Amongst the hidden wonders of secluded gorges and secret caves is the opportunity to discover dinosaur plants, Australian wildlife and Aboriginal rock art, which includes some of the best Indigenous stencil art in the world.

Discover Carnarvon Ranges FB credit Boobook

Discover Carnarvon Ranges Tour / Credit: BOOBOOK Ecotours, Facebook

The Wheat, Wells and Wildlife Day Tour is perfect for those who are keen to learn more about local history, sustainable agriculture and the coal seam gas industry. While visiting the local water holes you might be lucky enough to see a platypus and critically endangered turtles, as well as appreciate local flora.

If stopping to smell the ‘wildflowers’ is more your thing then treat yourself to one of southern Queensland’s most botanically significant areas thanks to the Wildflower Wander Gurulmundi tour. From mid-August to September, visitors can marvel at fields of wildflowers, grass trees and rare and endemic species while being surrounded by the colour explosion that makes Gurulmundi shine. Visitors arriving outside of wildflower season can enjoy a guided tour of Roma to hear the untold stories and learn how the town has transformed thanks to past and present heroes. There is also the town’s biggest bottle tree that you don’t want to miss seeing!

Rufous Bettong Rat Kangaroo commonly found around Roma BOOBOOK facebook

The Rufous Bettong (also known as rat-kangaroo) is commonly found around Roma / Credit: BOOBOOK Ecotours, Facebook

For a truly unique travel experience, BOOBOOK Ecotours also lead a real-life Eco-Science Expedition working with an Australian expert ecologist. Visitors can contribute to the advancement of scientific knowledge through helping to discover and document Australian animal species from previously unexplored areas. Soak in the peace and quiet while visiting stimulating, impressive and offbeat locations with amazing rock foundations, gorges and lookouts. There is also the opportunity to take a paddle in a canoe or, if the weather is right, a swim in the local spring-fed creek or waterhole.

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Eco-Science Expedition / Credit: BOOBOOK Ecotours, Facebook

It is easy to see why BOOBOOK Ecotours have received a five-star rating from their previous visitors as their unrivalled commitment to Australia’s unique ecosystem is evident through their business culture and ongoing community support. BOOBOOK Ecotours support, both financially and in kind, Maranoa Wildlife Caring & Education Centre, donate to the Save the Bilby Fund and Richmond Birding Butterfly Conservation and members of the team are active wildlife carers. Local schools benefit from their accumulated knowledge as BOOBOOK Ecotours participate in school talks as well as continuing to support local organisations such as the Maranoa Wildlife Caring & Education Centre.  

To all those Australian nature lovers out there, BOOBOOK Ecotours is definitely one operator you need to save on your ‘must have experiences’ list.

Find out more on their website.

 

[Cover image courtesy of BOOBOOK Ecotours (Facebook)]

WELCOMING BIG DUCK BOAT TOURS TO THE ECOTOURISM AUSTRALIA COMMUNITY

Congratulations to Big Duck Boat Tours on achieving Advanced Ecotourism Certification for their Seal Island Tour and South Ocean Adventure Tour.

The primary mission of Big Duck Tours is to increase awareness and appreciation of the local marine park and its surrounding waters while operating responsibly and sustainably. Departing from Victor Harbour, just 60 minutes from Adelaide, the Big Duck vessel takes a maximum of 27 passengers to spectacular areas of otherwise inaccessible coastline, islands, and beaches. Three time winner of the Victor Harbor Business Association Business of the Year award, Big Duck Boat Tours offer three tours: Seal Island, Southern Ocean Adventure and a Private Charter Cruise, on which passengers learn about the history, geography, wildlife significance and the protection status of the Encounter Bay Marine Park.

The Big Duck Tours crew include qualified marine biologists who share their knowledge with staff. They have also contributed to the development of the company’s environmental plan and climate change policy. Passengers are informed of the significance of the marine park to South Australia and why they operate under a regulated permit through an informative and educational presentation.

Big Duck Tours offer unique experiences and specialise in whale, sea lion and dolphin sightings. Guests learn about history, geography and wildlife on the tours, as well as about ways they can assist in conservation.

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Photo credit Big Duck Boat Tours

Big Duck Tours’ commitment to sustainability includes environmental initiatives such as multi-use waterproof smocks, assisting the Victor Harbor Dolphin Watch Citizen Science Program and facilitating scientific surveys to Kangaroo Island. Scientific research groups charter their vessels to monitor the local dolphin populations’ health and migratory behaviours. Passengers are encouraged to participate in the KI VH Dolphin Watch and the SA Whale Centre, and Big Duck Tours provide environmental feedback advice to the local council.

