Representatives from Bundaberg Tourism and Bundaberg Regional Council attended the ECO Think | Destination Forum in March, where leading destinations from around Australia contributed to the national strategy to develop a more sustainable approach to destination management and tourism.

The Forum was Ecotourism Australia’s (EA) first major event focused solely on destinations, building on the organisation’s growing work with councils and regions across Australia through its ECO Destination Certification program, and the Bundaberg region was represented by Loni Hammond, Project Officer at Bundaberg Tourism and Kate Giles, Eco Tourism Officer at Bundaberg Regional Council. The 3-day program focused on knowledge sharing between destinations who are ECO Destination Certified or working towards certification and ECO Certified local tourism operators and creating a vision for the ECO Destination Certification Program into the future.

The ECO Think | Destination Forum gave participants opportunities to experience ECO Certified tourism offerings including Coffs Coast Niigi Niigi (Sealy) Lookout, working in partnership with Nyanggan Gapi Cafe and Bellingen Shire’s Urunga Wetlands, a rehabilitated antimony processing plant that has been transformed from a barren wasteland into a lively wetland habitat while engaging with keynote speakers from around Australia talking about their ECO certification accreditation journey and the importance of it the program to their businesses.

Loni Hammond, Bundaberg Tourism’s Trade and Industry Development Executive, stated “Tourism has a real opportunity to be the leading industry in taking care of our natural environments and resources, so they are fruitful for future generations. To be invited to be a part of the discussion on how to make that happen is an amazing opportunity for our destination. “We have engaged in robust and positive conversations with our peers, and we are bringing back great tools and learnings from others’ experiences to continue to help our community and our visitors to continue being actively involved in protecting our natural areas in our region.”

Bundaberg Tourism CEO Katherine Reid said, “As international borders reopen, the consumer demand for sustainable, quality nature-based visitor experiences continues to grow.

“Our tourism industry and wider community have proven time and again our commitment to ensuring the long-term health and preservation of the environment we live in, for our future generations and our visitors.”

“Bundaberg Tourism has been working closely with Council in support of the ECO Destination Certification since the commencement of the project in 2020. It is an enormous undertaking that requires collaboration across all sectors of the region, and we are proud to be representing a tourism industry that is leading by example in owning our role as custodians of the environment in which we live.”

Acting Mayor Bill Trevor said achieving Eco Destination certification was one of Bundaberg Regional Council’s advocacy priorities. “Ecotourism is one of the fastest growing sectors in global tourism and we’re working with local industry to ensure our region is ready to take advantage of the opportunities this presents,” Cr Trevor said.

“Our economy will benefit as we take a piece of the pie in this multi-million dollar industry, our environment will benefit as we work together to actively achieve and promote sustainability and our community will benefit because we can celebrate our natural assets with pride.

“It’s fantastic to take opportunities like these forums to promote our ambitions and what we’re already achieving in this field.”

Bundaberg looks forward to the opportunity to host welcoming the ECO Think | Destination Forum to in our region in the coming years to celebrate the region’s commitment to the sustainable management of our destination, the Southern Great Barrier Reef and our nesting sea turtles.