The Queensland Government is set to make Queensland the number one nature-based tourism destination in Australia, with another step towards making national parks more accessible to the public now underway.
National Parks Minister Steve Dickson and Tourism Minister Jann Stuckey today called for Expressions of Interest (EOIs) for new and innovative ecotourism concepts, in and around Queensland’s national parks.
Mr Dickson said the Government recognised that the state’s greatest competitive advantage is our unique natural environment.
“Our vision is to make Queensland a world leader in ecotourism by 2020, as the Newman Government continues to grow our four pillar economy and get Queensland back on track,” Mr Dickson said.
“The future of ecotourism in Queensland will be guided by ecologically responsible and sustainable practices.
“We are blessed with more than 1,300 national parks, marine parks and other reserves conserving a diverse array of species and ecosystems, our rich Indigenous cultural heritage and five World Heritage listed areas — more than any other state or territory.
“With 51 million visits each year by Australians alone, Queensland’s national parks and protected areas have a big role to play in ecotourism, and the LNP is committed to improving the environmental integrity of these unique areas while enriching the visitor experience.”
Mr Dickson said the Newman Government wanted to hear ideas for innovative, sustainable ecotourism developments in its national parks, protected areas and State lands adjacent to protected areas.
Minister Stuckey said the EOIs represented opportunities that tourism operators and investors have been calling for.
“Queensland used to be a world-leader in eco-tourism and more private sector ecotourism investment has the potential to see us lead again,” Ms Stuckey said.
“International and interstate holidaymakers come to Queensland for many reasons and our national parks are often on top of their to-do list.
“It’s no coincidence that the recent Best Job in the World campaign was for a Park Ranger in Queensland with the job attracting 100,000 international expressions of interest and almost 10,000 video applications.”
Noosa North Shore Equathon horse tours operator Alex Watson said he hoped the EOI process would allow operators to create unique experiences.
“The industry wants to encourage people to get outdoors and into parks because the unique features of national parks are key to a quality ecotourism experience for visitors,” Mr Watson said.
“Operators want to see good management and planning, and I commend the steps being taken in this initiative.”
Daniel Gschwind, Chief Executive, Queensland Tourism Industry Council (QTIC), said the EOI process would deliver on aspirations the tourism industry has held for many years.
“The tourism industry has long been calling for initiatives supporting development of best practice tourism operations,” Mr Gschwind said.
“Queensland tourism competes in a global market. Value for money and world-class experiences will set us apart from our competitors, and I will be actively encouraging operators to innovate and develop ideas to showcase our national parks.”
Mr Dickson said ecotourism was about environmentally responsible activities which increased visitor appreciation for unique areas while they were also being fully enjoyed.
Detailed information for ecotourism operators is available at www.nprsr.qld.gov.au/tourism/ecotourism/investments.html