Reconnect to Australia's Parks to Reconnect to Inbound Tourism

Recently I delivered a keynote address to the Forum Advocating Cultural and Ecotourism (FACET) in Yanchep National Park, Western Australia. The address entitled Reconnect to Australia’s Parks to Reconnect to Inbound Tourism (download presentation) explored the less than healthy state of tourism in many of Australia’s World Heritage Areas.

The once popular assertion that World Heritage listing provided significant tourism benefits is now looking a little tarnished. Looking at available visitation data to a selection of four northern Australian World Heritage Areas we see that ;

  • The Great Barrier Reef (Queensland) currently hosts approx 1.3m visitors/yr - similar visitor numbers in 2011 as in 1991 – 20 years on.
  • Fraser Island’s (Queensland) current visitation is approximately 350,000. In 1990 – visitation was quoted at 300,000 – not spectacular growth.
  • Kakadu (Northern Territory) – 240,000/yr in early 90’s - 210,000/yr now.
  • Shark Bay (Western Australia) – 100,000 in early 90’s, 107,000 - 20 years on.

I posed the question, what other industry enjoys negative growth or is doing the same numbers as it was 20 years ago?

When I talk to destinations overseas about ecotourism, I focus on the importance of protected areas in developing an ecotourism sector: their link to consumer desire for authenticity; the fact that protected areas provide seasoned travellers with more remote, less structured, more independent travel options; their capacity to fulfil consumer desire for experiences and escape from routine and pressures; the opportunity to do rather than just look eg monitoring, building, habitat conservation; opportunities to experience unique nature and culture; the bragging rights - doing something their friends haven’t.

Maybe Australia needs to re-read the book on ecotourism – the book it wrote in the early 1990’s.

What is the solution?

A few suggestions:

  • A renewed focus on catalyst projects to re-invigorate the means of exploring our destinations;
  • A focus on high quality, exceptional experiences, unique opportunities, small to medium scale developments;
  • Become the ‘swiss watch’ industry of tourism – focus on quality, reliability, reputation, exclusivity;
  • Invest heavily in quality including certification – the equivalent of the “certified swiss chronometer”
  • Withdraw from the price war (Australia can never win that competition); and critically,
  • Provide opportunities for tourists to meet Indigenous Australians and learn of their culture.

Tony Charters
Tony Charters and Associates



Couch Surfing

A website that allows users to stay free in other people’s homes has received $7.6m from venture capitalist Benchmark Capital to set up as a philanthropic investment firm by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar. The eight-year-old site boasts a user base of over three million people in 81,000 cities, with 5.6 million connections of people sharing a couch, a coffee, or simply local knowledge of the best bars, restaurants and sight seeing spots with other diehard Couch Surfers.

Further information: http://www.couchsurfing.org/

Success for Inaugural Tourism and Events Excellence Conference

More than 300 attendees were inspired by leaders from across the industry at the inaugural Tourism and Events Excellence Conference held 5-7 September 2011 in Melbourne. The event featured an impressive line-up of speakers who presented ways and means of overcoming challenges despite the tough times

The conference theme was “defining excellence” and from the quality of speakers to the calibre of delegates, it was clear the event set a high benchmark in its very first year.

A few key points included:

  • Bernie Brookes, CEO, Myer: urged delegates to consider the retailer’s recent turnaround, with its focus on enhanced service and differentiated product, as an example to follow.
  • Senator the Hon Nick Sherry, Minister Assisting on Tourism: emphasised the need for greater and more effective use of online technology
  • Chris Richardson, Partner, Deloitte Access Economics: explained how the mining boom is contributing to exchange rate pressure on tourism, and how it will (eventually) contribute to tourism’s long-term gain
  • Tim McFarlane, Managing Director, The Really Useful Company: spoke of the high level of collaboration and cooperation between key organisations and agencies in Victoria as the X-factor that attracts international major productions and events to the state.
  • Stephan Bognar, CEO, Maddox Jolie-Pitt Foundation speak about the urgent need for support and advancement of conservation and sustainability work in Cambodia

Further conference information: www.teeconference.com

2012 conference dates will be announced soon!

Million Dollar Memo

The staff of Indonesian automotive components manufacturer the ADR Group of Companies are celebrating after winning Tourism Queensland’s latest global marketing campaign the Million Dollar Memo.

