North Australian Tourism Operators Take Out Ecotourism Honours

North Queensland and the Northern Territory have emerged winners at this year’s Ecotourism Australia GECKO Awards announced in Cairns at the 2012 Global ECO Asia Pacific Tourism Conference.

North Queensland tourism operators Daintree Discovery Centre and Low Isles Sailaway have won the Ecotourism Award and Climate Action Award respectively, while John Rumney owner of Eye to Eye Marine Encounters has been awarded the prestigious Ecotourism Medal of Individual Excellence.

Northern Territory’s Far Out Adventures has won the Indigenous Tourism Award  and Mike Keighley, owner of Far Out Adventures has won the EcoGuide Award of Excellence for the third year in a row.

Professor Ross Dowling, Chair of the GECKO Award Judging Panel and Director of Ecotourism Australia said “We were overwhelmed by both the quantity and quality the award submissions and the Judging Panel had a really tough job deciding the winners this year!”

The 2012 Ecotourism Australia GECKO Award winners are:

Climate Action Award sponsored by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority

Winner: Low Isles Sailaway, Queensland

Low Isles Sailaway is family owned and operated by Steve and Katrina Edmondson, who take an active role across all elements of the business from skippering the vessel to international marketing. This close operational involvement and passion for the Great Barrier Reef’s long-term conservation have enabled Low Isles Sailaway as a business to achieve best environmental practice and to be proactive in the development of climate change action emission reduction innovation and the provision of reef friendly offsets to deliver a carbon neutral tourism product.

Indigenous Tourism Award sponsored by Gumala Aboriginal Corporation

Winner: Far Out Adventures, Northern Territory

Far Out Adventures began in 1994, when the Mangarrayi Aboriginal people on Elsey Station invited Mike Keighley to bring tourists into their one million acre property on the Roper River, Northern Territory.  They explored the location and saw potential to run tours with the Aboriginal people. They see their role is to interpret and facilitate enjoyable learning experiences. Over a period of days this impresses on guests the sensitive nature of these environments, the Aboriginal culture and the need to maintain these experiences for future generations.

EcoGuide Award of Excellence sponsored by AVANA

Winner:  Mike Keighley

Mike started guiding in Katherine seventeen years ago. His focus is on Wildlife, Ecosystems and Aboriginal culture.  Mike is motivated by the outcomes from guiding – the gratitude expressed as fellow humans learn of new ways to care for the earth – along with opportunities to breakdown racial barriers often formed by ignorance. Mike sees is role as guide is to safely facilitate these experiences so guests can look at country and its people with heightened respect and empathy.

This is the 3rd year in a row that Mike has won this award

Highly Commended: Michael McCulkin, New South Wales

Ecotourism Award sponsored by Tourism NT

Winner:  Daintree Discovery Centre, Queensland

The Daintree Discovery Centre is a multi-award winning environmentalinterpretive facility that allows people of all ages to learn about, explore and help conserveone of the few unspoilt pockets of lowland rainforest left in Australia – the Daintree. It welcomes 85,000 visitors per annum and manages to do so without causing damage to this world heritage icon.  Opened in 1989 the site was chosen for its extraordinary biological diversity. The Centre was especially designed to protect theecological integrity and preserve the cultural heritage of this pristine environment.  Daintree Discovery Centre is helping visitors to understand climate change impacts and how to better manage protected areas.

Highly Commended: Dolphin Discovery Centre, Western Australia and Phillip Island Nature Park, Victoria

2012 Ecotourism Medal for Individual Excellence

About the award: This award recognises the extraordinary personal and professional achievement and contribution by an individual over many years to the Australian tourism industry. Judges consider in particular the activities and contribution of the nominee outside the expectations of normal employment.

Winner: John Rumney

With over 30 years of experience as a marine tourism operator, research coordinator, professional skipper and adventure diver, John Rumney has a vast knowledge of the reef and its inhabitants. He has consulted for international panels on Climate Change and participated in conservation movements around the world. One of the earliest advocates for ecotourism, John has spent the last 20 years promoting sustainable practices through education, research partnerships and conservation initiatives.

John operates Eye to Eye Marine Encounters out of Port Douglas. This marine tourism company aims to be continually funded and profitable through tourism, marine science and documentary revenue and support significant marine science, conservation management and climate change mitigation.   Through this unique business model, guests gain a deeper personal interaction and understanding of the natural world and are inspired to protect it. Marine research and conservation projects that John has coordinated include the internationally renowned Minke Whale Project, Osprey Reef shark and nautilus tagging expeditions and innovative tiger shark and turtle research in the waters of the Far Northern Great Barrier Reef (around Raine Island).

For more information contact: Kym Cheatham Chief Executive Officer Ecotourism Australia at ceo@ecotourism.org.au or 0407019685

The Ecotourism Australia vision:: “To be leaders in assisting ecotourism and other committed tourism operations to become environmentally sustainable, economically viable, and socially and culturally responsible”.

The Global Eco Asia Pacific Ecotourism conference is Ecotourism Australia’s annually conference attracting an impressive line up of world renown international and Australian speakers.  A full conference program is available at www.globaleco.com.au

Ecotourism Australia was formed in 1991 as an incorporated non-profit organisation, and is the peak national body for the ecotourism industry.  Ecotourism Australia aims to grow and promote ecotourism and to assist tourism operators to become environmentally sustainable, economically viable and socially and culturally responsible. 

Membership includes tour operators, ecotourism accommodation, tourism planners, protected area managers, academics and students, regional tourism associations and travellers.

Ecotourism Australia’s certification program is a world first. It provides objective monitoring and auditing of organisations’ ecotourism claims and provides travel agents and tourists with an assurance of best practice ecological sustainability, natural area management and quality ecotourism experiences

In 2008, Ecotourism Australia was awarded the prestigious World Travel and Tourism Council “Tourism for Tomorrow” Award for Conservation at the World Tourism Summit in recognition of Ecotourism Australia’s significant contribution to the conservation and preservation of natural heritage.

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