How does it work?

The program requires one organisation to hold the responsibility of certification however the criteria is holistic and considers all aspects of the region, the community and various stakeholder inputs.

It is recommended that one representative from the lead organisation is the main lead and contact for this program. This person is required to liaise with multiple council departments, the LTO, community groups and other levels of government to collect the resources and information required for the application. Ecotourism Australia’s Programs Manager works closely with the destination representative in a coaching role to assist with their application.

If you are a destination manager or similar and would like receive some more initial information about the program, we invite you to join Ecotourism Australia's Programs Manager for a phone call to gain a more in-depth understanding of the program. Then if you and the destination wish to proceed to the application, a personalised Cover letter and Engagement letter is forwarded to you for completion.

The process from engagement to certification is in four stages:

Stage 1 – Engagement
The destination commits to the program by returning the completed engagement letter, paying the annual certification fee and purchasing one of the support packages.
If selected, a Preliminary assessment is then undertaken to provide the destination an insight into the level of work ahead, and to kick start their application.
Ecotourism Australia then runs an in-depth onsite induction to assist the destination to get started, to create clear goals and ensure a thorough understanding of the requirements by all involved.

Stage 2 – Application
The destination works through the online application process with coaching from Ecotourism Australia via phone, email or face to face (various support packages are available). The process of certification allows a destination to proceed at its own speed, however, the average application period is 12 months. Engagement with tourism operators and community stakeholders is crucial throughout the application. (See diagram below for more detail)

Stage 3 – Audit
Once ready for certification, an independent third-party audit of the destination’s application is arranged. This is undertaken onsite (within the region) to verify the documentation submitted online and to offer opportunities to add more information that cannot be uploaded to the platform.
An audit normally takes three days (depending on the scope of the region and level of certification).

Stage 4 – Certification and Marketing
Once a compliant audit report is received the destination is awarded certification at the appropriate level. It can then choose to continue to work towards the next level of certification or remain with the current level. Marketing and communication tools are provided to assist the destination in spreading the news of its certification, and continuing opportunities for the destination are provided as they arise. Ongoing auditing is undertaken every two to four years thereafter to maintain certification.

The Application Process

ECO Destination application flowchart