With environmental threats to the Great Barrier Reef reaching alarming concern, GSTC Recognized standard Ecotourism Australia, is guiding hotels and tour operators towards certification and striving to conserve this asset to the tourism industry in Australia. Ecotourism Australia represents close to 1,500 ecotourism products in and around Australia. Membership is offered for tourism operators and tourists alike, which is beneficial in informing and involving each entity to their own advantage. Hotels and tour operators certified under Ecotourism Australia actively demonstrate their contributions towards a sustainable future in travel.
Stories of Success
The Great Ocean Ecolodge, an accommodation product by the Conservation Ecology Centre, operates on solar power, and uses rainwater collection as the primary source of water. The conservation and research programs that the Conservation Ecology Centre runs offer packages for guests to participate in the projects. Projects include habitat restoration, population surveys, and caring for the precious resident Tiger Quolls. The conservation Ecology Centre also acquires and restores degraded land, and with this has turned the land around by planting more than 80,000 trees. Guests at the Great Ocean Ecolodge may admire the sheer beauty of the landscape it rests on.
Sea Darwin Eco Cruises provides a unique experience showcasing Darwin Harbour’s maritime history, stunning wildlife, expanse of natural beauty, and modern day intrigue. Four Sea Darwin products have achieved Advanced Eco-Certification under Ecotourism Australia. These tours are conducted by Darwin locals who are passionate and knowledgeable of the area. The eco cruises are intimate and nature-minded, with temporary mooring facilities used between Bare Sand Island and its surrounding reef leaving the reef untouched and lowering fuel emissions. The Austurtle Research Project turtle watching protocols are always taught and implemented, and from each Turtle Tour ticket sale a portion is contributed to Austurtle. On all tours, all verified sightings of marine mammals are recorded and forwarded to the Coastal Dolphin Research Project.
Leveraging Standards with the GSTC
Through the GSTC Integrity Program, sustainable tourism standard owners use the GSTC Criteria as a guide to protect and sustain the world’s natural and cultural resources, while ensuring tourism meets its potential as a tool for conservation and poverty alleviation. Achieving GSTC Recognition means that the GSTC has verified that an organization’s standards align with the GSTC Criteria and that any additional clauses do not contradict GSTC Criteria requirements. Recognition is the first fundamental step towards completion of the GSTC Integrity Program.
The GSTC Criteria is setting the guideline for sustainable management, socioeconomic benefits for the local community, maintenance of cultural heritage, and reduction of environmental impacts. Both the Great Ocean Ecolodge and Sea Darwin Eco Cruises have further been recognized for their hard work through more than just certification. The Conservation Ecology Centre at the Great Ocean Ecolodge was a finalist for the National Geographic World Legacy Awards 2015, and Sea Darwin Eco Cruises was finalist for the Australian Tourism Awards in 2014.
*Article Written by GSTC Volunteer, Jacquelyn Lopez