Ecotourism Australia has thrown its weight behind the Victorian Environmental Assessment Council’s River Red Gum Forest Draft Proposal, claiming that it will open up important new ecotourism opportunities for the region.
However, another NGO, Timber Communities Australia, argues that as many as 400 families, whose livelihoods are dependent on access to these forests, will be adversely affected by the proposals.
Ecotourism Australia’s foray into the debate represents an expression of its mission to contribute to conservation solutions and projects; involving and providing benefits to local communities, but will those 400 families be the targeted beneficiaries?
My dubiousness reflects the pre-existing capacity of genuine ecotourism to access an already existing superb environment. Change of tenure to National Park is not prerequisite. What is does provide though, is subsidisation of the full costs of conservation and commercial operator relief of the requirement to improve the well-being of local people.
Genuine ecotourism is internationally defined as:
Responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the well-being of local people.
Ecotourism Australia is a membership-based organisation that is strongly representative of protected area managers and holders of commercial activity permits. It has adopted a different definition to the international standard:
Ecologically sustainable tourism with a primary focus on experiencing natural areas that fosters environmental and cultural understanding, appreciation and conservation.
The Oslo Statement on Ecotourism was recently produced at the Global Ecotourism Conference held in Norway 2007.
‘Ecotourism’ was recognized as being widely used, but also abused, as it is not sufficiently anchored to the definition. The ecotourism community, therefore, continues to face significant challenges in awareness building and education and actively working against greenwashing within the tourism industry.