The Natural State: Nature-Based Tourism and Ecotourism Accreditation in Tasmania, Australia
Matysek, K and Kriwoken, LK, The Natural State: Nature-Based Tourism and Ecotourism Accreditation in Tasmania, Australia, Journal of Quality Assurance in Hospitality & Tourism, 4, (1-2) pp. 129-146. ISSN 1528-008X (2003) [Refereed Article]
Australian nature-based tourism and ecotourism have become popular forms of recreational activity. Tasmania attracts twice the Australian national average number of nature-based tourists and ecotourists (thirty per cent). The growth of this tourism sector has prompted measures to ensure that experiences are of high quality, and that environmental impacts are adequately managed. ISO 14000 is an environmental management and certification system often utilised as an environmental management system standard within various industries, but has not been widely applied to the Australian tourism industry. The Nature and Ecotourism Accreditation Program (NEAP) represents the most significant accreditation measure within Australia at present. This paper assesses the relevance of NEAP in the Tasmanian nature-based tourism and ecotourism industry through in-depth interviews with a key informant group and a comparative analysis of interview data. The paper introduces nature-based tourism and ecotourism definitions and discusses the growing relevance of ecotourism accreditation. The paper argues that NEAP is relevant to the Tasmanian nature-based tourism and ecotourism industry, where the quality of the natural environment forms the central focus for such experiences. Furthermore, the paper argues that NEAP can assist in supporting the State's nature-based tourism and ecotourism industry through means such as branding and promotion. However, problems exist in relation to financial issues between NEAP and operators, and the perceived overlap of NEAP with the widely implemented Tourism Council Tasmania Accreditation Program. Thus, financial issues need to be addressed by the Ecotourism Association of Australia in association with Australian Commonwealth Government subsidisation. The degree of overlap between the two programs can be effectively addressed through industry cooperation. The paper also suggests that stronger branding and promotion of NEAP can be achieved through increased industry involvement by Tourism Tasmania.
Nature-based tourism; ecotourism; accreditation; Tasmania; Australia