Six additional bushfire-affected destinations will receive support to build back better and revitalise their local economies through nature-based tourism, thanks to a new partnership between Ecotourism Australia and WWF-Australia.
The Blue Mountains, Central Coast, Coffs Harbour, and Port Macquarie-Hastings in New South Wales, Kangaroo Island in South Australia, and Scenic Rim in South East Queensland will benefit from the partnership and begin their journey to become certified ECO Destinations.
Each destination will be supported by WWF-Australia with a two-year $30,000 package that covers all costs to progress through Ecotourism Australia’s ECO Destination program.
Ecotourism Australia’s Chief Executive Rod Hillman said he was delighted to have the six new destinations join East Gippsland in Victoria and Quandamooka Country in Queensland in the program.
“We are working hard to support our tourism industry that has been hit hard in 2020 by bushfires and COVID and can see tangible benefits for regional tourism through this funding program,” he said.
WWF-Australia’s CEO Dermot O’Gorman said the partnership would help to restore the local economies in bushfire-affected destinations.
“The devasting double blow of the fires and pandemic has left many communities that depend on tourism hurting like never before. This partnership will help Australia’s nature-based tourism sector get back on its feet and support tourism activities that are good for both people and the environment,” he said.
Blue Mountains Mayor Mark Greenhill said he was incredibly proud that the region will be recognised as a world-class ecotourism destination.
“This certification will help us effectively promote our region to the increasing proportion of travellers who are hungry for sustainable travel experiences. It’s the stamp of approval that we are who we say we are – an authentic destination for environmentally aware visitors,” he said.
Fiona Barden from Coffs Harbour City Council said “obtaining ECO Destination status for Coffs Coast will enable our destination, the communities, environments and values, to thrive through long-term sustainable tourism management.
“By working together with our key stakeholders, businesses and communities we can unite in the importance of becoming an ECO Destination, and deliver multiple benefits for our people and places,” she said.
Scenic Rim Regional Council endorsed the partnership with EA and WWF-Australia with Mayor Greg Christensen commenting the offer represented a tremendous opportunity for the region.
“By becoming a Certified ECO Destination, the Scenic Rim will join an established global network of like-minded destinations striving for ecotourism excellence,” he said.
“ECO Destination Certification has previously been identified as a goal for the Scenic Rim and would enhance our region’s tourism offering and credentials, broadening our appeal to the visitors we wish to attract – those who value sustainability and minimal impacts on the natural environment.”
Central Coast Council Mayor Lisa Matthews said the program will play a key role in the Central Coast’s future as a tourism hub.
“This has been a year of unprecedented challenges and the Central Coast is excited to be working with Ecotourism Australia to ensure nature and ecotourism flourishes in our region and plays an important role in our recovery and our future as a tourist destination,” she said.
With the demand for sustainable travel experiences growing worldwide, Mr Hillman said “the ECO Destination Certification program assures travellers that certified destinations are backed by a strong, well-managed commitment to sustainable practices and provide high-quality nature-based tourism experiences within the region.”