CONGRATULATIONS TO REEF ECOLOGIC FOR ACHIEVING CLIMATE ACTION BUSINESS CERTIFICATION

Ecotourism Australia is proud to announce Reef Ecologic as a new addition to the family. Based in Townsville (QLD), the Marine Environmental Consultancy has achieved Climate Action Business Certification. The Climate Action Certification program recognises Reef Ecologic’s commitment and dedication to sustainable practices that address climate change.

Reef Ecologic was founded in 2015 by Dr Adam Smith and Dr Paul Marshall. Dr Smith is now the sole Managing Director and is surrounded by a specialised, deeply involved coral-reef-loving staff. 

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Tropical marine ecosystems are threatened by complex processes requiring innovative design along with preventive and restorative operations. Their mission is to provide strategic advice, research and training to understand and address the environmental challenges facing coral reefs worldwide and the people that depend upon them.

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 Focusing on a collaborative approach, the team works with different business sectors, governments, NGOs, coral reef managers, coastal communities and universities at the national and international level.

Delivering 15 to 40 environmental projects annually, Reef Ecologic overviews all management objectives, targets and plans involving quality, environment, health, safety and financial sectors of each stakeholder. The company ensures that management and operations are compliant with relevant regulations and in line with Reef Ecologic key ethical values: People-first, Leadership, Environmental Responsibility, Excellence and Passion, Collaboration and Responsiveness, Ethical and Quality Science.

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 The organisation interacts and partners with a diverse network of cross-industry interested parties, including Townsville Council, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA), the CSIRO and Citizens of the GBR to the Museum of Underwater Art (MoUA), Sealink Queensland and Bungalow Bay Koala Village.

As a leading environmental organisation, Reef Ecologic also provides opportunities for local and international students to participate in their exciting projects.

Congratulations again to Reef Ecologic for their amazing work and for their newly achieved Climate Action Business Certification!

For more information, visit the Reef Ecologic webpage, or check them out on Facebook.

 

[All images: Reef Ecologic]

[Header Image, left to right: Nathan Cook, Gemma Molinaro, Jo Stacey, Al Songcuan, Dr Adam Smith, Dan Cassidy, Greta Sartori]

 

RISING FROM THE ASHES, AN ECOTOURISM ICON REBORN

Almost a year after the devastating 2019 bushfires, Binna Burra Mountain Lodge reopened to the public on September 1, 2020. This reopening marks a monumental milestone for the property, as well as the community and the local tourism industry.

It has taken a collective of passionate employees, shareholders, the Friends of Binna Burra volunteers, community members and regular guests to reimagine Binna Burra and rebuild its legacy.

Recognised as an Ecotourism Australia Hall of Fame member and ECO certified Advanced Ecotourism operator, Binna Burra has been rebuilding to preserve the original vision and rich history of the mountain-top venture over the past 12 months.

 

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Jonathan Fisher, CEO Binna Burra Lodge and Rod Hillman, CEO Ecotourism Australia [Photo: Rod Hillman]

Surrounded by Lamington National Park, Binna Burra Lodge lost 42 out of its original 43 cabins, the main lodge, library and kitchen in the 2019 bushfires. Luckily, most of the modern Sky Lodges, the historic barn and Groom’s Cottage survived.

 

Fire Damage

Photo: Binna Burra Lodge / Facebook

In the effort to rebuild, hundreds of workers erected new luxury safari tents, constructed a new tea house, restored the fire-damaged Sky Lodges and converted the Groom’s Cottage into a pub-style bar. The surviving old barn is being reimagined as an exhibition space to tell the story of the bushfire. An Australian-first rock face climb, the Via Ferrata, is also under construction.

 

New Safari Tents

Photo: Binna Burra Lodge’s new Safari Tents / Facebook

Sky Lodge

Photo: Binna Burra Lodge, Sky Lodge / Facebook

Despite its scars, as guests are welcomed back to Binna Burra Lodge this spring, they will be entering a forest full of new life, diversity, innovation and community spirit, joining legions of those before them to marvel in the World Heritage-listed landscape and rainforest reserve.

