The serious pursuit of ecotourism in Australia was ‘kick started’ nearly 25 years ago through the establishment of Ecotourism Australia Ltd which now represents some 500 operators in Australia. Whilst the potential for geotourism, a related field of ‘nature based’ tourism was first recognised in Australia in 1996, the concept was only conceptualised locally by the convening in Western Australia of a Global Geotourism Conference in 2008, with the subsequent establishment of geotourism constituency groupings firstly by the Geological Society of Australia in 2011 and by Ecotourism Australia through the creation of the Geotourism Forum in November 2013.
For geotourism to reach its potential, new pathways for development such as geotrails and geoparks need to be implemented, having regard to government interest in nurturing regional development and new job creation through celebrating geotourism, geological and mining heritage. The development of a range of existing and proposed geotrail projects which offer exciting new opportunities for geotourism growth, whilst not overlooking Australia’s extensive protected areas as venues for enhancing geological and landscape interpretation and education as part of the overall ‘nature-based’ tourism mix.
Inspired by the SEGRA 2015 conference, two exciting UNESCO Global Geopark projects have now emerged under the auspices of supporting local government agencies.
The Pre-Aspiring Etheridge UNESCO Global Geopark is embraced by the Shire of Etheridge in Far North Queensland. The Undara Lava Tube System, truly unique in the world as well as other landforms in the area proposed for the Global Geopark, have resulted in a diverse range of bioregions. Committed input from the Ewamian Aboriginal community is sure to identify sites exhibiting rich indigenous culture.
The Pre-Aspiring Warrumbungle UNESCO Global Geopark is located within three local government areas in northwest New South Wales. The’ Warrumbungles’ are already an internationally acclaimed tourist attraction steeped in volcanic geological history.
Both projects are engaging with the state National Parks and Wildlife Services, other state government agencies, local townships and farming and indigenous communities.