Like most States and Territories in Australia, Tasmania is seeking Expressions of Interest from tourism operators to develop tourism enterprises within their National Parks.
Ecotourism Australia supports sustainable and responsible tourism development within National Parks but only if it:
- Follows appropriate guidelines and safeguards to ensure there is an acceptable balance between conservation and use, and it
- Provides the tourism enterprise with a clear opportunity to succeed.
At a minimum it should follow strict guidelines, like the Tourism in Australia’s Protected Areas Forum’s (TAPAF – a group of representatives from State and Commonwealth park and tourism agencies) “Best Practice Guidelines for Eco-Opportunities in Protected and Natural Areas”. These guidelines were developed by the Parks and Tourism Agencies themselves and provide an excellent basis for a consistent approach across States. They are designed to ensure conservation and tourism outcomes are delivered through sustainable tourism operations that continue to enhance Australia as such a desirable and unique tourism destination.
Although the guidelines are an excellent starting point they should be expanded to address important issues:
- How should existing ‘pioneer’ operators be treated (operating outside the Park) – How to recognise those who initially created the attraction without limiting competition and new ideas?
- What happens if the enterprise fails? Who is responsible for the clean-up or dismantling of the impact and infrastructure of the enterprise?
- It doesn’t require Park based tourism operations to maintain a framework to measure success in meeting environmental, social and economic goals (triple bottom line) – such as eco certification.
The previous policy of tourism development adjacent to Parks has proven to be a serious issue to Park Managers where the Park is expected to cater for the ever increasing needs of the tourists as a development outside the Park grows. The Park itself has to develop infrastructure, services and the associated maintenance without any tangible financial benefit. Bringing the tourism industry, conservation, Indigenous groups and government together through mutual benefit should provide better conservation and cultural outcomes whilst improving the visitor experience.