Binna Burra Mountain Lodge’s luxury Sky Lodges opened on September 1, the campground and teahouses on September 14.

For more information, visit Binna Burra Mountain Lodge’s website here or Facebook here

 

[Header Image: Binna Burra Lodge / Facebook] 

 

TERRA AUSTRALIA JOINS THE ECOTOURISM AUSTRALIA BUSINESS COMMUNITY

Ecotourism Australia welcomes Terra Australia as a Business Member.

Terra Australia, as part of Terra Group, is member to a network of inbound travel agencies worldwide. The organisation has been operating since 1998 across four continents and 34 different destinations.

Terra Group are recognised around the world for their experience and expertise in tailor-made travel. Established in 2013 and based in Brisbane, Terra Australia designs personalised trips for individuals and professional tour operators alike.

Royal National Park

Photo: Terra Australia

Terra Australia pride themselves on offering authentic, responsible and sustainable travel experiences.

They believe that knowledge of the ground is fundamental and carry out regular ‘scouting trips’ to enhance the unique and personalised nature of their service. The Terra Australia team are self-proclaimed ‘Aussie specialists’, made up of people who love and are passionate about everything Australia has to offer.

With awareness of social and environmental issues that influence the Australian tourism industry, Terra Australia want to contribute positively by accounting for these issues and emphasising ECO-certified operators in the design of their services.

Photo: Terra Australia

General Manager, Christophe Napierai recognises that Terra Australia’s vocation is above all else, to share the fascination and wonder of Australia to its visitors in a responsible way.

We are happy to welcome Terra Australia to our Ecotourism Australia family as a Business Member.

For more information, visit the Terra Group webpage or check them out on Facebook 

Interested in becoming an Ecotourism Australia Business Member? Find out more here 

[Header image: Terra Australia]

MARGARET RIVER RETREAT ACHIEVES ECOTOURISM CERTIFICATION

Margaret River Retreat, near the majestic Boranup Forest National Park in Western Australia, is our newest ECO certified accommodation, and offers a diverse mix of accommodation styles ideal for any holidaymaker. These include luxury eco-glamping and four self-contained studio rooms, plus a safari camp and bush camp, both of which should be open by 2021.

Hugged by Forest Grove National Park and adjacent to Wadandi Track and trails, the privately-owned property forms part of a natural wildlife corridor between Augusta, Margaret River and Nannup all the way to Contos Beach. The 75-acre farm has been meticulously re-worked to form an important connection to place, community, culture, family and friends.

The location offers market garden and small orchard growing areas to provide organically grown, seasonal fruit and vegetables to the onsite café, which focuses on grown and gathered produce from local producers and the onsite gardens. Margaret River Retreat also aims to harness its connections with the local Wadandi people through learning about local flora dyes for fabric printing workshops and developing ongoing relationships with the local community of Indigenous people.  

MRR Forest

Photo credit – Instagram – Margaret River Retreat

Glamping offers a value-filled, luxuriously appointed and sustainable way to stay in this beautiful region, and Margaret River Retreat’s canvas cabins are situated within a dedicated area overlooking the Forest Grove National Park. Cabins are designed by Australian companies who pride themselves on achieving a high level of sustainability, including the use and manufacture of Australian Army grade canvas that is much longer lasting.

The cabins are equipped with off-grid technologies, such as solar power batteries for recharging devices and providing ambient and direct lighting.  Cabins also feature measures aimed at reducing energy consumption and increasing the use of renewables, an example of which is that six of the ten glamping cabins are solar energy cabins which use Yeti battery storage power boxes to charge mobile phones and lights. The accommodation also offers communal kitchen facilities for glamping guests, which further reduces the overall need for individual appliances. Guests are encouraged to hire an outdoor woodfire to cook on, bring extra warm clothes and sit around a central fire pit to reduce the need for heaters in their tents. Tents are treated with a natural mould resistant product and vinegar spray to remove and prevent mould stains on the canvas. They have also been raised to prevent mice infestations burrowing under the canvas and creating pockets in the floor. Each tent opening is regularly sprayed with Peppermint and Eucalyptus spray to prevent ants from entering the tents. The retreat’s goal is to get the most out of their tents to avoid replacement.