The winner was one of 20 finalists from 11 countries and regions that participated in an eight day event spanning a range Queensland’s premium incentive experiences and destinations.

The company is looking to bring employees, clients and partners to Queensland for the prize, AUD$1 million worth of incentive travel experiences.


The Million Dollar Memo is the consumer launch pad of a 5 year strategy aimed at positioning Queensland as the number one incentive travel destination in the region. To date, over AUD$22.5 million in global publicity has been generated for Queensland.

Further information: http://www.milliondollarmemo.com/


Hilton Surfers Paradise

The new $700 million Hilton Surfers Paradise complex has opened in Queensland with a range of accommodation options including guest rooms and holiday residences.

This is the eighth Hilton branded property in Australia and the first new upscale global hotel to be built on the Gold Coast in the last decade.

Unique to the hotel is the ‘Beach Valet’ where guests can have their beach gear transported to and from the hotel while relaxing in a private area on the beach incorporating umbrellas, chairs, drinks and snacks. Apart from appealing to the leisure market the hotel will also target the meeting, incentives, conference and exhibitions industry.

Further information: http://www.hiltonsurfersparadise.com.au/




Greenest Airlines

The best and worst airlines in terms of carbon emissions in American and European skies have been revealed in a recent study. The 10-year study by Brighter Planet used an advanced energy and carbon model to measure how much damage certain airlines do to the environment. On the international scale, Ryanair, Singapore Airlines and Delta came out on top, with SAS Scandinavian scoring the worst.

Further information: http://brighterplanet.com/research



Air Australia

Launched in 2009 and headquartered in Brisbane, Australia’s newest domestic and international carrier Strategic Airlines has rebranded as ‘Air Australia’ in a move to chase the low-cost market for leisure and conference traffic.

The new airline will begin international flights from Melbourne and Brisbane to Honolulu, as well as domestic services between the Queensland and Victorian capitals in December 2011.

Further information: http://www.flystrategic.com.au/




Carbon Standards for Hotels

The International Tourism Partnership and the World Travel & Tourism Council are collaborating to develop a single methodology for calculating carbon footprints and consistent metrics for communicating emissions.

The Carbon Measurement Working Group includes international hotel companies such as Accor, Fairmont Hotels & Resorts, Hilton Worldwide, Hyatt Hotels & Resorts, InterContinental Hotels Group, Marriott International, MGM Resorts International, Mövenpick Hotels & Resorts, Red Carnation Hotel Collection, Starwood Hotels & Resorts, Premier Inn - Whitbread Group and Wyndham Worldwide.

Further information: http://www.wttc.org/eng/Tourism_News/Press_Releases



Combining the concept of pod-like rooms and the use of waste materials for construction, architects in Mexico have created a hotel made from recycled concrete pipes. Located 45 minutes south of Mexico City, the 20 room Tubohotel has queen-size beds, desk lights and fans, with space for under bed storage. The growing trend of eco-responsible tourism has seen unwanted construction materials in natural surroundings being used to create hotels that are cheap and quick to build, better for the environment and boast the benefits of affordability and a quirky experience for visitors.

Further information: http://www.tubohotel.com/welcome/


The Sleepbox is a small, self-contained cabin designed to give users a quiet place to get some rest.

Targeted at airports, railroad stations, hostels and even offices each ventilated unit measures 1.4 metres wide by 2 metres long and 2.3 metres high.

Housing a bed crafted from polymer foam and pulp tissue that changes linen automatically, the cabin also includes luggage space, WiFi, electrical outlets and an LCD TV. Moscow’s Sheremetyevo International Airport already features a Sleepbox, with the first hostel due to open in Moscow next year.

Further information: http://www.sleepbox.com/ and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3qxnqy37KPc&feature=player_embedded#


Travel Volunteer

In an effort to support the Travel Industry in Japan, The Real Japan has launched a global online competition in July to win a 100+1 day trip to Japan.

Called Travel Volunteer, the idea came from one of the employees at The Real Japan, while brainstorming how to bring Tourism back to show that Japan is still a safe and wonderful country to visit after recent disasters.

Starting the journey on September 15, 2011 the selected Travel Volunteer will visit all of Japan’s 47 prefectures and share impressions through a dedicated travel blog and through social networks. All travel and accommodation expenses, including international airfares will be covered by the project.

