[ASC-media] Media release: Science boost for sustainable tourism

CRCA Media crca-media at starclass.com.au
Tue Jul 8 04:33:59 EST 2003

Co-operative Research Centres Association Media Release - CRCA 26

July 8, 2003


Australia is having a global impact on the growth of sustainable tourism through trailblazing science carried out in its Co-operative Research Centres - as the following three stories show:

TOURIST DESTINATIONS and enterprises round the world are now being certified for sustainability through Australia's unique Green Globe 21 program. 

Hotels, resorts, tours and even cities from China to the Caribbean, Egypt to Port Douglas, and Bali to New Zealand are lining up to benchmark themselves for sustainability, using the Green Globe system developed in Australia by the CRC for Sustainable Tourism.

Green Globe allows tourism enterprises - resorts, hotels, tours, cruises, airlines, airports, adventures etc - to measure their sustainability in terms of water use, energy use, greenhouse emissions, local employment, waste disposal, chemical use, landscape care, waterway quality, customer satisfaction etc.

Enterprises can then compare themselves with others in similar locations worldwide, and receive annually-audited certification if they are in the top 40 per cent, says CRC chief executive Professor Terry de Lacy. 

"The original idea came from the World Travel & Tourism Association, but we've developed the standards and system and we've commercialized it through our spinoff company Global Green Asia-Pacific Pty Ltd - so now anyone can use it."

Prominent among the early users of the technology is New Zealand, where sustainability is a core value for tourism, he says.

"The Kiwis are right into sustainability - more so than Australians, perhaps.  But we're getting strong interest locally as well."

Prominent customers certified by Green Globe include Bali's Intercontinental Resort, the Douglas Shire Council, Jiuzhaigou scenic area in China, resorts on Egypt's Red Sea coast and in Tasmania and Kaikoura in NZ's South Island.

In a major new development Green Globe now offers sustainability benchmarking and certification for total destinations - not just enterprises.

"Recognising that people travel for a destination more than a particular resort, we can now rate the total community for sustainability, using similar criteria - and help it assess itself against comparable destinations worldwide," he says.
Professor Terry de Lacy, CRC ST, 07 5552 8114 or 0418 780 193
Brad Cox, CRC ST, 07 5552 8116

VISITORS WHO THIRST to experience the wonders of Australia's tropical rainforest can now get to the heart of it through one of the nation's largest scientific instruments - the 50-metre Australian Rainforest Canopy Crane.

Situated in the World Heritage area at Cape Tribulation, Qld, the crane towers over the rainforest canopy, allowing visitors in the gondola a close-up view of the trees and the rich bird, animal and insect life they support.

Developed for international scientific research into rainforest canopy dynamics, the canopy crane is opening up a new world for visitors as strange and unfamiliar as a ride into the deep oceans, says Rainforest CRC CEO Professor Nigel Stork.   

While the crane is mainly for science, a handful of visitors can take the ride into the forest canopy each day, guided by a researcher who is also a world authority on what they are seeing.

The crane is a fusion of science and tourism that is unique in the world, and allows visitors to experience the rainforest in quite a different way to walking through or riding above it.

"When I took my first ride into the canopy, I was literally gob-smacked at how rare and different it was," Professor Stork recounts. "The birds are so unused to people they don't fly away, and the insect life is simply stunning."

In his own research, which uses the crane, Prof Stork has collected an estimated 15,000 insect specimens from the canopy in the past three years representing over a thousand species.

"Many of these are likely to be completely new to science, so visitors to the crane can actually partake in the excitement and wonder of scientific discovery, in a world we still know relatively little about."

Professor Nigel Stork, Rainforest CRC, 07 4042 1246
Derek Tipper, Rainforest CRC, 07 4042 1253 

TOURISM CAN play a central role in protecting the environment recent research by the CRC Reef has shown.

A newly-released study of the impacts of tourism on the Great Barrier Reef indicates that, contrary to a public impression that tourism damages the environment, in a growing number of instances it is helping to safeguard it.

Half of Australians responding to a 1997 survey said they thought tourism development had a very large and negative impact on the GBR.

But recent research doesn't support such a view, especially where the tourism industry is using scientific advice to care for its natural assets, says CRC Reef CEO Professor Russell Reichelt.

"While the GBR has about 1.6 million visitors a year, and about 335,000 dives, we need to bear in mind that, compared with other reef systems round the world it is very large, and the human pressure is thinly spread," he says.

"Secondly, thanks to industry stewardship and management by Marine Park authorities, there's a strong and growing ethic to protect the reef."

Better mooring systems are being introduced for pontoons on the Reef to prevent damage to corals and the reef. Fish feeding can only be done using special food under permit by operators to ensure that fish populations are not affected.

Pressure from boats is being reduced by installing moorings, many installed by the operators themselves, as well as having 'no anchoring' zones in particularly sensitive areas, accompanied by an education campaign for owners.

Coral damage is also being reduced by developing eco-trails, educating divers and keeping inexperienced divers and large groups away from sensitive areas.

Major scientific effort is being put into ensuring that  tourism does not impact on populations of whales, turtles and birds - and many tour operators are involved in developing codes of practice to ensure that encounters do not disturb the wildlife or endanger visitors.

New tourism developments on the coast and islands are subject to increasingly tough controls over design, construction, environmental impact, energy and water use and especially waste disposal, to prevent nutrient runoff to the sea.

"While the record isn't perfect, it is good and it is improving - contrary to the impression held by many Australians.  At the same time it's generating $1.5 billion in annual income plus extensive overseas investment.

"Tour operators, more and more are acting as "reef watchdogs", and are often first to spot something that may be going wrong - such as outbreaks of crown-of-thorns starfish."

Professor  Russell Reichelt,CRC Reef, 07 4729 8400 or 0419 784 120
Dr Louise Goggin, CRC Reef, 07 4729 8404 or 0402 243116

Julian Cribb, CRCA media, 0418 639 245 

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