 

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Photo credit Big Duck Boat Tours

Big Duck Tours’ responsible recycling practices include feeding shredded paper to worm farms; buying bulk goods in reusable containers which are returned for refill and using water from the toilet system on a local turf farm. Climate action initiatives include washing the vessel with fresh water only and using swing mooring to protect the seagrass, allowing them to photosynthesise.

Staff plan to plant 500 trees in 2020 to help reduce the operator’s carbon footprint, eco-friendly lighting is used throughout the office environment and an electronic ticketing system is used to reduce paper. Local tradesmen are engaged where possible so the operator has the opportunity to give back to the local community.

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Photo credit Big Duck Boat Tours – Granite Island

Community engagement is something Big Duck prides itself on. They are active members of Victor Harbor Business Association, Fleurieu Peninsula Tourism and the South Australian Tourism Commission. They present regularly to the volunteers at the Goolwa and Victor Harbor visitor information centres and sponsor Surf Life Saving events. South Australia local Indigenous dreamtime stories and significant historical information form part of Big Duck Boat tours.

 

For more information about Big Duck Tours, visit their website or Facebook page.

 

 

Sustainability in tourism. The role of policies, of local communities and of the technologies involved: A literature review.

More and more it becomes clearer that sustainability in tourism is not just about the environment as it has been thought .It also concerns old issues such as economic, public health and protection, as well as and new concept such as the positive impact on the labor market (as it increases the employment prospects of the local population) and the carrying capacity of the specific tourism destination were furtherly developed.

GSTC Destination Criteria v2 – Now Available in Greek

The GSTC Destination Criteria v2 has been translated into Greek and is available to download in the Criteria Translations section. Τα Κριτήρια Προορισμών του GSTC v2 έχουν μεταφραστεί στα Ελληνικά και είναι διαθέσιμα για λήψη στο τμήμα “ Μεταφράσεις Κριτηρίων”.

The post GSTC Destination Criteria v2 – Now Available in Greek appeared first on Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC).

PLANTING THE SEED TO REDUCE EMISSIONS: THIS IS WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

Margaret Mead 

The Australian environment remains in the international spotlight and the devastation caused by the recent bushfires is still very real for those who proudly call this nation home. One of the many ongoing impacts which can’t be ignored is the amount of carbon dioxide which has been released into the atmosphere. In fact, alarming reports show Australia has already surpassed two-thirds of last year’s total man-made emissions.

Measuring emissions is now included in Ecotourism Australia’s (EA’s) ECO Certification program and the outcomes achieved by certified operators show that by following current guidelines and utilising proven tools, business owners can easily create opportunities to reduce their annual carbon footprint. The tourism industry is recognised as one of Australia’s biggest economic contributors and employers and the ecotourism community is well positioned to play their part in rebuilding a sustainable nation.

The tourism industry isn’t without its own emission challenges — think for example of the rise of the flight shaming movement gathering momentum in 2019 — however, while the world continues to wait for sustainable aviation fuel commercialisation, it is time to concentrate on reducing emissions in other areas of business which can be independently controlled.

Travel company Responsible Travel has recently begun this important conversation. They have commissioned a study which aims at beginning to understand the carbon footprint associated with other areas of the holiday experience; such as food and accommodation. “This is a small pilot study based only on a small number of holidays,” says Ecotourism Australia Certification and Policy Manager Eloise Touchot, “still, I find that we often forget to consider emissions from food choices, so I liked that it brings attention to the topic.”

How does the current food production system effect GHG emissions?

Our World in Data reports that the global food system accounts for approximately 26% of GHG emissions with the largest portion of 31% attributed to livestock and fisheries. A further 27% lies with crop production, 24% with land use and 18% with supply chains.

Whilst measuring the carbon cost of a holiday is an emerging conversation, the environmental impact of meat production is one topic which has gained momentum over recent years, prompting mainstream media to declare 2019 The Year of the Vegan. This declaration has been supported with high profile events, such as the Oscars, announcing the menu for the Nominee Luncheon to be served vegan.

As the focus of wellness and living a clean lifestyle become mainstream, so is the rise of those committing to plant-based diet. Australia has been ranked as the third-fastest growing worldwide vegan market which means it is well and truly time for tourism operators to accommodate a variety of dietary needs into their menu. This is not only a positive step towards reducing emissions but also to ensure a variety of food options is available for guests.