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Studio room – Photo credit Margaret River Retreat 

Further showcasing their environmental ethos, Margaret River Retreat uses locally owned Bio Bean Coffee – small batch roasted coffee with certified organic and Fairtrade coffee beans whose packaging is compostable. Used coffee grounds are collected each week and placed in the retreat’s composting and worm farming systems. Another supplier used is Bannister Downs, whose premium dairy products use Ecolean packaging which is lightweight, light protected and flexible for waste reduction and storage minimisation. Rooms are furnished and decorated with eco-minded suppliers, such as Armadillo, Pony Rider and Seljac Brand.

MRROzPig

Photo credit – Margaret River Retreat complimentary Oz-pig set up at your cabin.

The environment is a key focus for Margaret River Retreat, with the business’ intention being to continue to rehabilitate the natural watercourse and wetland areas with annual endemic plantings. Weed control management is documented for invasive plant species, such as Arum Lily and Sodden Melon, and waste management is also well managed: soft plastics are collected and recycled through an available soft plastics recycling program (e.g. Redcycle) and organic kitchen waste is composted or fed to domestic or farm animals.  The retreat also plans to implement solar hot water systems and grey water systems on all existing bathroom and laundry amenities.

MRRBillyCamp

Billy Camp – Photo credit Margaret River Retreat

Finally, Margaret River Retreat benefits communities by partnering with SoapAid to collect, recycle and redistribute soap from the tourism accommodation industry to communities in need of hygiene education, and donates all of its near date food to the local Margaret River Soup Kitchen on a monthly basis.

MRR SafariCamp

Safari Camp – Photo credit Margaret River Retreat

Staff are offered a sustainable best practice guide upon confirmation of their employment agreement and given a tour of the property on the first day to introduce them to the property’s recycling systems, gardening, composting, worm farm, sustainable cleaning practices and other waste management practices.

Congratulations once again to Margaret River Retreat for achieving Ecotourism certification for their glamping village and studio rooms, and welcome to the Ecotourism Australia family!

To find out more about Margaret River Retreat, visit their website or Facebook page.

COVID-19 AND THE FUTURE OF SUSTAINABLE TOURISM

Conversation with Xu Jing, independent tourism adviser & former Director of Asia and the Pacific, UNWTO

Over the past few months, it has become evident that the tourism sector is one of the hardest hit by the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. With international travel coming to a complete halt and constantly changing border restrictions between Australian states, not to mention intrastate limitations on how far and in what way people are allowed to travel, it is sometimes hard to see how there can be a light at the end of this tunnel. Our Communications Manager, Lina Cronin, spoke to former Director of Asia and the Pacific at the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) in Madrid to get an international perspective on the crisis and hear his thoughts on how the tourism sector has the opportunity to rise up to be more sustainable and responsible as a result of this pandemic.

EA: Xu Jing, thank you so much for taking the time to chat to Ecotourism Australia.

XJ: Good afternoon from sunny Madrid!

EA: Tourism around the world has stopped because of COVID-19. What impact has this had on livelihoods, particularly in developing countries?

XJ: The outbreak of the coronavirus into a global pandemic has hit the tourism industry much more severely than any crisis of any scale before it. In fact, the impact has been strongly felt in all facets of society, particularly in the informal sector of tourism and with the numerous SMEs [small to medium enterprises] in developing countries. For instance, it is believed that many small businesses in Phuket will barely survive if the crisis lasts for more than three months because they depend mainly on inbound international traffic. The same is true for island destinations like the Maldives and Fiji.

At the same time, it is heartening to note that despite the catastrophic setbacks, countries in South East Asia are making timely efforts to stimulate domestic tourism rather than waiting for the reopening of national borders, which in reality is beyond the control of their tourism administrations. Such actions may not be that beneficial to profit making, yet they are conducive to creating some sort of cash flow as well as saving jobs. It is also encouraging to see that for destinations with larger populations, such as China, summer bookings within the country have reached some 65-70 percent of capacity as compared with the previous year, according to latest industry reports.

