Tony Charters and Associates Tourforce

Tourism is Your Business

Tony Charters and Associates releases a regular newsletter Tourforce keeping stakeholders of the tourism industry connected with current issues, research, events and funding opportunities.

Reproduction of any items from Tourforce is welcome, with acknowledgement of the source.

Welcome to Tourforce Edition 11


National Tourism Certification

Australia has now been actively pursuing tourism certification for over a decade. For those of us who have been involved in this field over that period it is very easy to become a little frustrated at the slow progress being made in this country. Too often government and industry support for such schemes it tied to grants that last for a couple of years. Certification schemes need ten years of concentrated effort to achieve full financial viability and to develop credibility.


Continuous improvement and best business practices are critical to developing a credible reputation and business success. The current challenges to the Australian industry create an ideal environment to re-focus on quality. Climate Change also has brought into focus the need for the tourism industry to respond – few industries are as vulnerable to the negative impacts of climate change as tourism – with not only the economic and consumer impacts of a carbon constrained economy but the predicted environmental consequences for our tourism destinations.

The diversity of the tourism industry creates huge demands on any certification system. While many business processes are common to all operators, there are sector specific requirements that are vital to tourism enterprises who want to be globally competitive. For this reason certification schemes basically fall into two categories – those that are applicable across the industry eg business certification featuring the green star and gold tick and managed by the Tourism Accreditation Australia Limited (of which I am Deputy Chair); and those that focus on industry sectors eg ECO Certification (which I chair as a Board member of Ecotourism Australia) and Respecting Our Culture (ROC) for indigenous tourism products. The success of the ECO Certification program has been recognised by the recent awarding of the WTTC’s prestigious international Tourism for Tomorrow Award.


The Commonwealth Government has signaled that it is placing a high priority on tourism service and product quality. Minister Ferguson has stated that Australia must strive for continuous improvement and best practice if it is to be considered an internationally competitive, high quality tourist destination. A National Accreditation System was considered at the recent Tourism Ministers’ Council meeting.

In developing a national scheme Minister Ferguson has signaled the importance of working with the current providers of tourism industry certification schemes and the states and territories.

In my view there is no simple ‘one size fits all’ solution. Efforts will most likely be centred on agreed sets of minimum standards and an ‘Accreditation’ body which maintains quality control across the range of certification systems.

I am very confident that with a national approach and a true partnership between government and industry (that involves resources and long term funding commitments) that Australia can build a credible, national, voluntary scheme.

Tony Charters
Chandra Da Silva
The ecotourism world lost a great leader recently with the passing of Chandra de Silva, the founder of Ranweli Holiday Village, Sri Lanka. Chandra was a fellow director of The International Ecotourism Society and a great friend.

The Ranweli Resort was a pioneering ecotourism venture and it lead the way in integrating environmental, cultural and social values. Chandra spearheaded the concept and development in face of much scepticism – and achieved great results.

Chandra attended and spoke at several Ecotourism Australia conferences. At Board meetings he provided very wise counsel and brought a wealth of experience through his accountancy expertise and operational experience associated with establishing and running Ranweli. He was a very wise, learned and inspirational man. He was also an excellent host. I will always fondly remember my visit to Sri Lanka in 2004 as part of the TIES Board meeting, and the hospitality that he showed me.

After the 2005 Tsunami, Chandra’s immediate response, despite his property having received serious damage, was to assist his local village neighbours in re-building houses and schools. It was so typical of his character and sense of community. He was also extremely active in the Child Protection Society of Ceylon, having served the society for 42 years.

The ecotourism industry has lost an inspirational pioneer.

Conservation and Protected Areas

A Wildlife Centre for the 21st Century


A Tasmanian wildlife centre is re-inventing the concept of wildlife tourism while at the same time playing a key role in saving the now-endangered Tasmanian devil.

The long established Tasmanian Devil Conservation Park on Tasman Peninsula in Tasmania’s South East is set to become a model for 21st century wildlife tourism.

Under the guidance of Jon Coe, the internationally acclaimed zoo architect, the park is reinventing the concept of what a wildlife centre should be and expanding its visitor experiences to include field surveys of local fauna and flora.

