Governments are partnering with tourism developers to open up our national parks through private developments to showcase our tourism assets and increase tourism, generate revenue, and provide employment. The commercial tourism developments range from small huts to large accommodation complexes with a focus on high-end, multi-day walks. Conservationists and some professional tour guides, however, call for an end to such leases on publicly owned land and for tourism development to remain outside of the national parks, with visitors still able to access the parks. National Parks in Queensland constitute just 8.24% of the land area and are unlikely to meet the international standard of 17% until 2030.
The Forum was held on Saturday, 4 June 2022 at Robina Community Centre on the Gold Coast.
This forum was a continuation to the successful National Parks and Eco-Tourism forum hosted in 2021.
National parks are areas of high conservation value and their primary purpose of them is to protect Australian wildlife and native flora. Visiting national parks is an activity that many enjoy for a range of reasons and visits with minimum impact are encouraged. The saying ‘leave only footprints and take only photographs’ sums up this viewpoint. From the beginning of national parks in Australia professional guides have been taking visitors into the parks, however, over recent years there has been a trend to encourage commercial development, especially accommodation, within the parks.
Commercial development within National Park is often controversial and this Forum will present a variety of perspectives of those who enjoy our national parks, those who work in this area and the Government policies. Gecko’s position is a preference for commercial development for tourism to occur outside of national park boundaries. The clients of such businesses are facilitated to access the national park in the same way as the general public, though with professional guides providing information and interpretation.
Some other matters raised on this topic are summarised here:-
- Many conservationists, tour operators, and members of the public have voiced concern about the increasing impact of commercial tourism developments within national parks especially those with World Heritage and Wilderness status.
- The global tourism market is highly competitive and there is a growth in nature based tourism, especially post Covid. Governments are keen to take advantage of this growth to add to the economic income of the State.
- Queensland has only 8.24% of protected area of which 5.6 % is national park. The tourism development industry has access to the remaining Queensland land area for their commercial developments.
- Some tourism operators who bring tourists into the national parks for guided tours are concerned that areas of the publicly owned parks are set now aside for the exclusive use of the development that has been permitted to hold a lease within the park. This has resulted in other guides and their clients being excluded from these areas.
- Tourists staying outside of national parks are known to benefit the local communities as they use their accommodation, shops and facilities. This may not be true of accommodation built within the national parks.
The forum was also attended by a group of expert guides operating in our national parks.
- Gold Coast Senior Head Guide and Assessor
- Ecoguides Australia Assessor and Guide
- Initial guide and helped establish Ecotourism Australia
- Helped design guide regulations and helped bring in award wages and conditions for tour guides and tourism organisations
- 22 years guiding in National Parks
- Specialised guide – ecology
- General Manager IMP Tours
- Ex-General Manager of CT Tours, Crest, JPT
- Gold Coast tourism – World Heritage Tourism, Ecotourism Specialists
- Managing Director – Lifes an Adventure
- Winner of more than 30 Australian Tourism Awards including NSW Tourism Awards – Adventure Tourism, NSW Awards of Excellence – Ecotourism, Awards of Excellence – Tour Operator, Blue Mountains Tourism Business of the Year, Greater Sydney Tourism Awards – Adventure Tourism, Tour Operator.
- CEO at Happy Holidays AU
- Over 25 years of experience in the Australian tourism industry
- Specialises in luxury inbound market accessing the Gondwana World Heritage area