Profile of an ‘EcoPro’

Fiona Sleight of EcoPro Consultancy provides independent certification auditing services to Ecotourism Australia and has shared some insights into the role.

Fiona SleightThe success of the Ecotourism Australia certification programs is, I believe, its brand recognition which allows visitors to Australia to support accredited operators. Rigorous onsite audit of the adherence to certification standards play an integral role in maintaining the quality of Australian Ecotourism experiences.

I became an Auditor for Ecotourism Australia’s certification programs in 2005 when I established EcoPro Consultancy. I bring to the role a range of experience in Policy Development, Business Sustainability Assessment, Marketing and Tourism Operational Practice with Post Graduate Certification in Protected Area Management.

A passion for the environment and qualification as a PADI SCUBA Diving Instructor led me to work within the tourism industry of North Queensland. Accredited as an EcoGuide, I worked as senior marine interpreter for Quicksilver Dive and was responsible for establishing the company’s Dwarf Minke Whale Encounter Tour. This allowed for my tour guiding to be at the cutting edge of minimum impact experiences and I was honoured in  2003 to be awarded the National EcoGuide Award for Excellence at the Adelaide Ecotourism Conference.

Ecotourism Australia’s certification programs are, in the first instance, based on self-assessment application. Subsequent onsite audits play a crucial role in monitoring and maintaining the credibility of these programs.  Onsite Audits aim to ensure certification standards are being met and to identify any required corrective actions. Auditors bring a wealth of experience to the process and provide tourism operators with an opportunity to discuss areas for future innovation and ongoing improvement. Qualification as a RABQSA Environmental Management Systems Auditor/Lead Auditor is required to conduct onsite certification audit services for Ecotourism Australia.

I am privileged to have conducted audits at many superb locations and with some truly inspiring tourism operators in both Queensland and Victoria. My role as an auditor is rewarding and continues to highlight to me the extraordinary richness of Australia’s natural assets and the growing diversity of sustainable tourism ventures, which offer a range of awe- inspiring experiences to visitors in Australia. ’

EcoPro Consultancy provides professional services to tourism operators to facilitate the process of tourism certification and guide the development of environmental management systems, emissions audit and best practice in sustainable tourism.

If you would like to contact Fiona, you can reach her on 0427 236 923 or at fiona@ecopro.com.au

eco pro logo

Tourism and Gender

According to the UNWTO, women make up the majority of the tourism workforce, but  tend to be the lowest paid. The tourism industry can contribute to promoting gender equality by creating opportunities for women and spread awareness of gender issues. Having economic opportunities and education is one of the most important ways for women to empower themselves to seek a better quality of life for themselves, their families and their communities

UN Women and UNWTO Women in Tourism Program

The Global Report on Women in Tourism 2010 confirms that tourism can act as a vehicle for the empowerment of women whilst highlighting the remaining challenges for gender equality in tourism. The UNWTO along with UN Women, a division of the UN working towards gender equality and the empowerment of women, has been working towards enhancing the positive impact of tourism on women’s lives and to bring gender issues to the forefront of the tourism industry. Many non-governmental organisations, such as the MaseualsiuamejMosenyolchicauani (Indigenous Women Acting Together) in Mexico, and the Kenya Association of Women in Tourism (KAWT), work towards raising awareness of women in the tourism industry and giving women the opportunity to advance in the field.

The proposed Women in Tourism Empowerment Programme (WITEP) will promote women’s economic empowerment in tourism through partnerships with tourism stakeholders including the improvement of employment opportunities for women such as skills, supply chain, career advancement and gender awareness. It is important to provide educational activities for women to better improve their opportunities for working within the tourism industry.

Visit The International Ecotourism Society’s (TIES) website to read the full story.

The Rise of the Ecotourist

Ecotourism has been gaining popularity since the 1980s, and it is estimated that the number of ecotourists increases by about 10% annually. On the one hand, the implication is that nature itself has become a tourist attraction. On the other hand, it demonstrates an anxiety that we are destroying nature, and reflects an effort to preserve environments and cultures that are in danger of extinction.

The fundamental impetus behind ecotourism is the notion that traditional tourism is destructive, but that efficient and considerate touristic practices can serve the opposite role. Ecotourism draws travelers to remote and undeveloped locations, promotes education about native cultures and the fragile ecosystems, and ensures that their presence produces the smallest impact possible.

The primary ‘tourist attractions’ of these trips are natural: exotic plants and animals, isolated cultures, and the opportunity for personal growth. Ecotourists go on safaris, jungle treks, rainforest explorations, and scuba dive on protected reefs. The industry is regulated by locals, and the money it generates contributes to the preservation of their way of life and environment. The rationale is that local control ensures the promotion of local interests, and gives indigenous people the opportunity and financial security to resist more destructive forces of globalization.

While it is certainly a movement fueled by the best of intentions, in many parts of the world the results are not always clear. In the west, the green initiatives encouraged by ecotourism help reverse or slow the damage already being done. Elsewhere, however, the opposite may be true. The goal of this type of travel is to preserve isolated cultures and landscapes from the encroachments of the modern world. But the strategy for doing so inevitably brings the modern world to the places it aims to keep ‘unspoiled’. Proponents claim that establishing ecofriendly tourism first will stop irresponsible tourism from encroaching.

