A focus on sustainability is not new to Australia’s nature-based tourism sector, with almost half of Ecotourism Australia certified operators now certified for a decade or longer.
With a membership of close to 500 accommodations, tour companies and attractions around Australia, Ecotourism Australia CEO Rod Hillman says that the longevity of these tourism businesses – many of them small to medium sized enterprises and family businesses – is a testament to their focus on delivering high quality experiences for visitors:
“Ecotourism Australia members have all been certified through one of our programs – primarily ECO Certification – and the reality is businesses who choose ECO Certification survive and thrive when compared to other tourism businesses,” he says.
To achieve certification, a business needs to go through quite a rigorous process and meet a number of criteria not just around their environmental and community impacts but around their general business operations.
“A business can’t be called sustainable if it’s not financially sustainable,” Mr Hillman says, “and a part of the certification process is looking at the operator’s business plans, operational plans and risk management plans.
“An operator that has these kinds of documents in place is more likely to be prepared for unexpected events, like what we’ve seen recently, because they have already been forced to think about the ‘what ifs’ that inevitably are part of the tourism sector.”
Photo: Busselton Jetty
One of the businesses certified for ten years this year (and therefore given the title of Green Travel Leader) is multi-award winning Western Australian tourism icon, Busselton Jetty. Environmental Manager Sophie Teede says that being ECO certified has helped the business to look critically at its business model and plans in order to constantly improve its operations.
“Being an ECO certified operator has [also] given us the confidence to embrace the nature aspects of our business and encourage our visitors to enjoy our beautiful environment as it is. We have been able to confidently market aspects of our business that perhaps as locals are taken for granted and show them proudly to our visitors.”
This year, 31 Ecotourism Australia certified operators will be added as Green Travel Leaders, joining the 213 existing 10 year + members, while 10 more will be added to Ecotourism Australia’s Hall of Fame for being certified for 20 years.
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