“Jon Coe has a vision that tips conventional zoo thinking upside-down and we have accepted the challenge,” park founder and director, John Hamilton said.





“While Jon has worked for decades at 150 of the world’s greatest zoos he has found none has been willing or able to pretty much totally change the way it operates.

“However, as we are a small family run centre, we believe we are in a position to completely rebuild our park to embrace a number of world-first principles,” he said.

Multilingual New Age interpretation will range from SMS text messaging for Gen Y visitors to eco-talks by zoologists about the park’s efforts to help save the now-endangered Tasmanian devil.

“The “new” park will be open by late 2008 and if we achieve Jon Coe’s objectives he believes it will become a model for the way wildlife is kept and managed for the next century,” John Hamilton said.

For the past three years the park has been a leader in Tasmanian devil conservation programmes that include developing a road traffic grid to stop diseased devils crossing the gateway bridge to the isolated Tasman Peninsula and breeding founder devils for restocking the region.

The park’s new visitor experiences also will extend to monitoring the local wild devil population as part of a project to make Tasman Peninsula the major disease-free sanctuary for wild Tasmanian devils.


Tourism on Public Lands

Following extensive consultation with the nature-based tourism industry, the Victorian Department of Sustainability and Environment, Parks Victoria and Tourism Victoria have released a new licensing system for tourism businesses operating on public lands. The new licensing policy includes changes to the length, fees and conditions of licences, with the aim of ensuring a more sustainable nature-based tourism industry and the conservation of parks, forests and reserves.

Further information:
CA2574500 08362CC

Joining Forces for Coral Reefs



The Project AWARE Foundation and Reef Check Foundation have formally partnered to protect coral reefs around the world. Project AWARE and Reef Check both rely on dedicated volunteer divers to collect relevant data for their monitoring programs. Project AWARE’s CoralWatch monitoring, implemented in partnership with the University of Queensland in 2005, collects information on the intensity of coral bleaching and recovery. Since 1997, Reef Check has carried out an annual global scientific survey of human impacts on coral reefs.

Further information:

National Landscapes

The Australian National Landscapes Program is a partnership between Tourism Australia and Parks Australia aims to identify and promote world-class landscapes distinctive to Australia. The National Landscapes program was launched in December 2006 and in June 2008 seven subsequent landscapes were named at the Australian Tourism Exchange. Detailed information on each individual national landscape, including maps, video and things to do and see can be found on the website.

Further information:

International Keynote Speaker, Daniel Levine (Executive Director, The Avant-Guide Institute New York) addressing delegates at Tourism Futures 2008


Tourism Futures 2008 Keynote Speaker - Daniel Levine (left)

Financial Incentive Schemes

The Department of Tourism, Regional Development and Industry supports regional, industry and business development in Queensland through a range of strategic business assistance activities including financial incentive schemes.

Further information:

Westin Hotels & Resorts Expands into Queensland

Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide has announced an agreement with Metacap Empire Square to open a new-build Westin hotel and residences in Brisbane. The Westin Brisbane Empire Square will offer 306 rooms in a prime location on Elizabeth Street, close to Central Station, the Convention and Exhibition Centre and Brisbane Casino. The hotel and residences will be part of a premier mixed-use development comprised of the hotel, residences and commercial office space. The Westin Brisbane Empire Square will be the brand’s third hotel to open in Australia in early 2012.

Further information:


Business Events Infrastructure

The Australian business events sector continues to invest nationwide in new and upgraded infrastructure, committing more than $3.7 billion to the portfolio of products and venues. Business Events Australia has produced a comprehensive overview of new business events infrastructure which details developments in Australian convention centres, accommodation, incentive infrastructure and transport.

Further information:

Electronic Ticketing

Since 1 June 2008 airline tickets around the world have gone paperless as part of the International Air Transport Association 100% Electronic Ticketing policy. E-tickets allow travel agencies and travellers more flexibility in making changes without having to reissue paper tickets and avoiding crises such as lost tickets. IATA estimates the move will save the industry some $3 billion a year and will provide enhanced convenience and efficiency for all air travellers.

