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Ecotourism Australia Limited Terms & Conditions

The following terms and conditions apply to any entities certified through any of Ecotourism Australia Ltd’s certification programs; ECO, Respecting Our Culture (ROC), Climate Action (CA) and Ecotourism Destination (Destination), and any financial members of Ecotourism Australia Ltd (including members by reciprocal or honorary terms).

ECO, ROC, CA and Destination Certification programs are Australian developed programs designed for the Australian context. The programs are based on a self-assessment model. The credibility of the scheme is established through the verification that all applicable sections have been completed; checking that all supporting material has been provided; feedback received through referee checks, and finally, through a comprehensive, third party, independent audit process.

ECO, ROC, and Destination Certifications include a comprehensive coverage of the three elements of sustainability: economic, environmental and socio-cultural sustainability.

CA Certification focuses on reducing carbon emissions and implementing climate change adaptation responses.

ROC Certification addresses cultural protocols, business management and caring for country (sustainable environmental practices). ROC Certification delivers guidelines and provides procedures which protect cultural integrity and authenticity at the local level.

ECO, ROC, CA and Destination Certification programs represent current best practice, and this has resulted in the raising of standards in many of the criteria listed.

Ecotourism Australia Ltd Membership (Business Membership, Protected Area Manager, and Individual Membership) allows companies, agencies and individuals with common values and goals to align with Ecotourism Australia Ltd and contribute to the development, growth and recognition of the ecotourism sector globally. 

The following terms and conditions have been created to benefit the integrity of our members and to ensure the highest of standards are maintained and followed.

Copyright

Ecotourism Australia Ltd’s certification programs are the intellectual property of Ecotourism Australia Ltd and are covered under Australian copyright legislation. Members and certified operators must not use (including duplication, public release, verbal communication, display, circulation, loan, translation or adaptation) the information provided via the services provided by Ecotourism Australia Ltd either for their own purposes or for a third party except where such use is permitted under copyright laws or permission is granted by Ecotourism Australia Ltd through an access to intellectual property agreement.

Agreement Modifications

Ecotourism Australia Ltd reserves the right to modify these terms and conditions at any time as appropriate and may provide members and certified operators with notice of modification. Such modification will be effective immediately upon sending or posting of the modified terms and conditions.

Fee Policy

Application Fees

Certification applicants are required to pay a once-off application fee to initiate the application process. Application fees are determined based on a business’ annual turnover.

Ecotourism Australia Ltd reserves the right to change or increase application fees at any time.

Annual Fees

Certified operators are required to pay their first annual fee as soon as certification is granted. Annual fees are then due for payment annually on the anniversary of certification being granted. Annual fees for certification are determined based on a business’ annual turnover. Certified operators’ Ecotourism Australia Ltd Membership is included in the annual certification fee for certified operators.

Ecotourism Australia Ltd non-certified members are required to pay their first annual fee on approval of their Membership by Ecotourism Australia Ltd, and annual fees are then due for payment annually on the anniversary of membership.

Ecotourism Australia Ltd reserves the right to change or increase certification and membership fees at any time.

We will contact you informing of these changes prior to your certification or membership renewal expiry date.

Credit Card Fees & Charges

If you choose to pay your annual certification or membership fees with a credit card, a 1.5% surcharge will be added to your payment amount.

If you choose to pay your certification or membership registration fees via the Ecotourism Australia Ltd website, your payment will be processed through eWAY's secure online payment gateway and their fees and charges will apply.

If you choose to pay your certification or membership registration fees via an Ecotourism Australia Ltd representative over the phone, your payment will be processed through FirstData’s secure online global payment gateway, and the abovementioned 1.5% surcharge will apply.

If you choose to pay your annual certification or membership fees via a payment plan with EziDebit, their fees and charges will apply.

Refund Policy

Application Fees

Ecotourism Australia Ltd has a 30-day cooling off period, starting from the day you sign up and pay your application fee. If you contact Ecotourism Australia Ltd within the 30-day period, you will be eligible to receive a refund of your full application fee. Contacting Ecotourism Australia Ltd after the 30-day period will result in a forfeit of the already paid fees.

