Ecotourism Australia (EA) is always looking for opportunities to improve its certification programs. After moving its certification application online in 2019, Ecotourism Australia has looked at how to improve its auditing process for its ECO, Climate Action (CA) and Respecting Our Culture (ROC) Certification programs.
A series of online audits were successfully conducted in August/September 2020. The online format presents many advantages for all parties involved in the audit process (the operators, the auditors and EA), and is well-aligned with our objective of reducing our carbon emissions. Hence, EA has decided to revise its compliance management policy to include online audits as a form of compliance verification for the ECO, CA and ROC Certification programs.
Whether they are conducted onsite or online, audits are a constructive process that gives certified operators an excellent opportunity to showcase their great initiatives and receive feedback from an ecotourism expert on their operations. For the ECO, CA and ROC Certification programs, conducting an audit includes:
– A desktop review of the documentation required for certification;
– A review of online customer feedback;
– Interviews with at least one key staff member and/or guide;
– A site/vehicle/vessel inspection (virtual for online audits).
The trial has helped identify some instances when an online audit would be preferable over an onsite audit, and vice versa. The compliance management policy was updated to:
– Replace the initial desktop assessment by an audit (online or onsite);
– Conduct online audits with virtual visits when:
- The head office and the facilities or tour vehicle/vessels are not in the same location; or
- The operator has previously had a successful onsite audit (certification maintained or corrective actions completed); or
- The operator is in a remote location (including islands, 4WD access only, no nearby airport with direct flights from a capital city).
– Conduct onsite audits when:
- An operator has never been audited onsite, and an auditor is available for onsite audits in their region; or
- The previous audit has identified major corrective actions related to the business’ operations (this does not include corrective actions related to the business documentation) and recommended the next audit to be done onsite again; or
- An auditor conducts an online audit and identifies a potential major compliance issue that cannot be verified during an online audit; or
- An operator requests an onsite audit (travel fees may apply); or
- A park agency requests an onsite audit (travel fees may apply).
These changes will provide more flexibility and fewer disruptions for EA’s certified operators. Over time, operators will also benefit from additional continuous improvement opportunities. For example, operators will receive feedback from auditors with different expertise in ecotourism topics as online audits do not have to be regionally-assigned. Staff members from various locations – even remote – can now join online audits and do virtual tours, which can help the auditor to assess compliance across the entire business activities.
With EA’s online portal launched in 2019, auditors now have easy access to operators’ documentation. It reduces the time spent on reviewing documentation during the audit so that the discussion can be more focused on operations.
Audits are an important part of EA’s certification process. These positive changes will allow us to better support our members while increasing our compliance assurance.
View the updated compliance management policy here.
For questions and comments, contact Eloise Touchot, Certification Manager at [email protected].
Sustainability is crucial when assessing financial, environmental and social impacts of an organisation. Some sustainable choices are cost effective, community empowering and environmentally friendly, but it is often seen as a long-term strategy.
For some it is a mindset shift to prioritise responsible long-term decisions over short term gain. Some stress that governments are the only organisations that can make real changes and normalize beneficial behaviours. Maybe both assumptions are correct. After all, we can’t do it alone.
In the meantime, innovative minds have been shifting their business models or changing their diet to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. One of our Advanced Ecotourism certified members here in Australia, understands that resilience and sustainability is an imperative for the success of his business.
Ecotourism Australia interviewed Innes Larkin, Founder and CEO of award-winning Mt Barney Lodge.
Innes and his family are actively engaged in supporting the welfare of their community and work closely with the local council.
They are involved in an array of environmental projects and think globally and act locally in the Scenic Rim.
Ecotourism Australia (EA): With a history of environmental involvement in your community you and your family have been increasing your commitment to sustainability through diverse methods. Recently, you started reducing your carbon footprint by selectively choosing your food and beverage suppliers, how do you do that?
Innes Larkin (IL): In 2015 Tracey Larkin organised a grant which then got 10-20 tourism businesses in the Scenic Rim to participate, it was facilitated by the Ethos Foundation and the winner was awarded a free Ecotourism Australia application fee for certification. Mount Barney Lodge abstained from the competition as we were the organisers and were already EA members. The grant was mostly about food.
