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  • Rachel Holliday

    Journalist

    Email Rachel Holliday

    Sustainable tourism is key to region's future


    Building coral gardens sponsored by tourists and launching more local "volun-tourism" ventures are just some of the ideas required to secure Tropical North’s tourism industry into the future.

    That’s the view of CQUniversity’s Centre for Tourism and Regional Opportunities, based in Cairns, as it celebrates the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development.

    With tourism on the Great Barrier Reef generating two billion dollars in annual revenue, the environmental health of this unique ecosystem is a major factor in the region’s future success.

    But so too is diversification within the industry.

    Niche markets such as volun-tourism - where visitors "do good" while on holiday - and "geo-tourism", which is described as enhancing the "geographical character of a place, such as its culture, environment, heritage, and the well-being of its residents" are required.

    CQUniversity’s Dr Michelle Thompson, an associate lecturer in Tourism, stresses the importance of sustainability to the industry's future.

    “As sustainability is the future of tourism, understanding how tourism businesses and the wider industry achieve sustainability is central to our teaching and research”, Dr Thompson said.

    “Examples of sustainable forms of tourism include eco-tourism, geo-tourism, volun-tourism and responsible tourism – all of which are growing industries.”

    Reef tour company Passions Of Paradise is one of the local businesses currently working alongside CQUni.

    The popular tourism business currently carries 27,000 visitors to the reef annually. Passions of Paradise operator Alan Wallish hopes to increase this number to 40,000 this year.

    Mr Wallish believes that sustainability is a key factor in achieving this goal. “If we’re not sustainable we don’t have an industry in the future,” Mr Wallish said.

    “As opposed to other companies that have three to four on a fleet, we upscale and use the same amount of carbon emission with more passengers to enjoy the ecotourism experience.”

    CQUni Masters student Margie McKenzie, who is currently enrolled in the Sustainable Tourism Management course, believes that new businesses could be spawned from the very idea of sustainability.

    “We need to use the knowledge we already have and build new business out of sustaining nature,” Ms McKenzie states.

    “That can be done in so many ways – building coral gardens sponsored by tourists is one great example.”

    As sustainable tourism industries prove themselves to be the key to successful growth for the region’s economy, CQUni plans to hold several events, information sessions and lectures throughout the year to mark the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development.