DAINTREE DISCOVERY CENTRE
Advanced Ecotourism, Climate Action Business & ROC | Certified since 1999
EA: Twenty years is a long time. What is something you’ve learnt over the years that you wish you had known 20 years ago?
DDC: Establishing a successful eco-tourism business in the Daintree Rainforest in the 1980s was not easy. Building in a tropical wilderness, where the rainfall can be up to four metres a year is difficult at the best of times, but at this time the notion of building an environmental interpretive centre was viewed as somewhat crazy.
Apart from the badly corrugated road that smothered the forest in dust during the dry and was prone to washaways during the wet, there was no reticulated water or power supplies, no computers, no phone reception and certainly no internet. Many people thought the whole idea was a foolish dream but with unfailing persistence, dogged determination and boundless enthusiasm, founders Pam and Ron Birkett built an incredible asset that continues to set the benchmark for the ecotourism industry.
The Discovery Centre has survived a lot of ups and downs since those early days from the Pilot’s Strike (six weeks after we first opened the doors) to the Global Financial Crisis and what we have learned from this, is that it is important to evolve and adapt in difficult times. What is equally as important, is to then take the time to understand what worked and what didn't, so that businesses can become more robust and less susceptible to external influences.
EA: What piece of advice would you give to operators entering the ecotourism market today?
DDC: The Discovery Centre has always been considered ahead of its time but the leadership it shows in the ecotourism space hasn’t come by chance – it has taken a lot of hard work, effort, energy, commitment and financial investment. We believe sustainable, experience led product is the future of tourism, but we would encourage any new operators to do their research.
Ask the hard questions, is my product unique, is it viable, can I service the industry 365 days a year, and do I have the knowledge base / or can I learn, to deliver the product experience I am offering? Nothing stays the same in tourism, and operators need to stay relevant. We would also recommend strong strategic alliances with local, regional and state tourism organisations as well as recognised accreditations such as ECO Tourism Australia.
EA: What importance do you place in your ECO Certification?
DDC: The Daintree Discovery Centre has a long and successful track record in ecologically sustainable tourism and as such is widely recognised as an exemplary role model for the industry. With ongoing improvements and the regular introduction of new products and services, DDC continues to be a driving force in the environmental tourism market.
ECO Certification gives visitors piece of mind, that we are doing exactly what we preach. The on-going requirements of certification also gives us the opportunity to review, assess and determine what is right for our business going forward, and the best and most sustainable way of achieving this.