Annual Fees

If a refund is requested within the first 3 months of certification or membership renewal, Ecotourism Australia Ltd will refund 50% of your annual fee. Should you cancel after 3 months of renewing, a refund will not be provided.

Time Restrictions on Applications

Applicants have 12 months in which to complete a certification application. If 12 months has lapsed, you will be required to begin the application process again. This includes registering and paying all applicable fees.

If you are unable to complete your application within the allocated time frame, please advise Ecotourism Australia Ltd before the 12 months is complete. Ecotourism Australia Ltd reserves the right to cancel an application after the lapsed time.

Certification and Membership Renewal Processes

As part of the annual certification and membership renewal process, members and certified operators are required to complete an annual declaration process. The annual declaration process involves signing a declaration to state business ethics, and certification and membership standards and requirements are being maintained.

Members and certified operators are notified 30 days prior to the expiry of their certification or membership through dispatch of a renewal notice, which may include; confirmation of details forms, annual declaration forms and a payment invoice.

Rights and duties of members and certified operators

Members and certified operators reserve several rights. These include:

  • The right to be notified of any general meetings
  • The right to attend any general meeting in person or via correspondence
  • The right to review annual reports and financial records of the company
  • The right to nominate and hold a position on the Ecotourism Australia Ltd Board of Directors
  • The right to place an item of business or resolution before a general meeting
  • The right to vote on matters put before a general meeting
  • The right to resign membership voluntarily, in writing, at any time

Members and certified operators are also bound by several obligations. These include:

  • Payment of annual fees / subscriptions
  • Upholding the ethical values of membership with Ecotourism Australia Ltd
  • Completion of annual renewal documentation, including annual signing of declaration to uphold values and business ethics
  • Maintenance of the standards of the level of certification they have achieved

Updating Business Details

All members and certified operators are required to inform Ecotourism Australia Ltd of any changes to their operations which may impact upon their certification or membership. If any changes occur to their business or certified products, members must inform Ecotourism Australia Ltd of the proposed changes so that Ecotourism Australia Ltd can assess any potential implications to the current certification or membership. Changes may include but are not Ltd to; changes in ownership or management, changes to the business name or changes to certified products.

Privacy and protection of information

Ecotourism Australia Ltd takes reasonable measures to ensure the security of members’ and certified operators’ personal and confidential information. Refer to the Ecotourism Australia Ltd Privacy Policy for full details on:

  • what personal information we collect
  • how we collect and use your personal information
  • disclosure
  • newsletter consent
  • your right of access to your personal information
  • your right to inspect and, where necessary, correct the personal information that we hold about you
  • your right to have your privacy complaints investigated and resolved
  • your right to have your personal information protected from misuse or unauthorised access

Logo Use

One of the benefits of certification and membership is the opportunity to display certification or membership logos. These serve both as a marketing tool and also as a way to educate the traveller and help them to make better choices by identifying unsubstantiated environmental claims from non-certified products.

Members and certified operators must follow Ecotourism Australia Ltd’s Logo Use Guide for the proper use of certification and membership logos. View the Ecotourism Australia Ltd Logo Use Guide here.

Certified operators certified through the ECO and ROC Certification programs must also remain compliant to core criteria described in relevant sections of the programs; Section 2: Responsible Marketing (please refer to the ECO Certification program criteria for full details).

Feedback and Complaints

Should Ecotourism Australia Ltd receive a complaint, consumer feedback, or recommendations from an industry body or partner, Ecotourism Australia Ltd will write to the certified operator or member requesting a written response. If an adequate explanation is not provided, the operator will be given a defined period to rectify the situation. Failure to comply with the request within the designated period may result in certification being suspended pending rectification or cancelled.

Complaints are managed by Ecotourism Australia Ltd’s assigned Certification Manager. When feedback or complaints about certified operators or members are received, the Certification Manager will provide a formal letter to the certified operator or member detailing the issues of the complaint. Certified operators or members have 14 days to respond in writing to any complaints made against them.

