With three million tourists drawn to the Wet Tropics each year, the region’s tourism industry is in a unique position to not only educate visitors but also to get them involved in healthy waterways initiatives to help the Great Barrier Reef.
Tourism is the largest industry in Tropical North Queensland. It employs one in five people and the 3 million people it brings into the region each year inject 3.5 billion into the economy. The outlook for tourism is positive with Tropical North Queensland on track to achieve the 2020 target of $4.3 billion in expenditure.
Since the reef and rainforest are the major drawcards for tourism to the region, the industry is acutely aware that its success is closely entwined with the environment. It is therefore passionate about maintaining the health of the ecosystems that its operators live and work in.
More than 50 tourism operators in the Wet Tropics area are ecotourism or advanced ecotourism certified with Ecotourism Australia, which recognises best practice in ecotourism and sustainability. Tropical North Queensland operators are also regular recipients of awards in sustainability through the Queensland and Australian Tourism Awards and Ecotourism Australia’s Innovation Awards.
These operators undertake a number of measures that go beyond the requirements of certification with Ecotourism Australia and demonstrate that they are prepared to take an active role in environmental initiatives. These include monitoring the downstream water quality of creeks and rivers in their catchment area, revegetation along waterways, internships and education programs on sustainable tourism practices for international business students and participation in Great Barrier Reef monitoring programs.
The region’s Reef Fleet operators are very conscious about the importance of water quality and how it is critical to the health of the Great Barrier Reef. Many choose to get involved in programs to conserve both the Great Barrier Reef and the Wet Tropics environments.
Added to this, Tourism Tropical North Queensland is launching a Citizens of the Great Barrier Reef program to encourage not just operators, but people around the world, to take ownership of the future health of the reef.
The aim of the program is to empower current and future generations of the world with the knowledge, experience and ability to protect and enjoy the Great Barrier Reef by galvanising the symbiotic relationship between education, conservation and tourism. The organisation is encouraging people of all nationalities to emotionally and financially buy into the protection, promotion and enjoyment of this World Heritage area by becoming a Citizen of the Great Barrier Reef.
Through this program citizens can invest in and volunteer for research projects. This is done through the Great Barrier Reef Foundation to ensure all donations are a direct tangible investment in the reef and not used for administration or miscellaneous expenses. Projects researching and working towards healthy waterways will be among those endorsed by the Foundation.
To find out more about the Citizens of the Great Barrier Reef program go to http://www.citizensgbr.org