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 Certification (ECO), Respecting Our Culture (ROC), Climate Action (CA) and ECO 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 as such will be adapted on a regular basis.
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.
Ecotourism Australia Ltd’s certification programs are the intellectual property of Ecotourism Australia Ltd and are covered under Australian copyright legislation. Members, certified operators and destinations 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.
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.
Operators and destinations are required to pay their first annual fee on application. Annual fees are due for payment annually on the anniversary of the application. Annual fees for certification are determined based on a business’ annual turnover or the destination’s population. Ecotourism Australia Ltd membership is included in the annual certification fee for certified operators and certified destinations. Applicants will only get the full membership benefits once they become certified.
Ecotourism Australia Ltd non-certified members (Business Membership, Protected Area Manager, and Individual Membership) 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.
Initial Annual Fee
Ecotourism Australia Ltd has a 30-day cooling off period, starting from the day you sign up and pay your initial annual fee. If you contact Ecotourism Australia Ltd within the 30-day period, you will be eligible to receive a refund of your annual fee. Contacting Ecotourism Australia Ltd after the 30-day period will result in a forfeit of the already paid fees.
If a refund is requested within the first 3 months of membership or certification renewal, Ecotourism Australia Ltd will refund 50% of your annual fees. Should you cancel after 3 months of renewing, a refund will not be provided.
Certification and Membership Renewal Processes
As part of the annual certification and membership renewal process, members, applicants 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, applicants and certified operators are notified 30 days prior to the expiry of their certification, application 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, certified operators and certified destinations hold 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
Applicants only gain the above rights once they become certified.
Members, applicants, certified operators and certified destinations 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, applicants, certified operators and destinations 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 and applicants 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 limited to; changes in ownership or management, changes to the business name or changes to certified products.
Privacy and protection of information
- what personal information we collect
- how we collect and use your personal information
- 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
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 as a way to educate the traveller and help them to make better choices by identifying unsubstantiated 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. Applicants are not permitted to use the Ecotourism Australia logos until they become certified.
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 will 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:
- 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;
- Where a member or certified operator claims bankruptcy or is declared bankrupt;
- Where a member or certified operator is convicted of a criminal offence;
- Where at least 3 formal and unresolved complaints against the member or certified operator are received over a 24-month period;
- On advice from a Protected Area Manager advising of any breaches or contravention of rules;
- Non-payment of certification and or National Park/Protected Area permit/license/authorisation fees and charges;
- 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;
- 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;
- 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, applicant, destination 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 and destinations 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.
A certified operator, destination 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's Compliance Management Policy
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 the operator has made any changes that may affect compliance with certification requirements, Ecotourism Australia must be notified within ten days of them occurring.
Auditing plays a crucial role in the credibility of Ecotourism Australia’s certification programs. Audits are mandatory components of the certification program, which all certified operators and destinations must undertake in order to remain compliant with their certification.
Audits are not only integral to the certification process but also ensure Ecotourism Australia adheres to its obligations with national park protected area managers (PAMs) and its recognition with the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC).
Auditing is carried out by a member of our contracted panel of independent, qualified and experienced auditors. Each of our contracted auditors has a wealth of practical tourism experience, has successfully completed Ecotourism Australia Auditor Training Program and has detailed knowledge of the Ecotourism Australia’s Certification criteria and processes.
Types of audits
Audits can be conducted online or onsite. All audits include:
- A desktop review of the documentation required for certification;
- A review of online customer feedback;
- Interviews with at least one key staff member and/or guide;
- A site/vehicle/vessel inspection (virtual for online audits)
- 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.
- Where possible, the auditor should witness all or part of a certified tour, experience or attraction.
Audits can be conducted online or onsite (dependant on the level of certification).
All online audits include:
- A desktop review of the documentation required for certification;
- A review of online customer/visitor/community feedback;
- Interviews with one or more destination representatives (if required for further clarification of the online information provided)
All onsite audits include:
- A desktop review of the documentation required for certification;
- A review of online customer/visitor/community feedback;
- Interviews with a variety of destination organisation staff and major stakeholders;
- A site visit:
- The auditor will visit the destination to confirm that claims made within the certification application and documentation are effectively implemented in practice.
- For the onsite visit, the auditor will contact and visit at least one accommodation type/tour/attraction.
Initial audit for certification
Ecotourism Australia’s Certification Coaches will complete an initial assessment of every submission received to ensure the operator or destination has provided all required supporting documentation and has completed the application to the best of their ability.
An audit will be conducted prior to certification being granted to advise the result of the certification application.
After the initial assessment the Certification Manager will determine if an online or onsite audit is the most appropriate before the certification is awarded.
Destinations will be audited onsite (including online checks) before certification is awarded.
Follow up audits
Operators will be audited every three years via an online or an onsite audit. Subject to environmental and social conditions random or targeted audits of at least 25% of certified products will be undertaken each year.
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.
Audits will be conducted online with virtual visits when:
- The head office and the facilities or tour vehicle/vessels are not in the same location; or
- The operator has previously had a successful onsite audit (certification maintained or corrective actions completed); or
- The operator is in a remote location (including islands, 4WD access only, no nearby airport with direct flights from a capital city).