We coined the term SLAPPPED – as if we had just slapped a meal together as a way of softly starting the conversation. It stands for Sustainable, Locally Sourced, Australian grown, owned or made, Palm oil free, Plastic free, Plant based, Environmentally friendly, Delicious.
We have since gone even further with the SLAPPPED acronym and other measures.
EA: Do you use a specific platform, or do you look for suppliers yourself (online, word of mouth, media, NGOs)?
IL: We do our own research but using SLAPPPED as the criteria. We start with local providers, ask them if they have what we’re looking for and then only get products from multinational providers when we have no local option.
EA: Local products can be expensive, is the price difference included in visitor fees or is it covered through absorption costing methods by the business?
IL: A bit of both, some products can be cheaper and sometimes they’re not. Our price has not gone up since we introduced this SLAPPPED. We know our business is working harder within the local economy and is becoming a positive by-product.
EA: In order to explain that purchasing local products is worth doing, either financially speaking or through the visitor experience, what key words would come to mind?
IL: It comes down to your business philosophy. We see our business as an extension of our personal philosophies so there is no point in finding the cheapest product if that money does not help our region. “Living local economies” is what we are aiming for.
EA: As a tourism business owner, what would simplify your task when ordering local / organic food and beverage?
IL: Our council Scenic Rim Regional Council has been proactive in promoting eat and buy local. We can learn heaps by just being engaged!
If each council was asked to include eat local spreadsheets, local initiatives and local product contacts, this could help the tourism industry to adapt easily.
EA: On your website, you showcase a permaculture garden that you and your family built during the COVID-19 lockdown, this seems like a wonderful idea, as it reuses your composted food scraps to feed soil biology and capture carbon while providing organic food for your Lodge and adds an attractive feature to your business. How long did it take to design/build and who is maintaining it?
IL: The clearing of the site, and building took us probably one full week of work with help from Tracey and Connor. The planting is Tracey’s baby and all green maintenance is also her passion, but if there is construction maintenance, that will come back to me or the outdoor team.
EA: Building soil and planting could be a carbon offsetting program for visitors, what comes to mind that could make this difficult to achieve? Costs, visitor interest, carbon footprint calculation?
IL: I think visitor interest is growing but most of these activities are being done by us because we love them, not because we want to calculate the carbon offsetting amount. I would say that there is a lot of things we do (composting, recycling of waste, plastic bag recycling, gardening) without calculating the actual carbon return but are just doing it for the positive benefits and because it’s fun!
EA: What’s next on your agenda?
IL: We are working with multiple stakeholders to improve our bushfire resilience in the Scenic Rim and researching better water reliability and availability.
EA: Any advice to other tourism business operators?
IL: Sustainability is a continuing journey, allow yourself the time and priority to just do it. Educate your guests on what you are doing as their enthusiasm will stimulate your enthusiasm. Get involved with your local community, participate in workshops and cooperate with other businesses!
Mt Barney Lodge team is committed to sustainability so Innes and his team added a ‘buy local’ policy. Some of their major initiatives include:
- Waste management: all green waste generated on a 60km round trip is carted by the business and guests receive explanations about sustainability efforts implemented by the Larkin family and their staff;
- Food: increase onsite food production through the permaculture garden; reuse green waste (compost) to improve soil organic carbon content in the property; reduce meat portions in the menu and introduce vegetarian options with locally grown produce;
- Transport: change vehicle usage habits through carpooling, central parking location and limiting vehicle usage on site.
- Bushfire resilience: after the 2019 bushfires, ‘Barney Bonds’ were released for people to be able to come back after fires. Mt Barney Lodge also contributed to and was featured in the Australian Bushfire and Climate Plan (2020).
If you would like to know more about the direct and indirect costs of food production on human health and the environment, have a look at these two articles (UN environmental programme):
- 10 things you should know about industrial farming
- Why sustainable food systems are needed in a post-COVID world
For more information visit Mt Barney Lodge’s website.
[Images: Mt Barney Lodge]
Ecotourism Australia’s members have elected two new directors and three returning directors to the Ecotourism Australia Board, as announced during yesterday’s Annual General Meeting (AGM) held in Brisbane and streamed nationally via videoconference.
