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Australian tourism industry requires ‘complete overhaul’ to succeed
Australia’s tourism industry needs a total revamp to ensure its future success, according to global tourism expert, Professor Marianna Sigala at the University of South Australia,
As debates continue about how and when to open Australia’s state and territory borders, Professor Sigala says we must consider what we want Australia’s future tourism industry to look like, with a clear lens on sustainability and well-being.
Professor Sigala notes “there’s no doubt Australia’s tourism sector is suffering – we started the year in recovery following the devastating bushfires and then, before operators were even back on their feet, we were hit with the Covid-19 pandemic, and everything rapidly shut down.
“Everyone is keen to re-activate our tourism industry, but we must not default to ‘business as usual’. A new restart rather than a recovery to the old normal is more reasonable.
“COVID-19 has led to profound changes on tourists’ behaviour and expectations as well as on industry operations which are predicted to have long-lasting impacts. We need to take advantage of the slow-down to reflect, rethink and plan for improved practices and behaviours.
“This includes revisiting how tourism activities impact communities; respecting nature and surrounds to ensure we’re enhancing and giving back to the areas and assets that draw tourists; and we need to do that with a mindset that shows we are ready for a successful and sustainable future.
“A tourism resetting plan that encompasses responsible tourism, seasonality and climate change, and importantly, practices that benefit all stakeholder – operators, visitors and communities – and their tangible and intangible cultural assets, could position Australia as a world exemplar in re-imagining and leading new tourism management in the post COVID era.”
Environmentally, the pandemic has had a positive impact. In India, Covid-19 has closed factories, to clear once-polluted skies; the Himalayan mountain range is now visible from some cities for the first time in years. In Venice, as canal traffic has come to a standstill, once-murky waters are also clear.
Closer to home, Australia had been making positive steps, even before the onset of Covid-19. In October last year, the iconic Uluru was permanently closed to climbers as a mark of respect to the traditional owners of the land.
Yet with recent calls from Northern Territory business groups to reopen the climb for the sake of tourism, Prof Sigala says we still have a lot to learn.
Professor Sigala adds “while isolation has enabled physical environments a chance to recover from the lack of mass tourism, we must find a balance between caring for tourism assets – and the communities in which they reside - valorising them for supporting tourism activities within and around these locations.
“When we commoditise and commercialise a cultural asset, we risk transforming it into an attraction driven by visitation defined by economic growth.
“The trade-off between economic and other values is our current mindset, and this needs to shift.”
The World Tourism Organization estimates that international tourist arrivals could drop to 78%, which translates to a drop of up to 1.1 billion international arrivals and a loss of US$ 1.2 trillion (nearly A$1.9 trillion) in export revenues from tourism, representing the largest decline in the history of the industry.
Under these dire conditions, survival of the industry must still include sustainability planning and development.
Prof Sigala also advises “sustainability management should not be viewed as an expense to be managed, but as an investment for the future.
“Australia must continue to implement activities to keep customers, tourism staff and businesses engaged and ready for when travel restrictions lift.
“We need to communicate to the wider and international community that we are not in hibernation, but rather we are upgrading, innovating and introducing sustainable changes in our tourism offerings and operations that enhance the well-being of tourists and our communities.
“When tourists come back, we should be welcoming them to a better, more ethical and more sustainable tourism industry.”
Image: In 2018, Daintree EcoLodge & Spa achieveed Advanced Ecotourism and Climate Action Business Certification for their products, Lodge Accommodation and Guided Rainforest Walks. Courtesy of Ecotourism Australia
1st May 2020 - WTTC outlines ‘the new normal’ when travelling resumes
17th April 2020 - WTTC commends global tourism industry for helping during COVID-19
15th April 2020 - Nature key to New Zealand’s post Coronavirus recovery
9th April 2020 - ATIC welcomes JobKeeper payment scheme
25th February 2020 - Queensland Government to deliver its first ecotourism trail
21st October 2019 - Tasmanian planning tribunal approves Lake Malbena ecotourism development
15th March 2019 - Funding helps complete Far North Queensland ecotourism experience
10th August 2018 - Lets Go Surfing attains Ecotourism Certification
11th March 2018 - Townsville to host 2018 Ecotourism Australia conference
28th November 2017 - Ecotourism leaders gather in Adelaide
1st October 2017 - Ecotourism value of Queensland’s national parks flagged in Annual Report
28th August 2017 - Rottnest Express achieves Ecotourism Certification
20th June 2017 - Luxury ecotourism development approved for Christmas Island
22nd March 2016 - Parks Australia looks to develop ecotourism concepts on Christmas Island
16th December 2015 - Valley Of The Giants Tree Top Walk achieves Advanced Ecotourism Certification
12th October 2015 - GSTC and Asian Ecotourism Network Sign Memorandum of Understanding
30th August 2015 - Naturebank encourages ecotourism opportunities in the Pilbara
23rd July 2015 - Ecotourism Australia’s ECO Certification Gains Global Approval
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