Further information:


Product Development
Gold Coast Whale Watch


Sea World and multi-million dollar New Zealand nature tourism company Whale Watch Kaikoura have joined forces to bring a new whale watching experience to the Gold Coast. A $3.4 million purpose-built eco-friendly 24 metre catamaran will carry 120 passengers to view whales from an extended viewing platform on the front of the boat. The catamaran also has a customised keel designed to lessen risks to the whales, international emission engine standards and toilet waste and grey water will be retained on board to avoid ocean discharge.

Further information:

Great Ocean Walk Lodge

Leading Victorian-based walking tour operator bothfeet will open the first phase of a new walking-lodge on the Great Ocean Road in September 2008. The purpose-built lodge will combine stylish and sustainable design in 10 acres of rainforest, with accommodation for up to 20 people in 10 bedrooms with ensuite. The lodge will also feature a natural rock swimming pool, foot spa and massage room, and restaurant. Support for the project came from the Australian Government through an Australian Tourism Development Program Grant in September 2007.

Further information:

Holiday Deprived Nation

Australia has topped the Expedia Vacation Deprivation survey for a second time as the world’s worst takers in entitled annual leave. Reasons for the trend included financial pressures, rising interest rates and addiction to work commitments. The results have psychologists concerned with the mental and social impacts entailing holiday deprivation on the Australian population, especially when Australians receive the second lowest amount of annual leave in the world with 18 days, only 4 more than the Americans.

Further information:

Spa Industry Benchmarks for Australia

New research on the Australian spa industry by Intelligent Spas’ has identified spa numbers have grown 152% over the last five years. The new Australia Spa Benchmark Report 2002-2010 identifies current industry trends observed by spa owners and managers, as well as over 450 statistics on financial benchmarks covering revenue (per spa, visitor and square metre), visits and employment. Many of the benchmarks are available by spa type and also detail infrastructure, business models and treatments.

Further information:

Climate Change
Tourism Australia is leading the Climate Change Response


Tourism Australia is serious about leading the way in responding to climate change…..

Tony Charters and Associates and GHD have recently been contracted to conduct a social and environmental sustainability audit of Tourism Australia’s head office operations. The environmental and social footprint of the head office and key trade events such as the Australian Tourism Exchange and the Visiting Journalists Program will be measured and benchmarked and a system put in place to monitor this footprint over time.

A Climate Friendly Trade Events and Initiatives Strategy will also be developed. This will outline a range of actions for reducing Tourism Australia’s carbon footprint and maximising the carbon light characteristics of both operations and events.

The consultancy team will also be developing a toolkit to assist Tourism Australia in rolling out a similar sustainability audit and action plan across its 17 international offices.


Aviation and Environment Summit

At the recent global Aviation and Environment Summit in Geneva, commercial aviation industry leaders signed a declaration on climate change to lead towards carbon neutral growth and a totally sustainable industry. The declaration brought together all sectors of commercial aviation including manufacturers, airlines, airports, and air traffic control. The declaration outlines aviation’s concept of ‘carbon neutral growth’ with an aspiration goal of carbon-free flight. The industry will achieve this through focusing on investment in new technology, increasing operational efficiency, air traffic and airport infrastructure improvements and appropriate economic measures.

Further information: and

Hotel Carbon Emission Benchmark

Carepar is a new sector benchmark for hotels and venues which allows business and leisure travellers to understand the emissions involved in their hotel usage, whether for accommodation, conferences or events. Launched by The Hotel Carbon Index Company – Carepar (Carbon Emission Per Room Available) is on target to become the industry standard classification with information including room sizes, fuel bills, recycling initiatives supplied by hoteliers and venues.

Further information:

Climate Action Australia Certification Scheme Launch

The South Australian Tourism Commission, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority and Ecotourism Australia have released a pilot program for the Climate Action Australia Certification Scheme. Tony Charters and Associates won the tender to develop the scheme and drafted the program over four months from March 2008.

Thirty operators from South Australia and the Great Barrier Reef are participating in the pilot, which will be launched at the upcoming Green Travel, Climate Change and Ecotourism Conference.

Holiday-makers and travellers will easily be able to judge the efforts being made by tourism operators to reduce or eliminate the carbon footprint of their operation with a new certification system being launched by Ecotourism Australia’s new arm Climate Action Australia.