EA: That is encouraging. As an industry professional, you’ve spent a large part of your career working in Europe. From what our members tell us, European travellers are often looking for more sustainable travel options. Do you think there is a growing expectation of sustainability from European travellers? 

XJ: Tourism will no longer be the same after COVID-19, not just for the post-virus recovery period but also for the future. Tourism will be perceived differently when it comes to its definition, planning and development, as well as its promotion.

National tourism administrations and destinations are currently concerned about coming up with plans for the immediate recovery. Understandably so. But the long-term perspective of tourism, in my opinion, will most likely follow a trajectory of paying more attention to the social and humanistic factors of tourism as a result of the pandemic. Consequently, demand for products centred around achieving harmony with nature, being climate-friendly and focusing on sustainable production and consumption will be on the rise, particularly for more matured source markets such as Europe.  

EA: How can the tourism sector use this COVID-19 induced downtime to build back better and be more sustainable in the future?

XJ: More than ever, we, as tourism professionals, must advocate the principle of sustainability in the planning and development as well as the management of tourism.

Over the years, we have had too many governments and enterprises developing large scale projects and construction of assets of volume under the excuse of embracing the high-growth tourism industry in the Asia-Pacific region. If we had had a greater focus on sustainability from the beginning instead of only pursuing profits, we might have been better placed to survive the current crisis. The original form of tourism after all is that of a family-based bed & breakfast. If there was only one thing we could change about our industry after the pandemic, I would say it would be to embrace the principle of “less is more” – this will aid the long-term health of our industry.

More strategically speaking, rethinking is needed to build tourism back better in order to attain the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). We need to rethink what our fundamental concept of developing tourism should be. I sincerely believe that tourism is about more than the basic enjoyment and rights of mankind. Tourism can and should be an effective means to achieve the SDGs set forth by the United Nations.

EA: Addressing climate change was a big topic in the tourism sector before COVID-19 hit. Do you still think this is as important now?

XJ: Tourism must be a force for good. The 8% CO2 emissions from the tourism industry are 8% too many! I am hopeful that we can turn this crisis into an opportunity whereby tourism can contribute more to the sustainable production of resources and consumption of goods and services.

More than ever, people now have a better understanding of the destructive nature of irresponsible travel behaviour. This pandemic has hit not just one country or one region but the entire planet earth. If we, as human beings, do not behave responsibly, including when we travel, then the whole planet is threatened. 

I do think that as a result of this crisis and the increased awareness of climate change impacts, discussions will be on the rise on how to disperse tourism traffic to less visited and more remote areas, how to mitigate the negative impact of tourism on climate change and how to address the rethinking of mass tourism products.

EA: Do you believe tourism can contribute to a better world for people and planet?

XJ: As a whole, responsible tourism is part of a much bigger push toward sustainability, and this will be more tabled globally so that tourists can be encouraged to behave in more environmentally friendly ways and in harmony with nature. Industry players will have to align their products more towards slow-paced tourism and the public sector will be more encouraged to look at regional development as part and parcel of solving the issue of over-concentrated tourism.

As we speak, the global pandemic is still spreading like wildfire and when the health crisis has unfortunately gone beyond its original boundary into potential geopolitical conflicts, we must use tourism as a powerful force for peace, solidarity and mutual understanding among the peoples of the world. As early as in 1967, the United Nations declared the International Year of Tourism: Passport to Peace. I see no reason why, decades later, we should not continue to raise our flag high in advocating tourism as a vital force for peace, as stipulated in the Manila Declaration on World Tourism in 1980.

mountain biking Pemberton Discovery Xu Jing article

Photo: ECO certified operators like Pemberton Discovery Tours see tourism as a way to benefit people and planet.

In 2019, Ecotourism Australia signed a partnership agreement with the UNWTO, setting the stage for increased collaboration between the two organisations. Read more about it here.

For more information on the World Tourism Organization, visit https://www.unwto.org/.