By Ian Williams
When it comes to ecotourism, South Australia has an unfair advantage over most places on the planet.
Our spectacular clean, pristine natural assets are the envy of other countries and a major drawcard for international tourists looking for unforgettable nature-based experiences.
It’s a tourism bonanza which the State Government and industry are determined to capitalise on by forging exciting new ecotourism activities.
Last year the government launched its nature-based tourism action plan which has been a catalyst for the environment and tourism departments linking with the tourism sector on a long-term strategy.
Among the first initiatives is a new 61-kilometre wilderness trail in the Flinders Chase National Park on Kangaroo Island which is offering multi-day walks for adventurers. Tourism operators are currently being invited to come up with ideas for accommodation along the track.
Rod Hillman, Chief Executive of Ecotourism Australia, gives full credit to the state for taking a national lead with its big-picture strategy.
“This really is a big deal and has placed South Australia very much on the front foot,” says Rod. “The government is spending a lot of time working with industry to get feedback to find out what they need and the kinds of things that will be really helpful.
“They’ve been looking at what experiences South Australia can do that no-one else can and really building up that product range. Nature-based tourism is most definitely part of the solution to regional employment, stability and sustainability.”
Growth in ecotourism in Australia is huge. The State Government estimates that by 2020 there will be 1,000 new jobs in nature-based tourism with the sector injecting $350 million into the state economy every year.
Significantly, eco-tourists spend more and stay longer than other tourists.
Research shows that the yield from eco-tourists in Australia is about 15 per cent higher per individual than other tourism sectors and they spend 15 to 20 per cent more time in the country.
To ensure South Australia takes a significant share, a series of workshops is being held for tourism operators to identify new opportunities in areas such as standout walking journeys, native wildlife and marine experiences, and cutting edge sensory activities.
The aim is to deliver critical mass so that visitors have multiple nature-based activities to choose from once they arrive.
Shaun de Bryun, Chief Executive of the South Australian Tourism Industry Council, says South Australia is already world-renowned for its extraordinary landscapes and wildlife.
“There’s a whole raft of amazing things to see and do in the nature-based tourism space from shark and cave diving and sea lions on Kangaroo Island to our world heritage Naracoorte Caves National Park (featured in header image) and unique landscapes in the Flinders Ranges,” says Shaun.
“We now have a best-of-class action plan for further developing ecotourism in South Australia and a lot of tourism operators who are very much focused on making sure we deliver some unique experiences.”
Some of these new initiatives will be discussed in November when Adelaide hosts the Global Eco Asia-Pacific Tourism Conference – Australia’s premier ecotourism event.