Efforts by individual tourism operators to adapt to climate change are being negatively impacted by the lack of action and drive by the broader tourism industry, and by a lack of concrete government support for those operators implementing environmental initiatives, according to world-renowned Ecotourism Australia.
“At a time when travellers need compelling reasons to visit and to travel within Australia, there is not one project within a government tourism department in Australia to support and build the profile of the environmentally sustainable tourism operators who are world leaders in this regard,” said Ecotourism Australia CEO, Ms Kym Cheatham in the lead up to its Asia Pacific conference, Global Eco in Sydney next week (7 – 10 November).
“Our environmental certification was a world first, and has been recognised and awarded internationally, yet the tourism operators who participate in this program are still considered as special interest or a niche product in Australia.
“Environment Ministers can see the connection with ecotourism, but the idea of mainstream tourism embracing sustainable standards is not on the agenda.”
Ms Cheatham refers to the recent Global Green Economy Index, which surveys 27 countries making up 90 per cent of the international green economy. The index ranks Australia third in perception of green tourism, but only tenth in performance.
“People believe we are doing the right thing; we do have a good international image at the moment, but there is a question mark over whether we are delivering or not.
“Climate change fatigue has set in across the community. We have been distracted by a tumultuous political agenda and a series of headline grabbing events around the world, but we mustn’t allow this to sidetrack meaningful industry transformation.
“The science hasn’t gone away, and it is really up to governments to keep the industry focussed on adapting and remodelling, if we are to keep our reputation in tact,” said Ms Cheatham.
Seizing the potential of ecotourism is the key theme at the conference being staged in Sydney 7 – 10 November, by convenor Mr Tony Charters, a pioneer of the ecotourism industry.
“Credibility is a vital aspect for the Australian tourism industry,” said Mr Charters.
“We are never going to out do our competitors on price, particularly in the Asia Pacific region.
“We have stunning landscapes and natural assets – even in close proximity to cities like Sydney. Having pioneered the concept of ecotourism we now have to follow New Zealand’s lead by delivering products to the very highest standard.
New Zealand topped both the perception and performance index for tourism in the Global Green Economy Index.
The four-day Global Eco Asia Pacific conference is part of the 20th birthday celebrations for Ecotourism Australia, which includes a forum on indigenous tourism.