A plan to develop a sustainable and resilient future for tourism in Far North Queensland’s Wet Tropics has been launched by the Wet Tropics Management Authority.
The Wet Tropics Sustainable Tourism Plan (the Plan) recognises tourism as the economic engine of the Tropical North Queensland region, with two internationally significant World Heritage Areas—the rainforest and the reef, underpinning the economy.
The Plan was launched on 21 September at a newly developed ecotourism site at Hills Creek, East Trinity run by Mandingalbay Ancient Indigenous Tours, where guests enjoyed a tour and a smoking ceremony by Traditional Owners.
The Federal Minister for the Environment, the Honourable Sussan Ley said the Plan provided a clear line of sight for sustainable tourism activities in the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area over the next ten years.
Development of the Plan was funded by the Federal Government through its Australian Heritage Grants Program.
“Tourism is critical to the economic health of the Wet Tropics region. However, the health of this unique World Heritage Area is also paramount. A plan that ensures development of sustainable tourism experiences to support the community and the economy is vital,” Minister Ley said.
“The goals, strategies and actions in this Plan outline ways to create sustainable tourism solutions in the Wet Tropics—there are opportunities for new experiences, and ways to build on existing ones. These are critical to ensure this industry grows from strength to strength,” she said.
Chair of the Authority, Leslie Shirreffs PSM, said the Plan was very timely.
“Right now, both this globally significant biodiverse place and the communities it supports are facing challenges, including changing climate, species in decline and pest incursions, as well as the impacts of a global pandemic,” she said.
“I recognise that during the past 18 months our tourism industry has weathered incredibly tough times, However, despite this, the industry has shown strength and resilience. This Plan will help better position the region’s tourism industry for the future, while ensuring the Outstanding Universal Value of the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area is sustained, rehabilitated, and enjoyed for generations to come.
“The Plan will provide a platform from which we can all work together to turn visitors into advocates, protect and conserve our natural and cultural assets, and move towards a sustainable and resilient future,” Ms Shirreffs said.
The Plan aims to deliver a number of key goals: Respect for Country and people; Rainforest Aboriginal tourism aspirations; Building awareness through consistent messaging and
branding; Increased community involvement and advocacy; Well-trained, professional tour guides; and Collaborative visitor management.
The Authority led a comprehensive consultative process to develop this plan with industry stakeholders, Rainforest Aboriginal Peoples, conservation groups and land managers—engaging with more than 150 individuals representing more than 80 organisations.
Dale Mundraby, a Mandingalbay Yidinji Traditional Owner and Executive Director of Djunbunji Ltd, Mandigalbay Yidinji Aboriginal Corporation, said the Plan’s inclusion of the aspirations of Rainforest Aboriginal Peoples and the intention to incorporate respect for Country and people is a significant milestone in building a more equitable and inclusive future.
Mr Mundraby said: “What the Mandingalbay Yidinji people need are opportunities that allow them to become part of the tourism industry and this Plan will provide an inclusive framework to facilitate this.
“We need to develop an intergenerational cultural economy, such as what we are doing with Mandingalbay Ancient Indigenous Tours. This eco cultural business has been created and run by our community, for our community and will create long term, ongoing opportunities for us while enriching the lives of everyone who comes to this amazing part of the world.”