Tourism Tropical North Queensland prize winner Swims with Whales

A SYDNEY IDER, who won a Great Barrier Reef holiday competition, is gobsmacked after swimming with dwarf minke whales with Advanced Ecotourism Certified operator Eye to Eye Marine Encounters.

Taylor Smith was the winner of a Tourism Tropical North Queensland (TTNQ) social media competition on, which coincided with the national release of the BBC documentary Great Barrier Reef.

He spent six days with Eye to Eye Marine Encounters, which included swimming with the whales.

“It was like I was on an expedition with a bunch of friends, who just happened to be experts on the dwarf minke whales that we swam with everyday,” Mr Smith said. “It was an amazing experience that I will never forget.”

TTNQ chief executive officer Rob Giason said the competition shared a reef and marine life conservation message via social media to a wide audience through Earth Hour, PADI Asia Pacific, Hilton Cairns, Eye to Eye Marine Encounters, Panasonic Australia, Tourism Australia, Tourism Queensland and Virgin Australia.

The prize included return airfares for Mr Smith and his partner from Sydney to Cairns with Virgin Australia, accommodation at Hilton Cairns, a Panasonic FT3 Lumix camera and the minke whale expedition with Eye to Eye Marine Encounters.

For more information about Eye to Eye Marine Encounters visit their website.

Children’s Audio Guide – fun with learning at the Daintree Discovery Centre

An exciting new product, especially designed for children has just been launched by Certified operator Daintree Discovery Centre.

Director of the Daintree Discovery Centre and a former teacher herself, Pam Birkett says “This self-guided audio tour is really something special and was developed in direct response to customer demand; from schools as well as parents.”

Pam explains the script was written with the help of primary school teachers. The aim is to not only entertain, but in keeping with current education trends, encourage children to compare, measure and estimate things as they explore their natural environment.

This innovative Children’s Audio Tour offers short snippets of interesting information at every audio station; on the Aerial Walkway, the Canopy Tower, the Cassowary Circuit and Bush Tucker Trail – just like the Adult’s Audio Tour! That way Mums, Dads and kids can explore every level of the rainforest together.

Mrs Linda Vearing, a local school teacher and mother of two primary school students explains “We take our kids camping to the Cape Tribulation area every year and always call into the Discovery Centre on our way. The kids really love the audio tours. We learn something new each time and with the new children’s audio tour, the interactive touch screens in the display centre and the guide book, the kids are having fun and learning at the same time. And that’s fantastic!”

The Children’s audio tour is another first for the Daintree Discovery Centre and adds a whole new perspective to nature based learning.

The multi award winning Discovery Centre is a world-class interpretive facility nestled in the heart of the Daintree rainforest, just 10 kilometres north of the Daintree River and boasts a spectacular Aerial Walkway leading to a 23m high Canopy Tower.

The tower provides viewing of the very top of the rainforest canopy, while the walkway allows unprecedented access to the mid level rainforest. For international visitors, Self-guided Audio Tours are available in 6 languages.

An accredited Wet Tropics visitor Information Centre, the Daintree Discovery Centre also carries Advanced Ecotourism, ROC and Climate Action Business Certification and T-QUAL Accreditation and is open daily from 8.30am to 5pm.

For more information on the Daintree Discover Centre visit their Website.

Indigenous Tourism boosted by Government Grant

The Yolngu people of Arnhem Land are embarking on a plan to create thriving Indigenous-owned tourism businesses across Australia’s Top End, boosted today with the announcement of a Federal Government grant of $825,000.

The Yolngu Cultural Tourism Masterplan is the first of its kind in Australia and aims to develop new tourism opportunities for businesses owned and operated by Indigenous people. Launched by the Minister for Tourism, the Hon Martin Ferguson, and the Chairman of the Lirrwi Yolngu Tourism Aboriginal Corporation, Djawa Murrmurrnga (Timmy) Burarrwanga, the Masterplan strives to create sustainable employment and lasting economic benefits for Yolngu people throughout Arnhem Land.

Mr Burarrwanga, a Gumatj man from Yirrkala in North East Arnhem Land, who established Lirrwi Tourism and created a long-term vision based on Aboriginal leadership has developed the Masterplan.

“We have been sharing our culture with visitors for many years, but we now want to move to the next stage and create a new economy based on cultural tourism in Arnhem Land,” Mr Burarrwanga said. “We want to introduce people from Australia and all over the world to our country, our dance, our music, our ceremonies, our art and our unique way of life.”

“During the next 20 years we will see the creation of many new small businesses which our children will inherit,” he said. “This will help us stay connected to our homelands and our culture, creating employment for hundreds of Yolngu people while providing life-changing experiences for our visitors.”

The Masterplan has been developed with the support of a former Managing Director of the Tourism Australia, Mr John Morse AM, who has been visiting Arnhem Land for many years.

“The Yolngu people have an extraordinary vision and want to share their knowledge, culture and homelands with the outside world,” Mr Morse said. “The potential is very exciting and stands to benefit not just the Yolngu people but also the wider Australian tourism industry.”

