Australia's ecotourism industry being outperformed by international competitors: expert

14:58, September 06, 2010      

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Australia's ecotourism industry is paying the price for taking a lazy ride on the back of past glories, an industry figure said on Monday.

The convener of October's Asia Pacific Ecotourism conference, Tony Charters, said ecotourism is still the largest single sector of Australia's tourism industry.

But it has now being outperformed by international competitors, who have learned and improved on, from Australia's trail blazing.

"Australia was one of the ecotourism leaders in the 90s and the industry was especially revered for its innovation in the design and technology of ecolodges," Charters told Australian Associated Press on Monday.

"We set a new standard for products, integrating and interpreting the environment, giving visitors a tangible experience that made an impression on their lives.

"The rest of the world looked up to Australia for its excellence in ecotourism but we have lost our voice and many of our competitors have overpowered us."

In a recent global assessment of innovation and excellence by leading authority Hitesh Mehta, Charters said Australia managed just two entries - Daintree EcoLodge and Spa in far north Queensland and the Bay of Fires Lodge in Tasmania.

"Unfortunately we have been living off past glories and while we rested on our laurels our competitors picked up the best of our ideas, improved on them and are now out-competing us," he said.

He said the ecotourism sector would have to work hard with Australia's next government to secure smart investments.

"Governments have the capacity to circumvent community concern, by purchasing land adjacent to National Parks for the specific purpose of tourism development," Charters said.

"Significant funding for tourism facilities such as lookouts, campsites, tracks and trails is required, but not only from the states.

"This is something the industry will need to vigorously pursue with the next prime minister and federal tourism minister."

Charters is currently convening the Global Eco Asia Pacific Tourism Conference on behalf of Ecotourism Australia, which will be held at Noosa on Queensland's Sunshine Coast from October 25 to 28 this year.



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