The Climate Action Australia scheme is dedicated to ranking efforts to neutralise carbon emission -from entry level through to 100 per cent off-set and extending to climate change adaptation.

It is designed for all sectors of the tourism industry, regardless of size and level of carbon reduction already undertaken. It will include the tourism hotels, attractions, tours, transport, restaurants, travel agents, tourism commissions and industry bodies.

This certification scheme will be a user-friendly, online application with an online help desk, and automatic filtering so businesses only deal with relevant questions.

The pricing structure will be based on turnover, ensuring the many small businesses in the tourism sector will achieve and maintain certification for under $500 per year.

Climate Action Australia will provide businesses with:
* an understanding of climate change concepts and terminology;
* awareness of credible offsetting activities that can be undertaken;
* clear and practical ways of reducing their carbon footprint – reducing carbon emissions through design, equipment selection and changes in operational practices;
* best practice examples relevant to the business sector and operating environment;
* approaches to adaptation that will assist both the individual enterprise and the collective industry and community within its area of operation.

For more information contact Ecotourism Australia

Introduction to Tourism Excellence

The development stage of the Tourism Excellence program has recently been completed. Tourism Excellence has been designed to help tourism businesses and destinations get the best from their workforce, deliver the best possible visitor experience, grow tourism by working together, and ensure a sustainable industry. The Tourism Excellence modules and website include case studies and resources, made it easy to develop and structure the workshops.

Further information:

New Partnership for Campgrounds

Australia’s BIG4 Holiday Parks and Kampgrounds of America have come together to share management technologies and operational practises across the Pacific. The new partnership will deliver state-of-the-art technology and advanced business and customer management solutions to parks within the BIG4 Holiday Parks group. Customers will also benefit from real time guest reservation services, significant enhancements to web information delivery, member loyalty rewards program, service training and a best-practice guest feedback system.

Further information:


Tourism Futures Proceedings 2008

The proceedings of the Tourism Futures National Conference 2008 which includes over 100 presentations are now available online. Papers are available for delegates with password access and a CD Rom of the proceedings is available for purchase which includes an analysis and summary of the key issues, challenges and findings to come out of the conference. Also included for the first time are video proceedings of selected sessions including the international and national keynote speakers featured in the Topline Program.

Further information:

Sustainable Tourism Guidelines

The South Australian Tourism Commission has recently launched its sustainable tourism guidelines. The guidelines draw on the experiences and knowledge from those who have sought to design and operate their facilities in a sustainable manner. The guidelines will be useful for developers, operators, architects, building design consultants, and local and state government planners.

Further information:

Excellence in Sustainable Tourism

Qantas has established a major award for Excellence in Sustainable Tourism to promote excellence in business practices and showcase Australia to domestic and international tourists as one of the world’s leading sustainable tourism destinations. Each of the State winners will receive a prize of $2,000, with the national winner receiving a major prize of $ 25,000 to be invested in an initiative or project that minimises the impact on the local environment, respects local cultures and provides benefits to local communities. In addition, the national winner will receive coverage through Qantas’ extensive communication channels including Qantas inflight magazine and entertainment channels.

Further information:

Global Geotourism Conference

The inaugural Global Geotourism Conference will be held in Fremantle, Western Australia from 17 to 20 August 2008. The conference aims to set a benchmark for the tourism industry in relation to the development, management and marketing of landscapes. The conference will include case studies on sustainability, impact management and environmental issues.

Further information: 2008/geotm/


Australian Regional Tourism Convention

More than 150 regional tourism professionals from industry, state and local government from across Australia will converge on the Barossa region from 9 to 12 September 2008 for the annual Australian Regional Tourism Convention. The convention aims to address issues such as skill shortages, shifting consumer behaviour patterns and climate change. The conference program will incorporate facilitated workshops, discussion forums, concurrent workshops and field trips.

Further information:

Australlia's Future in the Wilderness

“The reality is Australia can drop its prices all it likes – but we will never compete on price with our Asian neighbours while their workers earn in a month what our workers earn in a day. We must offer quality experiences that appeal to tourists on the basis of their uniqueness and bragging rights – not their price.”

