WHAT IS ECOTOURISM DESTINATION CERTIFICATION?
Ecotourism Australia’s Ecotourism Destination Certification Program has been developed specifically for Australia’s iconic protected areas that provide significant opportunities for nature-based tourism and visitor experiences.
The Ecotourism Destination Certification program has been modelled on the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) criteria for destinations and adapted to ensure relevance to large-scale and high-visitation protected areas.
The program emphasises the importance of adopting an interdisciplinary, holistic and integrative approach to protected area management, which is fundamental to ensuring the planning and management of protected areas is sustainable.
Ecotourism Destination certification enables Protected Area Management Agencies (PAMs) to demonstrate their commitment by ensuring the visitor experiences provided:
- Facilitates delivery on their responsibility to involve the local community
- Makes a positive contribution to the region’s visitor economy
- Meets visitor expectations
The program allows Protected Area Management Agencies to leverage Certification as part of a broader cultural change process within the agency, to ensure a positive view of sustainable tourism. The program is a tool to enhance the appreciation and understanding of protected areas internally within the agencies, and externally with key stakeholders and consumers.
Third-party independent reviews and onsite auditing enables key recommendations to be developed, ensuring the protected areas have the right systems, policies and practices in place to ensure sustainable tourism outcomes for the destination and visitors. Workshops are undertaken to assist the various levels of agency staff embed the principles across their operations.
Outcomes from the program include:
- Enhanced appreciation and understanding of the positive benefits of sustainable tourism within protected areas – by staff, stakeholders and visitors
- Ensures planning and management of protected areas is sustainable
- Provides a better visitor experience
- Ensures the positive benefits of ecotourism extends to local communities and other stakeholders
Image credit: Tourism Australia