When you live in a country with so many natural riches, it is disappointing to hear it is no longer considered a leader in ecotourism. Some of the world’s experts on nature-based tourism are gathering in Noosa, Queensland, for a conference and their assessment of what we have to offer is not flattering.
The founder of adventure tour operator Gap Adventures, Bruce Poon Tip, says Australia “pales in comparison” to countries such as New Zealand and Costa Rica, which have had a strong and consistent message on ecotourism. Poon Tip, who is a keynote speaker at the Global Eco Asia-Pacific Tourism conference, which starts today, says few countries can match Australia’s ecotourism assets, yet it continues to reach for the “lower-hanging fruit” of mass tourism.
Conference convener Tony Charters says Australia was a pioneer of ecotourism in the early 1990s but has fallen well behind other parts of the world. Charters, an international ecotourism consultant based in Brisbane, says Australia was the second country in the world to set up an ecotourism body (Ecotourism Australia) and its ecotourism accreditation scheme was the first in the world. The scheme is still going strong, with more than 1000 operators now involved but Australia has otherwise taken its eye off the ball.
“We probably haven’t moved past where we were in the ’90s,” Charters says. “Other people have grabbed the concepts Australia developed and run with them and we’ve almost become an innocent bystander.”
Poon Tip, who is based in Toronto, believes Australia suffers from… (click here to keep reading this article by Jane E. Fraser)