Tourism operators in the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area will be required to implement a First Nations cultural protocol under a new sustainable tourism initiative.

Rainforest Aboriginal people are at the centre of The Wet Tropics Management Authority’s (WTMA) tourism plan, which recognises visitation as a means to protect both the natural and cultural assets of the region.

Actions include establishing Acknowledgement of Country in tourism experiences as a minimum standard, and trialling and implementing a cultural protocol for Commercial Activity Permits in the Wet Tropics.

The permits are legally required by businesses that operate in protected areas.


Outgoing WTMA Chair Leslie Shirreffs said the plan was developed through input from more than 150 people representing more than 80 organisations, including industry stakeholders, Rainforest Aboriginal Peoples, conservation groups and land managers.

She said it’s not just about protecting bio-cultural assets, but presenting them.

“One of the best ways to do that is through tourism,” she said.

“Getting people to experience a place, to be immersed in it and to turn visitors into advocates.

“It is upon all of us to heal country and to work together for that sustainable future.”

Tourism Tropical North Queensland CEO Mark Olsen said the plan will help meet growing demand for ‘purposeful travel’.


“You can walk on country and have no appreciation of the beauty that you see but you can walk on country with an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person for five minutes and it will change your life,” he said. 

“We believe in our hearts that it is the connection that is made in these places, the personal connections and the connections to country that will inspire visitors today, tomorrow and long into the future, who will then tell the story of the connection they made.”

Today’s official launch fittingly took place at the Mandingalbay Ancient Indigenous Tours site at East Trinity, which is just a five-minute journey from Cairns by boat.

The group has just completed stage one of a $46-million eco-cultural tourism project on formerly degraded cane land that is being converted back to its natural state by Djunbunji Rangers.

A new tour opening in November involves the head ranger explaining the restoration process.

“In 2010 we declared our country to be an Indigenous Protected Area,” Executive Director Dale Mundraby said.

“This eco cultural business has been created and run by our community, for our community and will create long term, ongoing opportunities for us while enriching the lives of everyone who comes to this amazing part of the world.

“What the Mandingalbay Yidinji people need are opportunities that allow them to become part of the tourism industry and this plan will provide an inclusive framework to facilitate this.”

The Wet Tropics Sustainable Tourism Plan has six goals, including respect for Country and people, supporting Rainforest Aboriginal tourism aspirations, building awareness through consistent messaging and branding, increased community involvement and advocacy, well-trained tour guides, and collaborative visitor management.

WTMA will now develop a roadmap in collaboration with partners to guide the implementation of the plan, which will be reviewed in 2026.


Main points

  • Tourism operators in the Wet Tropics will need to implement Indigenous cultural protocols to remain trading in the World Heritage Area

  • The initiative is part of the Wet Tropics Sustainable Tourism Plan

  • A roadmap for the implementation of the plan is still being developed
The personal connection is what makes the difference.
mark olsen
Tourism Tropical North Queensland CEO