AUSTRALIA’S ecotourism sector was competing at a price and distance disadvantage so needed a better product targeted at the right market to succeed, the industry’s Asia Pacific conference was told in Noosa yesterday.
But while the industry focused on price disadvantage, local environmental activists were warning that the product also needed protecting for the sector to survive.
Conference convenor Tony Charters said ecotourism remained the largest single sector of Australia’s tourism industry but admitted new figures that showed the Great Barrier Reef was receiving the same level of day-trippers as it was 20 years ago were alarming.
He said the industry’s supply side in Queensland had to be driven by the same level of government activity in ecotourism programs as it had before its leadership role was abandoned around eight years ago.
“We can’t compete on price,” Mr Charters said.
“We are beaten on price by competitors. Our per-day salaries are probably what are being paid per week elsewhere.
“There are no overnight solutions. (The strength of) the dollar is part of the reason tourists have turned away but that’s not all of it.
“The industry needs new product and vibrancy.”
A tough global financial situation is hurting and tough recent times for the industry have resulted in a reluctance and a difficulty in owners re-investing in their businesses.
Mr Charters said the Sunshine Coast had many advantages for a successful eco
tourism sector with a great climate, lifestyle, the bio
sphere reserve in Noosa and access to Fraser Island and the southern Great Barrier Reef coupled with a serious view on sustainability.
He said the region also had a rich indigenous cultural history which international visitors in particular were interested in learning about.
“We have quite a number of Coast operators who are pioneers of this industry and hold advanced levels of Eco certification,” Mr Charters said.
However Mike Tsilfidis, who is campaigning against Powerlink plans to run a high voltage line through the Eerwahvale Valley, said the eco tourism industry had more to worry about than exchange rates. At risk is koala habitat, the Richmond Birdwing Butterfly and species of sugar gliders.
“Proven tourism drawcards in the Noosa hinterland biosphere reserve are Maroochy Wines, Musa Vale Lodge and Cooroy Country Cottages,” he said. “All lie directly under and will be severely impacted by the proposed Powerlink project.”
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