If the operator’s response provides a reasonable explanation for the events which gave rise to the complaint and/or the operator took appropriate action to ensure the issue would not happen again, the complaint is filed for future reference and no further action is required.

If the operator’s response is unsatisfactory or no response is provided, corrective actions must be issued, and the certified operator or member will be given a maximum of 3 months to implement required changes (the date to implement the corrective actions is at the discretion of the Certification Manager).  Failure to do so will result in immediate cancellation of the operator’s certification.

If the complaint is serious in nature, Ecotourism Australia Ltd may choose to suspend certification until the corrective actions have been satisfied. Where a complaint is serious in nature and in circumstances where Ecotourism Australia Ltd cannot determine the outcome for a complaint, details of the complaint may be presented to the Ecotourism Australia Ltd Certification Committee to determine the most appropriate plan of action.

Ecotourism Australia Ltd reserves the right to suspend/cancel certification of any operator where multiple, serious complaints are received about a single operator. The guidelines for suspension/cancellation are:

  • At least 3 formal complaints received over a 24-month period;
  • Supporting evidence documented through visitor centres, PAMs and TripAdvisor web-based schemes etc;

All evidence supporting suspension/cancellation will be presented to the Certification Committee who will determine the final decision. Ecotourism Australia Ltd reserves the right to undertake a secret shopper exercise should the Certification Committee be unsure if suspension of certification is warranted.

In this circumstance, if the operator wishes to maintain their certification, the operator must fund an auditor to conduct a full audit of the business. Any corrective actions noted during the onsite audit must be addressed before certification can be reinstated.

For all complaints made to Ecotourism Australia Ltd regarding certified operators or members, the identity of the complainant will remain anonymous unless otherwise requested by the complainant.

For all complaints regarding certified operators conducting business in a National Park or protected area, the relevant protected area management authority will be notified.

Suspension or Cancellation for Certification or Membership

Ecotourism Australia Ltd reserves the right at its absolute discretion to suspend the provision of any services to a member or certified operator, to terminate his or her membership or certification without prior notice to that member or certified operator including but not Ltd to the following:

  1. Where a member or certified operator fails to comply with the core criteria in any of Ecotourism Australia Ltd’s certification programs, fails to comply with the Ecotourism Australia Ltd’s business ethics or brings the ecotourism industry into disrepute;
  2. Where a member or certified operator claims bankruptcy or is declared bankrupt;
  3. Where a member or certified operator is convicted of a criminal offence;
  4. Where at least 3 formal complaints against the member or certified operator are received over a 24-month period;
  5. On advice from a Protected Area Manager advising of any breaches or contravention of rules;
  6. Non-payment of certification and or National Park/Protected Area permit/license/authorisation fees and charges;
  7. Where incorrect information is provided on an application for membership or certification, or a notification of change, or when Ecotourism Australia Ltd deems that notification of a change was not provided promptly;
  8. Where Ecotourism Australia Ltd deems the member or certified operator to have behaved inappropriately or where Ecotourism Australia Ltd has reason to believe that the member is likely to do so;
  9. Where the member or certified operator violates any of the other clauses in these terms and conditions.

If certification is suspended, then:

  • The maximum period of suspension is six months (beyond six months the certification will be forfeited);
  • A notice of suspended certification status will be distributed to relevant government agencies and key tourism industry organisations;
  • Ecotourism Australia Ltd will remove the operator from any of its lists and website material;
  • Ecotourism Australia Ltd will suspend its support for the operator in its marketing and education programs, for the duration of the suspension period; and
  • The operator will be required to remove its certification logo from their website and would be required to exclude the logo from any new material printed during the suspension period (existing printed material, containing the certification logos, would not need to be destroyed).

A member or certified operator may cancel their certification or membership by their choice at any time, however, the abovementioned Refund Policy will apply to any fees paid. It is recommended that certified operators first check to ensure cancellation of their certification will not impact on the duration or terms of their National Park or protected area permits/licenses/authorisations.