Ecotourism Australia’s certified operators joining the plant-based revolution

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Plant Based Selection / credit: Billabong Retreat

It is becoming increasingly familiar to read menu boards across the country which offer local and seasonal foods highlighting the support of regional farmers and minimising food miles. It is also commonplace to see commercial kitchens accommodating a range of dietary needs including gluten free, dairy free, nut free and plant-based options. Many of Ecotourism Australia’s certified operators have gone a step further with their environmental commitment by providing broader and more specialised sustainable food choices to their guests. 

Vegetarian options have dominated menus at mindfulness retreats long before wellness became a mainstream lifestyle choice. Billabong Retreat in NSW, who are ECO certified Nature Tourism, are one such example. A strong food commitment has been embedded as part of their founding principles as Billabong Retreat believe “the food is everything”. They serve delicious vegetable based homestyle meals “not because we promote vegetarianism, but because we believe on average people don’t eat enough vegetables and we want to inspire our guests to eat more by showing them how amazing and yummy they can be!”

As research develops and awareness grows, we are entering a new norm and, as a result, are seeing operators outside the traditional health and wellness category integrate sustainable food choices as best practice. One example of this is Wavelength Reef Cruises in QLD, an Advanced Ecotourism and Climate Action certified business, who operate in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. According to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) newsletter, “High Standard Tourism Operator Wavelength Reef Cruises went fully vegetarian for their tourism product as part of [their] approach to addressing climate change. Wavelength is following the advice of researchers that eating a plant-rich diet is a globally scalable way of people reducing their personal carbon emissions.”

Food Emissions Article Wavelength

Vegetarian Selection / credit: Wavelength Reef Cruises

But is going completely plant-based the only way to reduce emissions and have a positive impact on the environment? Dropbear Adventures in QLD, ECO certified at the Nature Tourism level, have explored other alternatives as they love to look after their vegans and vegetarians just as much as their meat eaters. “Our fruit and vegetables are all sourced locally as we believe it’s very important to support our local farmers. And as part of our commitment to reducing our carbon footprint, we’ve recently made some changes to the types of meat we serve on our tours. Beef is now off the menu and has been replaced with kangaroo [which is] much more sustainable and healthier!”

As with all new conversations there are many aspects to consider so, as many EA operators value the importance of continuous improvement, we have put together a collection of helpful suggestions. These are designed to ‘plant the seed’ (pun intended) and provide some ideas around how you can reduce your emissions, provide support for your fellow countryman and use your story to educate your guests with value-adding interpretations. 

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Supporting Australian Agriculture / credit: Pixabay

1.    Reduce

If offering a complete plant-based menu isn’t your thing, consider a commitment to the ‘Reducetarian’ lifestyle by providing less meat, dairy and egg options in your menu. You could do this by:

  • Participating in annual events such as Vegetarian Week
  • Include #MeatFreeMonday in your weekly schedule
  • Serve one plant-based meal per day
  • Reduce the quantity of meat in recipes by substituting with plant-based options
  • Try positioning meat dishes at the end of the buffet aisle. This has been shown to cut people’s meat intake by 20%

 2. Support – ‘we rise by lifting others’

Never has there been a better time to buy fresh produce from local farmers, which reduces food miles, as well as encouraging your visitors to show support to social initiatives whose primary focus is to generate income into the Australian economy. Tourism Australia has launched a nationwide campaign designed to encourage Australians to #HolidayHereThisYear, and there are also calls to #BuyFromTheBush and grab an #EmptyEsky, before heading to impacted communities and filling it with local food, wine and wares. #SpendWithThem helps regions along on their road to recovery and, although you as an operator may not be able to head out on a #RoadtripForGood, you can exercise your buying power and encourage your visitors to do the same. This is one simple way to add value to the lives of those affected as they begin their #BushfireBounceback.

 3. Educate

Ecotourism operators welcome visitors who value ecologically sustainable tourism and have a primary focus of experiencing natural areas that fosters environmental and cultural understanding, appreciation and conservation. The Ecotourism Australia community of 500 certified businesses holds the unique position of educating guests through quality interpretation programs, promoting new business developments and annual campaigns via social media platforms and offering quality training on best practice sustainable development to their teams. Harnessing these communication opportunities is a simple yet effective way to encourage new habits through leading by example.

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Celebrating Australian Producers / credit: Pixabay

As the conversation around emission reductions in food and accommodation gains momentum, EA and the extended community values the thoughts and opinions from operators in the field. Does your business offer either vegetarian or vegan options? What benefits have you found by increasing plant-based options within your meal planning? If no, what challenges have you come across which have prevented you from changing your menu? Other than food, how else have you been reducing emissions within your business?

 

[Header image credit: Pixabay]