As per Ecotourism Australia’s Constitution, five out of ten directors are required to stand down each year. There were seven nominees for the five available positions.
Re-elected Chair of Ecotourism Australia, Dr Claire Ellis, has welcomed Caroline Densley from Diverse Travel Australia (certified operator) and Janet Mackay from TRC Tourism (business member) onto the Board of directors for a two-year term.
Together with returning directors Innes Larkin (re-elected Deputy Chair), Alysia Brandenburg and Peter Johnson, these directors will join Claire Ellis, Rosie Sandover, Noreen Breakey, Wendy Hills and Michael Collins to form Ecotourism Australia’s Board for the next twelve months.
Dr Ellis thanked outgoing members Rick Murray and Peter Cochrane for their commitment and great service to the organisation.
Claire Ellis welcomed the new Board and said she was looking forward to a more prosperous and settled 2021 for our industry.
“The past year has been incredibly challenging for our members and the wider tourism industry and we can only hope that the new year will bring a more settled period. Our focus in 2021 will be to continue our support for members and advocating for ecotourism on many platforms,” Claire Ellis said.
For questions and comments, please contact:
Ingrid Huitema – Communications and Marketing, Ecotourism Australia
0408 112 728 / [email protected]
Congratulations to Quandamooka Coast for achieving ECO and ROC Certifications for its Yalingbila Whale Tours and Cultural Guided Land Based Walks. Quandamooka Coast is the tourism arm of QYAC (Quandamooka Yoolooburrabee Aboriginal Corporation) who also operate ECO certified Redlands Kayak Tours and ECO, ROC and Climate Action certified Minjerribah Camping.
QYAC is a Registered Prescribed Body Corporate created under the Native Title Act 1993 to manage the recognised Native Title rights and interests of the Quandamooka People. Through its tourism division, QYAC offers a range of tours that are designed to showcase both the cultural heritage and spectacular landscape of Quandamookajara (Quandamooka Country – Moreton Bay area)
Every year, between June and October, Yalingbila Whale Tours enable guests to experience humpback whales migrating past Minjerribah (North Stradbroke Island). This tour is owned and operated by the Quandamooka people. It offers a day cruise with local Aboriginal guides sharing cultural knowledge about Yalingbila (whales) and the spiritual connection these creatures share with the Quandamooka people, part of one of the oldest living cultures in the world. The informative guides also share scientific knowledge about Yalingibla and their migration journey.
Quandamooka Coast offers Cultural Guided Land Based Walks such as the Mulumba Cultural Walk. This walk is guided by a Quandamooka tour guide. The tour takes guests on a journey around the rocky headland at Mulumba (Point Lookout) through the Gorge Walk. If offers guests interpretation of the landscape, creation stories, bush tucker identification and information about medicinal bush plants, trees and ochre.
Quandamooka Coast is continually striving to offer sustainable, informative, and culturally engaging products for its guests. The organisation conducts its tours in a way that maximises the cultural experience and minimises the potential negative impacts its operations can have on the environment.
Quandamooka Rangers are actively working every day to improve the health of (Quandamooka Country). Land management activities that are carried out include tree planting, habitat restoration, cultural site management, mining rehabilitation, traditional fire management, and weed eradication. Not only do these activities provide for the natural, cultural, and scenic attraction that brings people to Quandamookajara, these activities store carbon in rehabilitated areas and tree planting, improve habitat for threatened species such as koalas and acid frogs, reduce the risk of bushfire and in turn lower the resulting carbon emissions.
QYAC has also joined Ecotourism Australia’s ECO Destination Certification program and Quandamooka Country has begun the journey towards becoming a certified ECO Destination. For more information click here.
Congratulations once again to Quandamooka Coast for achieving Ecotourism and ROC Certification!
[Pictures sourced from Quandamooka Coast]
Dr Jane Goodall to speak at online conference Travel DAZE in November
Thought-provoking keynote speakers, interviews and panels presented virtually will be feature at this year’s online conference Travel DAZE.
The five-day event 2-6 November, will include two sessions each day and bring together the best minds from within the travel industry along with external experts to foster its recovery.
Speakers include Dr Jane Goodall, founder of G Adventures Bruce Poon Tip and CEO/ Managing Director of Virgin Australia Group Paul Scurrah to name just a few.