If the certification is cancelled, then:

  • The operator must cease representing the product as certified. This includes withdrawing all marketing material featuring the certification logo, and notifying third parties (e.g. wholesalers, agents) who may be promoting the product as certified;
  • A notice of loss of certification status will be distributed to relevant government agencies and key tourism industry organisations; and
  • Ecotourism Australia Ltd retain the right to recover the use of certification or membership logos from the applicant or directly from the business entity.

Operators have 28 days to respond in writing to any matters relating to the cancellation of certification. If certification is cancelled or suspended a certified operator has 12 months from the date of cancellation to reinstate their certification. Where certification or membership is cancelled or suspended by Ecotourism Australia Ltd, the certified operator or member must provide written evidence that the reasons for cancellation have been rectified to be eligible to reinstate their certification or membership. If seeking reinstatement after 12 months, a new application and associated fees will be required.

During the time that the certification is cancelled, the operator must remove all logos and reference of certification from their marketing collateral and digital platforms. Ecotourism Australia Ltd will monitor the client’s conformity with removal of logo for a period of twelve months or longer.

Appeals Process

A certified operator or member with existing certification, an applicant applying for certification, or an operator re-applying for certification has a right of appeal if their application for certification is rejected, or certification removed following an audit.

Appeals will be evaluated by the Ecotourism Australia Ltd Certification Committee and must be lodged with Ecotourism Australia Ltd no later than 21 days after notice of the decision has been given.

Ecotourism Australia Compliance Management Policy

Continuous Improvement

Certification evolves as new knowledge is gained and technologies change. To ensure Ecotourism Australia Ltd’s (EA) certification programs keep pace with this change we undertake a continuous improvement schedule. Overall standards within the industry rise over time to meet the market’s expectations and our certification criteria are reviewed on an ongoing basis to better reflect the changing industry standards and performance.

Each year, an annual declaration will be issued to all certified operators to ensure that the integrity of responses in their initial application is maintained. If there have been any changes to certification program criteria or requirements, a copy of the changes will be sent with the annual declaration for review and submission. If the operator has made any changes that may affect compliance with certification requirements, Ecotourism Australia Ltd must be notified within ten days of them occurring.

Assessments

Ecotourism Australia Ltd’s Certification Coaches will complete an initial check of every submission received to ensure the operator has provided all required supporting documentation and has completed the application to the best of their ability.

The Certification Coaches will submit the application, and all required supporting documentation to be assessed by Ecotourism Australia Ltd’s Certification Assessor, who will make a decision on the result of the certification application. 

Audits

Auditing plays a crucial role in the credibility of Ecotourism Australia Ltd’s certification programs. Onsite audits are mandatory components of the certification program, which all certified operators must undertake in order to remain compliant with their certification.

Audits are not only integral to the certification process but also ensure Ecotourism Australia Ltd adheres to its obligations with national park protected area managers (PAMs) and its accreditation with the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC).

An audit will be conducted somewhere within the first twelve months of certification being granted, and then every three years thereafter. Random or targeted onsite audits of at least 25% of certified products will be undertaken each year.

Auditing is carried out by a member of our contracted panel of independent, qualified and experienced auditors. Each of our contracted auditors have a wealth of practical tourism experience, have successfully completed Ecotourism Australia Ltd’s Auditor Training Program and have detailed knowledge of the Ecotourism Australia Ltd’s Certification criteria and processes.

Mystery shop style audits may also be undertaken in situations where it is deemed that a regular audit would not be sufficient. Operators may not be advised that their product/s have been selected for a mystery shop style audit, however reports will be provided to these operators afterwards.

Onsite Inspections

The auditor will inspect the operator’s place of work to confirm that claims made within the certification application and documentation are effectively implemented in practice. For the onsite inspection process, the operator must allow access for the auditor to inspect facilities and at least one accommodation type/vehicle/vessel. The auditor will also need to speak with available staff and/or tour guides about the certification in practice. Where possible, the auditor should witness all or part of a certified tour or experience.

An auditor will discuss observations from an audit with the operator, including any corrective action that may be required to maintain their level of certification, by the end of the audit process. This discussion does not determine the result of the audit.