To read the full Press Release, please follow the link.

2013 Tourism for Tomorrow Awards Finalists Announced

The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) has unveiled the twelve finalists for its 2013 Tourism for Tomorrow Awards. The Awards are one of the highest accolades in the global Travel & Tourism industry, recognising sustainable tourism best practices in businesses and destinations worldwide.

Award applications were received this year from 46 countries, representing all continents. Finalists in four categories were selected, ranging from entire countries, to global hotel groups, international airlines, luxury tour operators and small eco-lodges.

The categories for the 2013 Tourism for Tomorrow Awards are:

Destination Stewardship: for those who have successfully implemented a sustainable tourism programme at the destination level, incorporating social, cultural, environmental, and economic benefits as well as multi-stakeholder engagement.

Global Tourism Business: for those who represent international companies with at least 500 employees, and 8 tourism enterprises in one or more countries, where achievements combine corporate success with sustainable tourism principles and practices.

Conservation Award: for those who have made a direct and tangible contribution to the preservation of nature, including the protection of wildlife, expanding and restoring natural habitat, and supporting biodiversity conservation.

Community Benefit Award: for those whose companies and organisations directly benefit local people, supporting community development and enhancing cultural heritage.

Wayoutback Australian Safaris have been awarded ROC certification

Advanced Ecotourism certified Wayoutback Australian Safaris has recently added ROC certification through their ECO IV certification upgrade.

ROC LogoWayoutback

Wayoutback offers small group adventure camping safaris for an authentic taste of the Northern Territory outback. With products located in Uluru (Ayers Rock), Kata Tjuta (The Olgas), Kings Canyon and West MacDonnell Ranges in the Red Centre, plus – Kakadu, Litchfield and Nitmiluk (Katherine Gorge) National Parks in the Top End.

Wayoutback Desert Safaris is proud to be certified with the Respecting Our Culture (ROC) program for all safaris. They are firm proponents of giving their customers the opportunity to experience authentic indigenous interaction on all our tours so they get to hear stories and views from the original inhabitants about their land and their way of life.

Successfully reducing energy consumption Wayoutback monitors usage through the Alice Solar City Program. The program is an important procedure in combating climate change and reaching further certification.

In addition, upgrading to the ECOIV version of Advanced Ecotourism certification highlights Wayoutback’s sustained commitment to reducing environmental and social impacts.

For more information about ROC Certification, visit our website.

For more information about Wayoutback, visit their website.

Ningaloo Whaleshark Festival 2013

The annual Ningaloo Whaleshark Festival will be held in Exmouth on 24-26 May 2013.

The event will start with a cocktail party on the Friday evening. Festivities will continueTown Beach Sunday afternoon on Saturday at Koobooroo Oval with a fun run, breakfast, activities throughout the day and entertainment will continue into the evening. Sunday is Family Day at Town Beach with plenty of beach games and night time entertainment. Fire juggling, aerial displays and circus shows are all part of the festival program.

NINGALOO WHALESHARK FESTIVAL LOGOFor further information contact www.ningaloowhalesharkfestival.com or email whalesharkfestival@westnet.com.au.

Careers in Ecotourism

Recent research has found that Australia is the world leader in quality of its natural environment. With 40% of respondents saying that nature was a top 5 consideration when considering a holiday – with Australia topping the ratings with its world class  beauty and natural environment. At the 2012 World Ecotourism Conference, the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) announced that they predicated the demand for ecotourism would grow at 10-12% per annum compared to the total demand for travel, which they predicted would grow at 3-4% per annum. With this information in mind now is the time to consider a career in ecotourism. This kind of growth will see great opportunities for the industry.
So what is Ecotourism? The definition adopted by Ecotourism Australia is: “Ecotourism is ecologically sustainable tourism with a primary focus on experiencing natural areas that fosters environmental and cultural understanding, appreciation and conservation”.
What role does Ecotourism Australia play? As the peak national body for the ecotourism industry, formed in 1991 as a not-for-profit organisation it has significantly contributed to long term environmental sustainability on a national and global level through its ground breaking and world class ECO, EcoGuide, ROC and Climate Action Certification programs.
Tourism operators certified with Ecotourism Australia help travellers choose and experience a genuine and authentic tour, attraction, cruise or  accommodation that is environmentally, socially and economically sustainable. The Certification programs assure travellers that certified products are backed by a strong, well managed commitment to sustainable practices and provides high quality nature-based tourism experiences.
If you’re interested in a career or becoming involved in the Australian Ecotourism industry visit Ecotourism Australia’s website to view the full list of our Certified Tourism Operators, Green Suppliers and Members.
To search for environmental jobs in Australia you can also visit NRMjobs and Enviro Jobs. Both sites are dedicated to fulfilling the increasing job vacancies for Australia’s emerging green collar job sector.