Onsite audits will be conducted when:
- An operator has never been audited onsite, and an auditor is available for onsite audits in their region; or
- The previous audit has identified major corrective actions related to the business’ operations (this does not include corrective actions related to the business documentation) and recommended the next audit to be done onsite again; or
- An auditor conducts an online audit and identifies a potential major compliance issue that cannot be verified during an online audit; or
- An operator requests an onsite audit (travel fees may apply); or
- A park agency requests an onsite audit (travel fees may apply).
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.
Auditing of certified destinations will occur every two to four years (depending on the level of certification) and will include both online and onsite audits.
Audit reporting and corrective actions
The auditor will supply Ecotourism Australia with a report detailing the audit outcome, including any corrective actions, and Ecotourism Australia will determine the result of the audit. Ecotourism Australia will supply the operator or destination with the auditor’s report and the outcome of the audit, including details for any corrective actions. The report will allocate a timeframe within which the operator or destination must address the corrective actions in order to maintain their certification.
Scheduling an audit
Operators and destinations will be contacted by their assigned auditor at least 21 days prior to their audit to schedule the audit. To ensure your certification is up-to-date in order to facilitate the audit process, operators and destinations should update their documentation regularly via the online platform and have documents available for the auditor to sight if required.
Onsite audits are regionally clustered and all operators due for an onsite audit are targeted within a specified timeframe. Operators and destinations must provide free of charge entry and reasonable access for an auditor to evaluate their product(s) or region. When conducting an audit for an operator, 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. When conducting an audit for a destination, the auditor must also have the opportunity to experience the region, and/or inspect facilities/vehicles/vessels, and speak to the desired number of key staff members and external stakeholders.
If all convenient times within the proposed schedule are exhausted, the operator or destination must contact their auditor immediately to schedule another agreeable time. The auditor will avoid scheduling audits during public and school holidays and will make every effort to accommodate your schedule during peak and shut-down periods.
If the tour activity, office and/or accommodation is in a remote or isolated site, Ecotourism Australia 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 or 4WD only access.
The operator will receive instructions on how to join the online meeting. If needed, the Ecotourism Australia team will organise a trial to test the technology and provide assistance.
The operator will organise a live visit of the facilities using a mobile device, if possible. At a minimum, the operator should record and share a movie or photos to illustrate how they operates their facilities and at least one accommodation type/vehicle/vessel.
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.
Please note the auditor may be travelling from outside your region or state and will have limited 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 online.
Ecotourism Australia 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 or destination becomes unable to complete the audit at the agreed-upon time, they may be able to cancel the audit with reasonable cause. The operator or destination will need to submit their justification of reasonable cause directly to the auditor and Ecotourism Australia for consideration. It is recommended that the operator or destination contacts the auditor as soon as possible to ensure additional charges can be minimised or avoided.
If an audit is cancelled by the auditor, the operator or destination will not be penalised for the rescheduling of the audit. If the auditor is unable to reschedule an alternative time with the operator or destination at the time of cancellation, they will be required to give 21 days’ notice for the rescheduled audit.
If an operator cancels an audit (online or onsite), they will be required to ensure they are available to undertake an online audit within three months to remain compliant with the certification. If the operator was due for an onsite audit, they would also be required to ensure they are available to undertake another onsite audit within 12 months at an additional fee to cover the onsite audit and 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 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 the destination 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 destination.
If it is the first audit of a destination, certification will not be able to be awarded until another audit is successfully completed.
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 online interview with the auditor 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.
If an operator or destination refuses to participate in the audit process or provide relevant documentation for review, certification may be subject to suspension or revocation.
If an operator or destination refuses to allow an auditor to undertake an 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 is able to reschedule audits in the region, the operator may fund an audit at their own expense.
In an instance where the operator must cancel their audit at short notice, they must provide the auditor and Ecotourism Australia with reasonable cause. Reasonable cause is based on the facts and circumstances of the situation. Any reason which establishes that the operator or destination had made every attempt to make themselves or a representative available for the audit, but was 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.
Auditors are private contractors and if a member cancels their audit without making contact or without adequate advice Ecotourism Australia maintains the right to charge the auditor’s fees (and any associated costs) to the operator or destination.
Complaints, suspension or cancellation of certification
Certification may be suspended pending rectification of an identified corrective action or cancelled by Ecotourism Australia’s Certification Committee if a certified product is found not to meet or be in breach of required criteria.
Should Ecotourism Australia receive recommendations from an audit report to suspend or cancel a destination or operator’s certification, Ecotourism Australia will write to the operator or destination requesting a written response. Operators and destinations have 14 days to respond in writing to any complaints made against them. Operators and destinations 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 or destination 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, ECO Destination and EcoGuide Certification programs are products of Ecotourism Australia Ltd.
In the case of the ECO Destination program, Ecotourism Australia Ltd pays a licencing fee to use the Green Destinations Standard, which is the sustainability criteria component of the certification.
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, ECO 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. Operator 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 are qualified and experienced within the tourism/sustainable tourism industry and environmental management.
- The Certification Committee hears appeals by applicants against decisions of the certification.