Further information http://www.travelvolunteer.net


Taxi App

A new smart phone application is enabling users to order, pay for and track their taxis, as well as earning reward points.

Get Taxi will offer taxi companies it’s own operating hardware for free, enabling both driver and rider to view each others’ previous ride ratings.

Get Taxi is looking to launch Europe-wide where the majority of the 600,000 taxis are independent contractors, who pay for dispatch services.

Further information: http://www.gettaxi.com/

Luxury Travel Report

A new report commissioned by International Luxury Travel Market and undertaken by consulting specialists Horwath HTL has found that today’s luxury traveller wants to be entertained and stimulated, rather than simply pampered.

The Future of Luxury Travel report looks into the changing pattern of high-end travel experiences, taking into account the effects of the global financial crisis as well as the increase in demand for luxury from the emerging markets.

Further information: http://www.iltm.net/asia/files/the_future_of_luxury_travel_report.pdf



Tourist Taxes Study

The education and research foundation of the Global Business Travel Association has released its annual study of travel taxes in the top 50 U.S. travel destination cities.

According to the 2011 study three Florida cities are among the 50 least tax-burdened destinations, while Chicago and New York top the list of heaviest.

The findings were collected using a statistical and economic consulting firm that calculated taxes paid by travellers staying at a hotel, renting a car and eating restaurant meals for one day and one night, as well as for a longer stay of three days and two nights, according to the study.

Further information: http://www.gbta.org/foundation/pressreleases/pages/rls072111.aspx

Business Events Insights

New research presenting the opportunities and challenges of business events for regional tourism operators has been undertaken with an extensive range of event coordinators and professional conference organisers in Sydney, New South Wales.

Recommendations identified in the report cover a range of topics including product marketing, digital marketing, product development, governance, training, education and destination marketing and the establishment a new body to focus on attracting business events to regional areas.


Further information:

Reconciliation Action Plan

Tourism Australia has underlined its commitment to the development of indigenous tourism with the introduction of its Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP).

The action plan, developed in partnership with Reconciliation Australia is a platform to engage Indigenous Australia in marketing and promotional strategies whilst raising the profile of Indigenous tourism across government agencies.

Additionally, the initiative will look to employ, develop and promote Indigenous people and identify mentoring opportunities for those interested in joining the tourism industry.

Further information: http://www.tourism.australia.com/en-au/aboutus/default_6174.aspx


New World Heritage

The UNESCO World Heritage Committee has named 25 new World Heritage sites at a recent session in Paris. The World Heritage List now numbers 936 properties - 183 natural sites, 725 cultural and 28 mixed.

Further information: http://www.unesco.org


Wild Women on Top Sydney Coastrek

The Wild Women On Top Sydney Coastrek is a 50 - 100 kilometre team challenge along the stunning Sydney Coastline, including ocean and harbour beaches, headlands, cliff tops and bush tracks. The event will take place from Friday 2nd March to Saturday 3rd March 2012.

The Sydney Coastrek proudly supports the Fred Hollows foundation and the 2012 event is looking to raise $1,000,000 for the Foundation.

Organisers of the event Wild Women on Top, specialise in adventure fitness training, preparing women for extreme and moderate trekking adventures in Australia and around the world.

Further information: http://coastrek.com.au/


Tourism for Tomorrow Awards 2012
The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) is inviting tourism businesses and destinations worldwide to apply for its 2012 Tourism for Tomorrow Awards.

Every year WTTC recognises the very best in sustainable tourism - its Tourism for Tomorrow Awards are one of the highest accolades in the global Travel & Tourism industry.

Applicants should illustrate how they are the very best in sustainable tourism planning and management, maximizing social and economic benefits for the local community while reducing negative impacts to the environment by entering in one of four categories: Global Tourism Business, Conservation, Community Benefit and Destination Stewardship.

Tony Charters is a finalist judge and an official contributor for the WTTC Tourism for Tomorrow Awards.

Entries are open online at www.tourismfortomorrow.com until 1 December 2011.

Ecotourism Australia GECKO Awards 2011

Entries for the 2011 Ecotourism Australia GECKO Awards are closing soon!

The purpose of the GECKO Awards to recognise the best of the best in environmentally sustainable and culturally responsible tourism in Australia. Certified tourism operators self nominate and the winners are decided by a panel of judges.