Mr Morse said the Masterplan was a new model for Indigenous economic development, based on the principles of Aboriginal leadership, empowerment, continuity, respect for culture and responsibility. It would draw from the experience of the most qualified people in Australia to help build sustainable businesses.

An Expert Panel of high-profile people is being formed to provide direction and advice to the development of the Masterplan. This will be led by Yolngu Elder from Elcho Island, Rev Dr Djiniyini Gondarra OAM, along with Tourism Australia Chairman Geoff Dixon, tourism industry leader Bill Wright, Head of Tourism Division at the Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism (RET) Jane Madden, and prominent Melbourne academic and cultural advisor Andrea Hull AO.

“The enthusiasm and support for the Masterplan indicates a very strong will by the Government and the corporate sector to listen to the voices of Aboriginal people and help make a significant difference to their economic and cultural future,” Mr Morse said. “This potentially has significant implications for Aboriginal people across Australia who see tourism as a new way forward.”

“Arnhem Land is a place of great natural beauty, with islands, beaches, river systems and a unique way of life that can’t be found in other parts of the world,” Mr Morse said.

“Arnhem Land will never be a mass tourism destination, but it will be important in building Australia’s image around the world and creating a new future for the Yolngu people.”

Matt Moran wraps up the T-QUAL Tick Tour

Renowned chef Matt Moran has just returned from Queensland where he experienced and promoted an array of quality assured tourism products during the final leg of the     T-QUAL Tick Tour.

As a co-owner of a T-QUAL endorsed business and the acting ambassador for T-QUAL Accreditation, the past few months have seen Moran travelling around Australia, experiencing quality restaurants, tours, attractions and accommodation endorsed by the T-QUAL Tick – Australia’s national symbol of tourism quality.

“The T-QUAL Tick Tour has been an incredible journey, proving Australia is home to plenty of quality tourism experiences. There’s something for every budget in every state and territory, and now they’re even easier to find – all you have to do is look for the T-QUAL Tick,” said Moran.

With the tour wrapped up, Moran encourages everyone to keep the T-QUAL Tick in mind when booking their next holiday to ensure they experience quality adventures and if they need any inspiration, trip highlights can be found on the T-QUAL Tick Tour blog.

Throughout the T-QUAL Tick tour Matt Moran visited a number of Ecotourism Australia’s Certified products, these include;

  • Sea World Whale Watch
  • Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary
  • Cruise Maroochy Eco Tours
  • Xperiences Segway
  • Eco Beach Broome

Check out Matt Moran’s full journey at:

For a full list of Certified operators please visit Ecotourism Australia’s Website.

“See them before they vanish….”

The iconic Great Barrier Reef and the unique ecosystem of the South Australian desert have been named among the top 10 places to visit before they disappear in a list compiled by news website Mother Nature Network.

The Great Barrier Reef has been named at number three and the South Australian Desert  at nine on the list of natural wonders that will vanish during our lifetimes due to climate change and natural disasters.

Mother Nature ranked America’s Glacier National Park at number one on the list and warned that the reef is disappearing at an alarming rate and that if tourists want to fully appreciate it, the time is now.’What took 8000 years for nature to create could disappear within our lifetimes,’ the site says.

Time is also running out to fully appreciate and experience the South Australian Outback, which is being continually threatened by desertification. Across the region fresh water supplies are drying up meaning iconic sites such as Lake Eyre will not exist in future generations.

The top ten sites to see before they vanish are shown below:

1 Glacier National Park, Montana, USA
2. Venice, Italy
3. The Great Barrier Reef
4. Saharan Africa
5. The Maldives
6. Patagonia
7. Bangladesh
8. Alaskan Tundra
9. South Australian outback
10. European Alps

For more information on the destinations listed by Mother Nature Network visit their Website.

Quality affects the growing Chinese tourism market

Chinese tourists are fast becoming the major market in the Australian tourism industry but the poor practices of some tour operators and guides can leave Chinese visitors dissatisfied and threaten Australia’s reputation as a desirable travel destination, warns a new report on the growth potential of the Chinese market.

In his report ‘Taken for a Ride’, Andrew Dawson notes that some inbound tour operators are misrepresenting the quality of accommodation, forcing travellers to buy souvenirs at over-inflated prices and even ‘charging to take photographs of free iconic sites such as the Opera House or beaches in Sydney and on the Gold Coast’ (1).

Another study found that it was these types of unethical practices as well as poor quality tour guiding in general that were the major causes of Chinese visitor dissatisfaction (2). The influence tour guides have over the enjoyment of tour experiences can’t be overstated – particularly in non-English speaking visitors.

In their study on Chinese visitor satisfaction Betty Weiler and Xin Yu report that Chinese speaking tour guides are ‘the main point of contact between the destination and their Chinese clients….influencing where tourists go, what they see and what aspects of the host culture they are exposed to…’. While other improvements are also important, ‘the greatest focus should be on the tour guides who play the key role in facilitating the experiences of Chinese visitors’ (3).