These unprecedented times have brought the travel industry to its knees, decimating tourism globally.
How do we rebuild and re-emerge stronger than ever?
Travel DAZE will explore what tangible steps you can take toward rebuilding a sustainable and profitable future.
The industry is in shock, but success can be forged through adversity. The aim is to evolve to recover.
Travel DAZE 2020 is a free-to-attend forum. Register now to secure your place.
[All photos supplied by: The Misfits Media Company]
Voting is now open for Ecotourism Australia’s Board of Directors 2020/21.
The persons detailed below have nominated and are eligible to stand for the 2020 Election of Directors.
Five positions on the Board will be filled by this year’s election.
Candidates listed are in alphabetical order by surname. Please read on for their supplied biographies.
Current Director, renominating
Alysia has been an active Director of Ecotourism Australia for the past two years and has served on the Policy and Advocacy and Conference and Awards committees and chaired the Communications and Marketing Sub-committee and Destinations Working Group.
As the Australian tourism industry faces unprecedented challenges, Alysia is keen to continue to work hard with fellow Ecotourism Australia Board Directors and staff to ensure the significance of the sector and the voice of nature-based and ecotourism is heard and recognised.
Alysia is a strong advocate for EA’s benchmark accreditation programs and industry standards and champions the importance of maintaining quality standards, compliance and skills training. Alysia will work to strengthen the products and services that Ecotourism Australia provides to its members as we move further into digital engagement and delivery.
She demonstrates strong leadership attributes in governance, financial accountability, strategic planning and membership value. Her extensive experience in emergency response and recovery has been at the forefront this year in regard to the national fire and COVID19 crises.
Alysia holds a Master in Tourism-Monash, Certificate in Community Engagement (Iapt2) and has a passion for engaging with the tourism sector in a collaborate manner, focused on sustainable destination planning, accessibility and visitor experience development.
She has a personal commitment to the promotion of the health benefits of engaging with nature and is dedicated to experience development that connects visitors with people, place and storytelling in a sustainable manner.
Alysia enjoyed after 19-year career at Parks Victoria, culminating in the senior position of Tourism Manager, where she was the architect of award-winning initiatives and led tour operator reforms to reduce red tape, promote resilience and create enabling environments for operators.
Alysia has worked with regional operators and government organisations on planning, feasibility and product development as well as with VTIC on COVID19 industry programs.
Alysia served on numerous tourism organisations, including being Chair of Yarra Valley Campaign Committee and is currently a Regional Tourism Ambassador with ART.
Business member: Wet Tropics Management Authority
Scott is the current Executive Director for the Wet Tropics Management Authority, a statutory body with the responsibility of managing the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area. Prior to this role, Scott has worked for the Queensland state Government since 1995 in various roles and agencies including the Department of Primary Industries, Natural Resources and Water, and the Department of Environment and Science.As the Executive Director for just over five years, Scott has successfully and significantly improved partnerships with Rainforest Aboriginal Peoples, the tourism industry, community and Government organisations to deliver on-ground management and improvement to the World Heritage Area. Scott has been passionate about partnering with the tourism industry to ‘tell the story’ of the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area. The tourism industry isin the perfect place to take on the stewardship of our natural areas, to protect the assets that attract its visitors and clients. This partnership approach has led to collaborative campaigns in marketing in Tropical North Queensland that focus on the natural assets of the region. As well as this, Scott’s team have partnered with tourism operators to fund research projects and to plan for future de-carbonisation of the industry.The Wet Tropics Management Authority has led a Wet Tropics Tour Guide training program that develops capacity to for tour guides:
- to build tourism industry knowledge of the World Heritage Area and its values and enhance visitor experiences
- to create networking, information and skill sharing opportunities for Wet Tropics stakeholders
- to build awareness of land manager and Aboriginal Traditional Owner protocols.
Scott is passionate about supporting First Nations Peoples to develop unique visitor experience and believes that Ecotourism Australia can play a strong role in this area. Scott has received two Australia Days Awards for leadership in the public service.