Categories include: Ecotourism Award, Indigenous Tourism Award, Climate Action Tourism Award, EcoGuide Award and Ecotourism Medal for Individual Excellence.

Applications are to be submitted by Close of Business on Friday 30 September 2011and the winners will be announced during the Global Eco Conference on Thursday 10 November in Sydney, New South Wales

More information: http://www.ecotourism.org.au/


Indigenous Employment Program

Leading Australian employment service Mission Australia is teaming up with the InterContinental Hotels Group to help boost Indigenous employment in Australia’s hospitality industry.

The new joint Indigenous Employment Program aims to help tackle Indigenous unemployment by placing 60 Indigenous job seekers in roles within InterContinental, Crowne Plaza and Holiday Inn hotels within the next twelve months.

The initiative is funded by the Australian Government Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations and is the first nation-wide partnership Mission Australia has entered into following the success of a number of local programs.

Further information: http://www.missionaustralia.com.au/news/3531-partnership-indigenous-job-seekers-hospitality-industry


Young Tourism

Tourism NSW has developed a youth marketing program in consultation with the Backpackers Operators Association featuring a range of activities that will run year-round in both the domestic and international marketplace.

Given the youth market’s technology based media habits the program is predominantly focused on the development and delivery of digital content via Tourism NSW and partner channels.

Further information: http://corporate.tourism.nsw.gov.au/NSW-Youth-Program_p4919.aspx

Tourism e-kit

The tourism e-kit, an on-line marketing tool designed specifically for Australian tourism businesses has been downloaded over 250,000 times as tourism operators across the country look to increase their online presence.

Launched in 2008 by the Australian Tourism Data Warehouse the free e-kit is made up of 41 easy to understand tutorials available in PDF and video formats.

It is also updated every six months to provide industry members with the most up-to-date information.

Further information: http://www.atdw.com.au/tourism_e_kit.asp



Promoting Regional Australia
The 2011 SEGRA Program is now out and contains a strong and diverse range of topics. Headlining speakers include::
  • Mark Keil, Chief Information Officer, City of Chattanooga, Tennessee, USA
    Regions Taking Advantage of New High-Speed Fibre Optic Technology
  • Prof Jerry Engel, Founder, Centre of Entrepreneurship, University of California
    The Role of Entrepreneurship and Innovation in Building Individual and Regional Economic Opportunity Workshop
  • Prof Judith Brett, Head of School of Social Sciences and Professor of Politics, La Trobe University
    Fair Share: Country and City in Australia

SEGRA 2011 will be held 24-27 October 2011 in Geelong, Victoria

Ecotourism Leaders Gather in Sydney in November

Ecotourism leadership and excellence will be on the agenda when the 2011 Global Eco Asia-Pacific Tourism Conference begins in Sydney in less than seven weeks time.

The four day program is packed with highlights including:

  • 8 international keynote speakers
  • Interactive theme stream forums
  • Indigenous Tourism Forum
  • ASEAN and OCEANIA Tourism Forum
  • Dedicated networking functions

Global Eco 2011 is the premier annual conference by Ecotourism Australia and will be held 7-10 November in Sydney, NSW. View the program brochure

Speaking Opportunities are now available for case studies that push the boundaries, go to new extremes and deliver sustainability and business advantages in the areas of 'Extreme Green' and 'Urban Ecotourism' on Wednesday 9 November. If you are interested in presenting your green initiatives at the Global Eco Conference then please fill out the submission form at http://globaleco.com.au/callforpapersform.php

Further information and registration: http://globaleco.com.au/


World Responsible Tourism Day
World Responsible Tourism Day was launched five years ago to educate, motivate and inspire travel companies to engage in year-round responsible tourism activity. With a growing band of enthusiastic industry professionals helping to make World Responsible Tourism Day on Wednesday 9 November 2011 a global phenomenon, the World Travel Mart in London will feature presentations, debates, seminars and a networking reception
Further information: http://www.wtmwrtd.com/
Regional Events Conference
The 3rd Annual Regional Events Conference will be held in Townsville from 11 to 13 November 2011. Hosted by Events Queensland the central theme is Building the Resilience of Regional Events.
Further information: http://www.eqconference.com.au/
Global Geotourism Conference
The 3rd Global Geotourism Conference will be held in Muscat, Oman from 30 October to 1 November 2011. Further information: http://www.geotourism.om/geo/index.html