Report calls for clearer ecotourism policy

Queensland’s auditor general says the state is in need of an overarching ecotourism policy to ensure it reaps the economic benefits of its natural attractions, which include five world heritage sites including Fraser Island and the Great Barrier Reef.

Auditor General Brendan Worrall

 A report from the state’s audit office, released on Tuesday, examined whether Queensland’s environmental and tourism entities are effectively developing ecotourism.

It concludes that the departments of tourism and environment, Tourism and Events Queensland and the tourism industry share a common goal of of making the state a world ecotourism leader.

“However, their success to date has been limited,” auditor Brendan Worrall finds.

“The entities have also not developed a clear roadmap to direct how they will act to achieve the state’s ecotourism vision.”

A delicate balance

The report acknowledges the government faces a delicate balance between protecting the environment and driving ecotourism benefits.

But this isn’t being helped by the fact that it “has no statewide policy on ecotourism that clearly defines how the state’s tourism and environmental entities will work towards its vision, inhibiting ecotourism planning and coordination”.

The audit also found there was no definition of ecotourism and what it means for the state and its protected areas.

The lack of a clear ecotourism roadmap is affecting how potential projects are identified and prioritised.


“The lack of a clear ecotourism roadmap is affecting how potential projects are identified and prioritised. This makes it difficult to undertake a strategic assessment of ecotourism investment opportunities for both within and outside protected areas,” the report says.

“The identification of potential projects has previously been short term and reactive. In addition, until recently, the lack of a tourism project selection framework means potential projects could not be objectively assessed against each other and prioritised.”

Partnering with traditional owners

The report recommends a statewide policy on ecotourism, covering developments in protected areas and government investment priorities, and calls for clear and measurable goals and a future-focussed roadmap.

It also says consultation with traditional owners  tends to be lengthy, complex and often costly,  and calls for more industry guidance and support to help the tourism industry when ecotourism facilities are proposed in protected areas.

“It would assist proponents in navigating the various legislative and approval processes and enhance their ability to partner with traditional owners,” the report says.

Queensland ecotourism fast facts:

  • Since 2013 , the government has approved three ecotourism facilities in national parks, with two in development.
  • $14.8 million has been invested in ecotourism projects in protected areas since 2012, including eco-accommodation and multi-day walks
  • $99 million has been provided in grant funding for other ecotourism-related projects and activities since 2012
  • The total overnight visitor expenditure in Queensland in the year ended June 2022 was $20.4 billion
  • More than eight per cent of Queensland’s land areas, around 14.2 million hectares,  are protected

The audit follows the release of the states’s Tourism Strategy last November, which focuses on sustainable and ecotourism.

The report says the document provides an aspirational vision of making Queensland a world leader in ecotourism.

But it falls short on providing clarity on  policy, priorities, appetite for risk or the need for  more ecotourism investment.

The audit notes that a tourism infrastructure development framework is currently being developed, which together with a statewide policy should provide more rigour and direction.

However it adds it’s yet to be seen how effective the framework will be in prioritising projects both within and outside protected areas.

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