Audit Reporting and Corrective Actions

The auditor will supply Ecotourism Australia Ltd with a report detailing the audit outcome, including any corrective actions, and Ecotourism Australia Ltd will determine the result of the audit. Ecotourism Australia Ltd will supply the operator with the auditor’s report and the outcome of the audit, including details for any corrective actions, and will allocate a timeframe within which the operator must address the corrective actions in order to maintain their certification.

Please note the auditor may be travelling from outside your region or state and will have Ltd flexibility to change an audit date or time once they have commenced the region’s audit program. In this instance, an unattended site visit may be conducted, and subsequent interviews will take place over the phone or online.

Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC)

Ecotourism Australia Ltd’s ECO Certification program criteria and processes are recognised by the GSTC as meeting the global standard they have set for sustainable tourism certification programs through their Integrity Program.

All operators certified through the ECO Certification program at the Ecotourism and Advanced Ecotourism levels are eligible to carry the GSTC-Accredited branding on collateral for their certified products.

GSTC reserve the right to conduct random targeted audits of certified operators. Those certified at the Ecotourism and Advanced Ecotourism levels of the ECO Certification program must allow the GSTC access to their premises, personnel and records for the purpose of audit in the event that they are targeted.

Scheduling an onsite audit

Operators will be contacted by their assigned auditor at least 21 days prior to their audit. To keep certification costs as low as possible, audits are regionally clustered and all operators due for an audit are targeted within a specified timeframe. Operators must provide free of charge entry and reasonable access for an auditor to evaluate their product(s). The auditor must also have the opportunity to experience a product free of charge, witness a simulation, or inspect facilities/vehicles/vessels, and must have the opportunity to speak to at least one key staff member and at least one key guide or front of house staff member.

If all convenient times within the proposed schedule are exhausted, the operator must contact their auditor immediately to schedule another agreeable time. The auditor will avoid scheduling audits during public holidays and will make every effort to accommodate your schedule during peak periods and shut-down periods.

In order for your certification to be always up-to-date and to facilitate the audit process, it is required that your documentation be updated regularly and available onsite for the auditor to sight.

Ecotourism Australia Ltd will investigate any customer or other feedback which indicates that a breach in certification standards may have occurred and notify the assigned auditor. The auditor will discuss any concerns or non-compliance during the onsite audit.

If the tour activity, office and/or accommodation is in a remote or isolated site Ecotourism Australia Ltd will ask the operator to provide transport/access and overnight accommodation if required. This mainly applies to Island based, sea access only or flight only access.

Rescheduling Policy

If the operator is unable to complete the audit at the agreed upon time, they may submit a request to reschedule directly with the auditor by contacting the auditor immediately. Subject to the auditor’s schedule, attempts will be made to reschedule the audit to a new mutually agreeable time.

No fee will be incurred if a new time can be organised and scheduled without incurring additional costs to the auditor. In the case where an agreeable rescheduled audit time cannot be arranged, this will be considered a cancellation of your audit.

Cancellation Policy

Ecotourism Australia Ltd treats cancellations in the same manner as tour operators, generally, treat cancellations. If sufficient time is provided, and alternatives can be arranged, then the cancellation is free of charge. If not, penalties may apply.

If, after the audit is confirmed, the operator becomes unable to complete the audit at the agreed-upon time, they may be able to cancel the audit with reasonable cause. The operator will need to submit their justification of reasonable cause directly to the auditor and Ecotourism Australia Ltd for consideration. It is recommended that the operator contacts the auditor as soon as possible to ensure additional charges can be minimised or avoided.

If the operator cancels the audit, they will be required to ensure they are available to undertake another audit within 12 months to remain compliant with the certification. An additional fee may be charged to cover the cost of the auditor re-visiting the operator’s region. Beyond 12 months, certification will be suspended until an audit is conducted. If the operator wishes to have their certification reinstated earlier than Ecotourism Australia Ltd is able to reschedule audits in the region, the operator may fund an audit at their own expense.

To avoid cancelling a scheduled audit, the operator may nominate another employee or representative from, or familiar with, the organisation to attend the audit on your behalf.