AVANA is one organisation focused on improving the experience of Chinese visitors to Australia by providing skilled Chinese speaking guides for the Australian tourism industry. Eco Guiding is AVANA’s national tourism training division providing specialist training for current guides looking to build on their skills as well as those new to the industry.

AVANA have also recently unveiled their China Ready program which is designed to train existing tourism and hospitality workers in the intricacies of servicing the Chinese market. The program recently received a Strategic Tourism Investment grant of $600,000 and aims to train 11,000 people over 12 months.

The head of Asian strategy at AVANA, James Hutchinson, feels that ensuring guides have the skills to offer visitors an enjoyable experience is one of the key factors in consolidating Australia’s position as a desirable destination in the Chinese market.

‘It’s no longer enough that Chinese tour guides in Australia are simply those who speak both English and Mandarin. We need to develop the skills and expertise that will allow Chinese speaking guides to offer visitors a first class, interpretive tour experience.’

A number of Chinese speaking guides have already completed AVANA’s comprehensive Eco Guiding course in various states around Australia. Courses are now being offered in Victoria where provision of state and federal funding means that eligible individuals can have the entire cost of their training subsidised.

Statistics from Tourism Victoria show the number of overnight Chinese visitors to Victoria increased by 30% in 2012 to over 273,000. This number is expected to more than double by 2020. A number of iconic Victorian tourist attractions such as ECO Certified Phillip Island Nature Park already employ Mandarin speaking guides with more and more operators expected to follow suit as numbers of Chinese visitors continue to increase.

‘The sheer size and potential of the Chinese market makes it important for all sectors of the Australian tourism industry but particularly for Chinese speaking guides’ says Mr Hutchinson. ‘It’s a very exciting time for anyone looking at working in this area.’

Any individuals looking for tour guide training or operators seeking staff training or access to AVANA’s database of trained guides are asked to contact AVANA directly on (02) 8908 7300 or via email at

1. Dawson, Andrew. Taken for a ride: Rigue operators are threatening Australia’s reputation in one of our growing tourist markets.

2. Weiler, B. and Yu, X. Understanding experiences of Chinese visitors to Victoria, Australia. 2006.

3. Weiler, B. and Yu, X. Case Studies of the experience of Chinese visitors to three tourist attractions in Victoria, Australia. 2007.

Eco Lodges of Australia Become China Ready

China Ready Training at Rawnsley Park

Over the past few months a number of Eco Lodges of Australia have been participating in China Ready workshops to help with their preparations for the booming Chinese market. These workshops have been designed specifically for ecotourism operators in Australia, looking at what aspects of our natural heritage and way of life appeal to Chinese guests, and how to best utilise these aspects to provide a superior and highly engaging experience for the Chinese traveller.

Funded by the Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism under the T-QUAL project, this initiative is a partnership between AVANA, Ecotourism Australia and Spirit of China in Shanghai. To date, these workshops have been conducted in QLD, TAS, NSW, VIC and SA, with a handful left in the NT and WA.

Utilising existing research and through information gathered from a number of surveys conducted in both Australia and China, the partnership found that there is a real and growing opportunity for the Australian ecotourism industry in relation to the Chinese market.

This opportunity has only emerged in the past few years and will continue to develop as the Chinese tourism market grows in maturity and begins to search for new and unique tourism product. This fact was also further reinforced during Australian Tourism Exchange in Perth last month, as a number of Chinese agents expressed strong interest the products on show in Ecotourism Australia’s Green Travel Guide.

The workshops were delivered by James Hutchinson from AVANA, and Eric Lau and Lynn Wang from Spirit of China, who flew in from China to deliver these workshops. In the workshops, key staff at each Eco Lodge learnt of the emergence of a more experienced and mature Chinese traveller who is breaking the mould of the traditional ‘tourism with training wheels’.

These tourists are well travelled, having toured throughout US and Europe, and would most likely be travelling in Australia for the second or third time. It is these tourists that are more likely to opt for self-drive tours and unique nature based experiences off the beaten track, and who are presenting the Australian ecotourism industry with a new and exciting market.

Eric and Lynn with Neil from Jabiru Safari Lodge

The bulk of the training discusses these emerging travellers, looking at their expectations, interests and travel patterns, as well as some simple tips that ecotourism operators can adopt to make their experience more comfortable and engaging.

One of the tips Eric and Lynn emphasised was to create sample itineraries that the Chinese guests could base their day on. This is due to the fact that many Chinese people have little to no experience in nature and are therefore unsure of what they can and cannot do. Therefore, some translated itineraries outlining activities to enjoy, safety precautions and what animals to look out for improves the experience for Chinese guests.

The training also covered the unique aspects of each individual operation and identify the key niche markets that they would be able to attract, such as the wedding market, self drive tours, educational tours or incentive trips.  Due to the sheer size of China’s population, these niche markets are generally larger than the entire Australian population.

Eric, Lynn and James at Silky Oaks Lodge with Barbara and Paul

The next phase of the project is to help the participating Eco Lodges attract Chinese travellers to their business and to also to share the learning outcomes, research and training workshops with the wider ecotourism industry.

For more information or if you are interested in China Ready training for your operation contact James Hutchinson from AVANA at