Certified operator: Diverse Travel Australia
Caroline Densley is an owner and Director of Diverse Travel Australia a ROC Accredited inbound tour operator that specialises in wildlife, nature & Aboriginal cultural experiences across Australia. For over 22 years Caroline has been actively involved in the inbound tourism sector and is a passionate advocate for responsible and sustainable tourism across Australia.
For 16 years Caroline was a committee member on South Australia’s branch committee of the Australian Tourism Export Council (ATEC), the peak tourism export industry body that represents the interests of over 1,000 tourism export companies throughout Australia. Over the past two decades she has served on several tourism industry committees, a Nature Based Tourism Taskforce in South Australia and several National committees including one that developed the highly successful national Indigenous Tourism Champions Programme (ITCP), that supported Aboriginal Tourism development across Australia. Caroline was a mentor to several Aboriginal owned and operated business throughout the program’s duration.
Through her mentoring roles Caroline has established ongoing strong relationships with the Aboriginal owned & operated businesses across Australia and she continues to educate the wider inbound tourism industry on the value of including Aboriginal experiences into client itineraries.
As an Australian destination specialist Caroline has an intimate knowledge of remote and regional Australia and understands the strength and value of Ecotourism accredited members to Australia’s story.
Caroline is a founding member of the Koala Clancy Foundation a not for profit incorporated association that supports the wild koalas of the Western Plains of Victoria. The Koala Clancy Foundation is inspiring travellers and local communities to help ensure a future for wild koalas through enhancement and protection of their natural habitat.
Having spoken with some of the current Ecotourism Australia Board Members Caroline feels she has experience and skills that will add value to the Board through her extensive experience in the tourism trade distribution, product development and marketing.
In 2019 Caroline was awarded the Australian Tourism Export Council’s (ATEC) prestigious Captain Trevor Haworth Outstanding Contribution by an Individual to the Tourism Export Industry award.
Certified operator: Diamond Waters Treehouse Retreat
Current Director, renominating
Peter is a current member of the Ecotourism Board and Chairperson of the Certification Committee.
With his wife Kerry, he is the owner/operator of Diamond Waters Treehouse Retreat, a multi-award winning luxury eco retreat and events centre on the Mid North Coast of New South Wales. The Treehouse Retreat is currently Advance Ecotourism and Climate Action Business certified.
Peter and Kerry have been engaged with the Tourism industry since they started the exciting journey of rehabilitating their 13 acre rural property in 2004. Peter is also a Committee Member/Risk Manager for the Slice of Haven Food and Wine Festival (13 years) and Kerry is a Board Member of the Greater Port Macquarie Tourism Association. Together, they have developed a strong and lasting passion for the Tourism industry since moving to their new home in Dunbogan NSW.
Prior to his engagement with tourism, Peter was the CEO of several private and public hospitals, large and small. It is in this capacity he honed his skills in the areas of: corporate governance; financial management; risk management; standards compliance, and in particular, performance management and benchmarking. He has been for 27 years, and still remains, an active Assessor for the Australian Council on Healthcare Standards, the certification body for hospitals and healthcare systems. In this capacity he brings to EA, the experience of other certification systems nationally and internationally.
As a Board Member of EA he has been privileged to work through the 2019-2020 challenges of Bushfire and COVID. In his role of Certification Committee Chairperson, he has thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to participate in the introduction of on-line certification processes and the development of future outcome based performance indicators for tourism operators. He would very much like to continue assisting EA and its members in these important areas of development.
Certified operator: Mt Barney Lodge
Current Director, renominating
Innes Larkin has been active in the outdoors from an early age, hiking and climbing in Australasia, Europe, UK, and Nepal including expeditions to Mera Peak and Ama Dablam. In 2016 Innes was jointly awarded the Australian Search and Rescue award.
A teacher with a Masters in Outdoor Education, Innes has taught in London, and QLD. In 2006 Innes and Tracey Larkin purchased Mt Barney Lodge which holds Advanced Ecotourism Accreditation with Ecotourism Australia.
From 2010 to 2012 Innes spearheaded a campaign to “Keep the Scenic Rim Scenic”. This was in response to Coal and Coal Seam Gas mining moving into the Ecotourism hotspot. A legacy of this campaign is that the Scenic Rim is now Coal and Gas Free.