If an audit is cancelled by the auditor, the operator will not be penalised for the rescheduling of the audit. It the auditor is unable to reschedule an alternative time with the operator at the time of cancellation, they will be required to give 21 days’ notice for the rescheduled audit.

Unattended Site Visits

If an auditor attends your property to complete an audit at a prescheduled time and date, and you are unavailable or not present, our auditors reserve the right to conduct an unattended site visit. On an unattended site visit, the auditor may inspect public areas, speak with present staff members and request to view vessels/vehicles/accommodation and/or other product infrastructure. The operator will be made aware if an unattended site visit has taken place.

If an unattended site visit is conducted and the required documentation has not been made available to the auditor, the operator will be required to submit the supporting documentation associated with their certification directly to the auditor for review (within 2 weeks of the site visit) and must attend an interview with the auditor via Skype or phone within 2 weeks of the unattended site visit. Refusal to provide documentation and/or attend an interview via correspondence will result in possible revocation or suspension of certification.

Refusal Policy 

If an operator refuses to participate in the audit process or provide relevant documentation for review, certification may be subject to suspension or revocation.

If an operator refuses to allow an auditor to undertake an onsite audit during the period proposed without reasonable cause, certification may be suspended until an audit is conducted. If the operator wishes to have certification reinstated earlier than Ecotourism Australia Ltd is able to reschedule audits in the region, the operator may fund an audit at their own expense.

Reasonable Cause

In an instance where the operator must cancel their audit at short notice, they must provide the auditor and Ecotourism Australia Ltd with reasonable cause. Reasonable cause is based on the facts and circumstances of the situation. Any reason which establishes that the operator had made every attempt to make themselves or a representative available for the audit, but were nevertheless unable to do so, will be considered. Reasonable cause may include such instances as a family emergency, natural disaster, damage to property or injury, accident or death.

Complaints, Suspension or Cancellation of Certification

Certification may be suspended pending rectification of an identified corrective action or cancelled by Ecotourism Australia Ltd’s Certification Committee if a certified product is found not to meet required criteria.

Should Ecotourism Australia Ltd receive recommendations from an audit report to suspend or cancel an operator’s certification, Ecotourism Australia Ltd will write to the operator requesting a written response. Operators have 14 days to respond in writing to any complaints made against them. Operators have 28 days to respond in writing to any matters relating to the cancellation of certification.

If an adequate explanation is not provided, the operator will be given a defined period to rectify the situation. Failure to comply with the request within the designated period may result in certification being suspended pending rectification or cancelled.

Certification Administrative Structure and Governance

The ECO, Respecting Our Culture, Climate Action, Ecotourism Destination and EcoGuide Certification programs are products of Ecotourism Australia Ltd.

The certification programs are managed by the Ecotourism Australia Ltd national office. Ecotourism Australia Ltd coordinates the day-to-day running of the programs.

Ecotourism Australia Ltd and its certification programs are operated on a not-for-profit basis. Administrative, certification and audit costs are covered by application and annual fees paid by certified operators. Ecotourism Australia Ltd also actively seeks assistance from government and industry partners to support the development of this innovative scheme.

The ECO, Respecting Our Culture, Climate Action, Ecotourism Destination and EcoGuide Certification programs operate under a governance standard approved by the Board of Ecotourism Australia Ltd. There are four (4) principle elements to the administration of the programs to ensure a credible and transparent operating system:

  • The Certification Committee is a sub-committee of the elected Ecotourism Australia Ltd Board. The committee is established by the Ecotourism Australia Ltd Board and the Chair. The Certification Committee assists in the governance and ongoing reviews of Ecotourism Australia’s certification programs.
  • The Certification Program Assessment is undertaken by trained assessors. Applications will be processed by the trained assessor and a recommendation for certification will be made by the assessor to Ecotourism Australia Ltd.
  • The Audit Program consists of independent and qualified auditors. Auditors have are qualified and experienced within the tourism/sustainable tourism industry and environmental management.
  • The ECO Certification Program Appeals Tribunal is a sub-committee of three representatives selected to hear appeals by applicants against decisions of the certification.