Frequently asked questions
What is ecotourism?
Ecotourism includes nature-based experiences that increase visitor appreciation and understanding of an areas’ natural and cultural values. These experiences are managed to ensure they are ecologically, economically and socially sustainable, to the best possible extent, contributing to the wellbeing of the natural areas and local communities in which they operate.
Why invest in ecotourism?
Ecotourism is a key contributor to Queensland’s $25 billion tourism industry that supports 217,000 Queensland jobs including 1 in 5 jobs in regional north Queensland. Nature-based tourists typically spend more per visit than regular tourists and Queensland is uniquely positioned to capture greater share of this ecotourism market.
What is the Ecotourism Trails Program?
The Ecotourism Trails Program is a Queensland Government initiative to identify and deliver adventure and nature-based experiences at iconic Queensland destinations. The program will be delivered through an innovative and collaborative model, focused on Traditional Owners and working in close partnership with other levels of government, tourism operators and the wider community.
The Ecotourism Trails program unlocks new funding sources to protect, present and maintain natural and cultural assets through the delivery of low-impact ecotourism experiences that will compete on the world stage and attract thousands of new visitors each year.
What will the trails include?
The trails will attract domestic and international visitors that want to experience one-of-a-kind coastal and hinterland scenery through multi-day hiking or biking. The trails will offer Indigenous cultural experiences, lookouts, activities such as guided walks, public campsites and privately-operated eco-accommodation.
The program delivers cultural, environmental, social and economic benefits to Queensland and the regions, building community resilience for future generations and Traditional Owners.
What current opportunities are in the Ecotourism Trails Program?
Iconic Queensland destinations have been identified as part of the current Ecotourism Trails Program, with additional future opportunities expected. The current program includes:
- Wangetti Trail (Tropical North Queensland)
- Thorsborne Trail (Hinchinbrook Island National Park)
- Cooloola Great Walk (Great Sandy National Park)
- Whitsunday Island Trail (Whitsunday Islands National Park)
What are the criteria for Ecotourism Trail locations?
A number of project options across Queensland were considered for their ability to stimulate new tourism related business in regional areas, protect an area’s cultural resources and values and to the greatest possible extent, for the permanent preservation of the area’s natural condition. The projects were selected based on the objectives contained within the Queensland Ecotourism Plan 2016-2020 and associated good practice guides, as well as initial market sounding. The Implementation Framework for Ecotourism Facilities in National Parks and Best Practice Ecotourism Development Guidelines support these outcomes.
Why are Ecotourism Trails in national parks or World Heritage areas?
With a welcoming year-round climate, Queensland’s competitive tourism advantage is built on our nature and wildlife experiences across 17 million hectares of protected areas, marine parks and five World Heritage Areas. The Queensland Government supports ecotourism opportunities that deliver environmental, social and economic benefits to regional communities and to Queensland. The Queensland Ecotourism Plan 2016-2020 provides the framework for delivering new experiences and building a thriving ecotourism industry. The guiding principle is for Queensland’s treasured natural and cultural assets to be protected, conserved and presented for current and future generations to enjoy.
What about World Heritage conventions?
With five of Australia’s 19 World Heritage listed sites in Queensland, the Queensland Government is committed to World Cultural and Natural Heritage conventions. Under those conventions, the State has the primary duty of ensuring; identification, protection, conservation, presentation and transmission to future generations of an area’s cultural and natural heritage. The conventions are upheld through designing and managing ecotourism facilities that foster presentation, appreciation and conservation of the land’s natural condition and cultural resources and values.
How are Ecotourism Trails delivered?
Ecotourism Trails are delivered through an innovative and collaborative model focused on Traditional Owners, working in close partnership with governments, Tourism Operators and the wider community. The aim of this model is to:
- Develop training and job opportunities for local Indigenous communities
- Build sustainable business to bolster Indigenous communities to further help protect and preserve the land
- Foster and encourage effort to co-manage land for future generations
- Offer unique Indigenous tourism experiences and to generate new employment opportunities for current and future generations
- Preserve, enhance and educate visitors about cultural heritage.
How does the market process work?
Delivering an iconic ecotourism destination requires extensive planning and engagement, with multiple stakeholders and environmental considerations. A worldwide market engagement process is planned to find the best proposals from Tourism Operators to deliver each Ecotourism Trail. The market process follows four key stages as outlined below:
- Stage 1: Market Engagement: Tourism Operators who wish to be considered in the process for an Ecotourism Trail opportunity can submit their interest
- Stage 2: Expressions of Interest: Suitably qualified Tourism Operators will be invited to engage with Traditional Owners and refine their proposals
- Stage 3: Request for Detailed Proposals: Shortlisted Tourism Operators will be invited to further develop their concept and proposal, including confirmed commercial arrangements with Traditional Owners
- Stage 4: Preferred Proponent Selection: The successful Tourism Operator will be selected and binding terms negotiated, with construction commencing after all approvals including agreements with Traditional Owners are in place
What legislations and frameworks are relevant for delivering Ecotourism Trails?
Each trail will be carefully planned and designed within robust State, National and World Heritage environmental management frameworks.
In keeping with the provisions of the Nature Conservation Act 1992, approved ecotourism facilities are to be in the public interest, environmentally sustainable, preserve the land’s natural condition and protect its cultural heritage and natural values.
Where national matters of environmental significance are found, the Tourism Operator will need to comply with Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (Cth).
What are the benefits of Ecotourism Trails
The Queensland Ecotourism Trails Program is designed to deliver environmental, social and economic benefits to regional communities, Traditional Owners and to Queensland. Key benefits include:
- Long term job and business opportunities for Traditional Owners and their future generations
- Enhanced connection to country whilst ensuring the protection and preservation of Land and Country
- Stronger appreciation and understanding of Indigenous culture
- Bringing innovative tourism offerings to Queensland that capture new market share with potential for thousands of new overnight stays each year
- Underpinning long-term growth and liveability and building community resilience for their respective regional communities
- New funding sources to protect, present and maintain national parks and their cultural heritage
- Better controls to limit damaging and uncontrolled activities within parks including feral animal management
- Potential to host competitive domestic and international sporting events, such as mountain-biking competitions
- Bringing coordinated state and local resources to key regional community issues, such as tourism infrastructure and water management for example.
With private tourism operators involved, does this mean an asset sale or privatisation of national parks?
The Ecotourism Trails market process does not involve the sale or privatisation of community resources or land. The precise nature of any tenure agreements will be considered as part of the evaluation process however it is a requirement of the Queensland Government’s process that Tourism Operators work closely with Traditional Owners to develop the ecotourism trail and associated offerings. The agreement will likely involve long-term land leases and must be ecologically sustainable, aimed at preserving and protecting community resources, and their natural and cultural values for future generations.
What accommodations facilities will be constructed?
Ecotourism Trails will feature public campsites or privately-operated eco-accommodation, or a combination of both to support visitors to the trail. Eco-accommodation may include cabins, retreats or huts. All facilities along the trail must be delivered in accordance with the Department of Environment and Science’s Ecotourism Facilities on National Parks – Implementation Framework. Acknowledging the differences of scale and location between proposals, the Queensland Government will apply a common assessment and approval process consistent with legislative requirements.
Will the public still have full access to Queensland's national parks
Yes. Full public access to national parks will remain including the delivery of new or improved public amenity such as bridges, beach access, toilets and campsites along the trails. The Ecotourism Trails program unlocks new funding sources to protect, present and maintain national parks with better controls to limit damaging and uncontrolled activities including feral animal management and un-maintained tracks.