This year the 27th Global Eco Asia-Pacific Tourism Conference will be held in Cairns, Queensland, just a wave away from the Great Barrier Reef. Over three days between 2 to 4 December 2019, the conference will see regional and international speakers and experts update attendees on the pressing issues impacting eco-tourism across Southeast Asia.
Global Eco Asia-Pacific Tourism Conference brings together key players from across sustainable industry - operators, tourism commissions, protected area managers, industry professionals and researchers – to offer insights, workshops and practical examples of the best in current practice.
Last year’s event focused not just on economic development and good conservation outcomes, but also cultural understanding and social sustainability. With ecotourism now making up an estimated 25% of the Australian tourism industry alone, eco-tourism contributes some AUD6.5 billion to the Australian economy’ (Deloitte, Access Economics, 2017), and supports tens of thousands of jobs. As well as growth, sustainability, indigenous tourism, coral reef issues and oil-driven access, delegates also covered things like sustainable architectural design and plumbing too.
Conference convenor and Ecotourism Australia CEO Rod Hillman said that delegates will be spoilt for choice when attending the this year’s Cairns-based event. “Between the Great Barrier Reef and the Wet Tropics of Queensland, this region arguably contains the greatest concentration of high-quality ecotourism operators on the planet.” The key theme of the get-together – apart from the networking and informational sessions – will be on the importance of timing to the industry.
Issues like the right time to credit ecotourism with benefits to communities, to recognise the new breed of eco-managers and businesspeople as important players in the industry worldwide, and the move to cement the role of ecotourism as an important contributor and guardian of traditional issues and values for the wider community will all see an airing at the gathering.
For instance, reinventing ecotourism will be the focus of a talk by ecotourism leader Steve Noakes who is also Chair, Board of Directors of Binna Burra Lodge. In September this year, he has faced the devastation and heartache of the major bushfire that destroyed ten of his neighbours houses adjacent to the Lamington National Park and razed most of the heritage buildings iconic Binna Burra Lodge. Out of the wreckage comes the opportunity to reinvent the spirit of Binna Burra.
Dr Matt Curnock, a Social Scientist with CSIRO, will deliver a talk on How Do We Assess and Monitor Aesthetic Values of the Great Barrier Reef? Aesthetic beauty is a major driver of tourist visitation to natural areas, and it forms a part of the selection criteria for the Great Barrier Reef’s World Heritage listing. However, identifying reliable indicators for monitoring aesthetic values –to help Reef users and managers maintain or enhance those values – has been an ongoing challenge. In this presentation, he describes their research and key findings that are contributing to the development of an Aesthetics Long-Term Monitoring Program (ALTMP) for the Great Barrier Reef.
Flanked by two World Heritage Areas, the Wet Tropic of Queensland and the Great Barrier Reef, Hillman says the location provides the perfect setting to bring the leading players in the ecotourism industry together. The Queensland Government is this year’s major sponsor of the event, and its support once again reflects the priority being placed by local and regional governments on the industry.