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So ,You’ve Heard We’re An ECO Certified Destination… (But What Does That Mean?)

By Sharon Timms
Oct 7, 2021. Last updated Oct 14, 2021

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If you’re a traveller within this glorious island we call Australia, it’s likely you may have seen the Ecotourism Australia logo. Over 500 businesses Australia-wide ranging from tour companies, accommodation providers and attractions show off this logo loud and proud, shouting from the treetops how committed they are to sustainable practices in tourism. But do you know what it actually means? Perhaps you may have thought it’s just a marketing ploy to attract the ‘green dollar’. Well, you might be surprised.

Righto. So, how’s it done? What does the business need to do to become eco-certified? What’s the difference between an ECO Certified business and an ECO Certified destination? How do travellers know they’re doing the right thing? And how did the ECO Certification program even start? We’re glad you asked… keep on reading to find out everything you need to know about this small but mighty logo.

WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?

Ecotourism Australia’s certification program is the world’s oldest national not-for-profit ecotourism accreditation program and has been designed to inspire environmentally sustainable and culturally responsible tourism. This is done through encouraging nature-based tourism businesses to become eco-certified over six different categories, making sure the nature-loving, green travellers amongst us (and educating those new to the scene) are having the time of our lives while doing the right thing by the planet.

WHAT’S AN ECO CERTIFIED OPERATOR?

The ECO Certification program gives the big green tick to tourism products (tours, accommodations, attractions) that have a primary focus on nature. It assures travellers that these certified operators are backed by a strong, well-managed commitment to sustainable practices while providing high quality nature-based tourism experiences.

Port Douglas and the Daintree currently have 22 eco certified operators with many in the Ecotourism Australia Hall of Fame having clocked up more than 20 years of certification. This highlights their dedication to not only showcasing the magical wonders of nature with our guests, but also ensuring these wonders are cared for well into the future. When visitors see this logo, they can trust that the business is doing the right thing by the environment, its ecosystems and its communities. It also guarantees the tourism experiences on offer are authentic and of high quality.

WHAT’S AN ECO CERTIFIED DESTINATION?

Essentially, an ECO Destination is a tourism region that has a concentrated and intentional focus on minimising the impact of tourism on the environment through sustainable practices and respecting host cultures, all while maximising the benefits of top-notch nature-based experiences for visitors (and locals) to awe in wonder and spread the word.

The certification requires an organisation to be heralding the eco-warrior charge, like the local council or local tourism organisation. However, destination certification is about much more than only the tourism sector - it's about real, tangible environmental sustainability being demonstrated by how the community as a whole operates... like, eliminating plastic water bottles and implementing more public water coolers.

HOW DOES A DESTINATION BECOME CERTIFIED?

The ECO Destination certification process involves six main areas:

  • Destination Management
  • Nature & Scenery
  • Environment & Climate
  • Culture & Tradition
  • Social & Well-being
  • Business & Hospitality.

All these principles need to be a major commitment in how the destination manages tourism, including cultural and natural interpretation and education for visitors, and local business engagement in sustainability.

In the Douglas Shire we have achieved a long list of bragging rights for our actions including (but not limited to):

  • The Daintree Buyback Scheme that purchases plots of land for conservation
  • Extended GBRMPA permits for eco-certified businesses operating on the GBR
  • A town planning scheme that controls urban sprawl and prevents unsustainable development
  • The creation of the Plastic Free Douglas movement, eliminating single-use plastics

Check out the full list of all our big green things here.

THE PORT DOUGLAS DAINTREE ECO EXPERIENCE

We’ve been at this game for a long time here! The bulldozers were literally stopped in their tracks in 1984 when protestors chained themselves to trees during the Daintree Blockade. While the road between Cape Tribulation and Bloomfield ultimately went ahead, the efforts of the protestors were what led to the region becoming a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988. The Douglas Shire Council was the first local council to adopt a sustainable tourism strategy in 1998. And then in 2019, the region was awarded Australia’s first Ecotourism Australia ECO Destination certification.

Here in Port Douglas and the Daintree, we are committed to minimising environmental impact by reducing waste, teaching guests about how to protect our oceans and supporting local initiatives. We show our travellers the beauty of the reef and rainforest environments and its many, magical creatures.

Now that you know a little bit more about the ECO Certification, be sure to look out for the logo when you’re travelling next. We want future generations to be able to enjoy the same natural wonders as we do now.

So, what are you waiting for? Come and appreciate the eco-friendly, sustainable beauty of Port Douglas and the Daintree with us!

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