Tony Charters convened the 2008 Tourism Futures conference last month and was surrounded by an industry that was becoming increasingly gloomy.

With a record attendance of 450 delegates gathered at Crowne Plaza Royal Pines on the Gold Coast, the mood was reminiscent of the post September 11 and the Ansett collapse with talk of the lowest visitor number in three decades, record fuel prices. That week Qantas had announced cessation of long haul leisure destination flights.

Some operators in the audience were reeling, with delegates from Quicksilver tours on the Great Barrier Reef a key example – already carrying a $250,000 monthly fuel bill news of flights being cut from Japan and interstate capitals tightened the screws.

“There are some major challenges facing the industry. The issue of fuel is monumental in itself. On top of that the industry is facing up to climate change and what it means for business. And the whole area of building visitor numbers and marketing is a colossal challenge – but there were some very inspiring guide ropes into the future,” said Mr Charters.

Leading US technology and online travel expert, Philip Wolf, president and CEO of PhoCusWright addressed the conference over the three days, giving real insights into where the market is heading and how to capitalise on new technologies.

“Philip was able to shine a torch light into the future for us. For example the consumer market in the USA is now booking half of its entire travel online – this far exceeds the Australian take-up of online bookings. For small operators this represents a huge opportunity – in theory every operator now has the same potential to reach their customers. Philip really did give us a head-start on how to take the initiative and be prepared for the coming decade,” said Mr Charters.

Australian operators and major government agencies shared their experiences and strategies, including the successful branding of Victoria and the city of Melbourne.

And while the city of Sydney is struggling, there is some promise in New South Wales.

“The overhaul of New South Wales Parks is one of the most exciting makeovers in the country. It has adopted a very progressive and entrepreneurial approach to the parks, developing some very interesting partnerships with industry and using the parks, which are a truly significant national asset, to mature our tourism product – particularly in the regions.

“Daniel Levine, a keynote speaker who is an international trend-spotter fully supported the focus on the environment and pointed out that beach holidays alone were never going attract North Americans or Europeans in numbers. It is our unique wildlife that is a really valuable asset and we have failed to capitalise on it to date.”

Just like Southern Africa promotes its ‘big five’, Australia may soon go one better and be the home of the ‘big six’ and rather than shying away from the long haul travel it takes to get to here, Australia could soon be promoting the vast open spaces.

While Australia is considered one of the world’s most desirable destinations, the marketing pitch needs to target the baby boomers and backpackers who have plenty of time, as well as tapping into the 2 billion people to our north.

“It is not sustainable for New Zealand to be our major inbound source market,” said Mr Charters.

“We need to get on the front foot about our isolation, our unique wildlife and our natural assets. We can offer amazingly different experiences within the safety of a stable, clean, friendly environment.”

For a full review of the conference a CD Rom of conference proceedings and the communiqué can be purchased via

Regional Focus on Tourism
Regional Tourism will be the focus of an afternoon session at this years SEGRA conference being conducted in Albury from 18-20 August. “Given 54% of the domestic visitor and 22% of international tourism spending is in regional Australia it is critical that regional Australia understands trends in the tourism sector and constantly updates its approach to tourism to ensure visitors continue to be attracted to regional destinations,” said the convenor for SEGRA, Kate Charters.

“Regions need to be looking at what the domestic visitor wants now and at opportunities for the future,” Kate said.

Rose Wright from the Regional Tourism Research Centre will be presenting on food, farm and nature based tourism. Ms Wright will be talking about agricultural diversification and business strategies that enable regions to broaden their economic base using tourism.

The unique Hidden Treasures partnership was developed by an innovative group of shires and communities in Western Australia to demonstrate that small disparate communities working together can create a viable tourism destination. Based in the Great Southern area of Western Australia, Manny Papadoulis the Principal of Icon Tourism will talk about how Hidden Treasures developed into the success story it is today.

In addition to over 50 case studies on practical responses to the needs across regional Australia SEGRA is host to 15 nationally recognised experts on broader issues facing regional Australia – population change, economic change, political change, indigenous issues, the role of government.

For more information or to register please visit or phone 07 3210 0021.

Tony Charters and Associates