Twice a member of the Community Advisory Committee for the Gondwanan Rainforests of Australia World Heritage property, as well as Deputy Chair of Ecotourism Australia and additionally the chair of the Executive and Finance and Conference committees. Innes is also Chair of the Global Eco Conference committee helping to facilitate the 2019 and 2020 Global Eco conferences.
Innes is passionate about sustainable tourism and the lasting legacies it can bring to a region.
Business member: TRC Tourism
Janet Mackay is the owner and Director of TRC Tourism (TRC). TRC is a leading global tourism consultancy based in Australia and New Zealand. For over 20 years the company has engaged with businesses, governments and communities around the world to enhance peoples’ lives and the places they live through sustainable tourism, recreation and conservation planning, development and management.
Janet is an accomplished tourism professional with more than 25 years’ practical experience including substantial knowledge in all aspects of sustainable tourism destination planning and product development. She is well-known as a destination and visitor experience planning leader, as well as related infrastructure and product development. This has seen Janet working with multiple governments, agencies, stakeholders and the tourism sector to develop plans and products for a wide range of attractions, infrastructure, services and interpretation. She has worked with all level of governments to determine appropriate governance models to ensure maximum effectiveness in the delivery of sustainable tourism outcomes.
She also provides mentoring and training for tourism operators and managers. Janet’s passion lies in ecotourism particularly working with indigenous communities to create and deliver new experiences that create sustainable economic, social and cultural outcomes. Janet’s leadership in sustainable tourism is demonstrated by her award-winning planning approach toward destination planning and management. TRC offsets all its carbon emissions through the Path Zero program and is a member of the Global Sustainable Tourism Council. Under Janet’s direction, the Sustainable Development Goals are embedded into TRC’s planning process for every project.
With extensive networks at all levels of the public and private sector in all jurisdictions across Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific, and governance experience as the Director of her own company Janet is well placed to be an effective communicator and champion as a Board member of Ecotourism Australia.
I’m incredibly fortunate to lead a global philanthropic conservation program that’s centred on empowering people to be the stewards of their lands for environmental, cultural and economic benefits. The BHP Foundation is a charity solely funded by BHP. As the Program Director of its Environmental Resilience global program since start-up four years ago, we’re now supporting many projects that are tackling the wicked problem of delivering enduring conservation outcomes in multi-function landscapes. Local enterprise and tourism are critical and my aim is to leverage private, public and philanthropic funds to support Indigenous peoples and local communities.
My work with partners around the world has shown that supporting ingenuity and enterprise can have lasting change for families and the environment – like Norbil’s idea to attract hummingbirds to his property in the Peruvian Amazon for tourists to photograph, who can now afford to convert his coffee growing to organic practices; or the generations-old biodynamic winery in Chile committing part of its property to conservation, to preserve habitat for bees that pollinate the vines. Sustainable tourism is an essential part of the solution to biodiversity loss, climate change impacts and loss of culture and connection to nature.
Projects I work on are supporting individuals and communities to be transformational. For example, the Chief Resilience Officer in Ningaloo brought the community together to map a future that will be resilient to the shocks and stressors of climate change; and the Indigenous ranger teams of the 10 deserts are building a website to deliver a coordinated tourism experience.
My work and networks are global, however it’s Australia that’s my home, and source of energy and knowledge. I worked in the hospitality industry through school and Uni (while completing a Zoology degree) spending a gap-year driving around Australia and using every opportunity since then to explore the beaches, bush, arid lands and forests of Australia. I worked at the WA Environmental Protection Authority for 16 years, followed by five yearsleading BHP Iron Ore’s environmental strategy and now four years with the BHP Foundation.
The perspectives from my work and background may complement the excellent work of Ecotourism Australia and the important role it’s going to play in the next few years that’ll be crucial to Australia’s economy and biodiversity, through its leading practices and credibility.
Financial members can vote online via Election Buddy for up to seven (7) days prior to the election – an email has been sent to your primary email contact.
Voting is now open and will close at 12:45 AEST during the AGM. The AGM will commence at 12:30 AEST on Wednesday, 21 October 2020 – broadcast online via Zoom from the Ecotourism Australia office, 1a 88 Buckland Road, Nundah, Queensland 4012.