Photo by: Isaac Tseng L-R: Elissa Keenan CEO Ecotourism Australia; Melanie Smith Central Coast Council Director Community and Recreation Services; Nadine Schramm Certification Manager Ecotourism Australia; Whitney Edwards Central Coast Council Team Leader Marketing & Tourism.
12 months ago the Central Coast became the second only destination in NSW to achieve international recognition as a sustainable destination through Ecotourism Australia’s ECO Destination Certification program – just in time for World Environment Day.
Now as one of only seven ECO Destinations in Australia, Council is proud to be home to seven ECO Certified tourism businesses on the Coast, with another 10 local operators having commenced their journey to achieve ECO Certification. These include four new applicants supported by Council’s ECO Advocate incentive program:
- Girri Girra Aboriginal Experiences
- Australian Reptile Park
- Bells at Killcare and Pretty Beach House
- Firescreek Botanical Winery
ECO Destination status is an achievement that shows the local tourism industry, stakeholders and Council are committed to putting the needs of the local community and environment to the fore through sustainable tourism management.
Central Coast Council Director Community and Recreation Services Melanie Smith said the application pathway to reach accreditation in June 2022, took 20 months of committed work.
“The process saw Council’s Marketing and Tourism team working alongside other departments of Council and local tourism businesses who are passionate about constant improvement in their sustainability practices, as well as providing high-quality, nature-based experiences for guests.
“ECO Destination Certification is a whole-of-destination commitment, assuring travellers that these regions are genuine in actively promoting and delivering sustainable tourism operations and experiences.
“Statistically, we know that ecotourists stay longer, are more conscious travellers and are more interested in a region’s local community, nature and culture. By achieving ECO Destination Certification, we have opened our region up to new visitor markets which will provide a substantial and ongoing boost to the local economy.”
The Central Coast was aided in their original certification journey by a partnership between industry peak body Ecotourism Australia and conservation organisation, WWF-Australia, which is working with destinations around Australia to re-build after the 2019-20 bushfires using Global Sustainable Tourism Council standard as a framework.
Chief Executive of Ecotourism Australia Elissa Keenan, in acknowledging Central Coast Council’s first anniversary of ECO Destination Certification, said maintaining the Certification is about continuously embedding cultural, social, economic and environmental sustainability principles into long term destination management.
“Council continues to support local businesses to strive for sustainable tourism through our global best practice certification and pre-certification programs and recently launched an ECO Advocate Incentive program to further support regional operators.”
“The Council remains as committed to the ECO Destination ethos, as they have been since their formal recognition 12 months ago.”
Council Administrator Rik Hart said tourism is crucial for the Central Coast economy as it brings in millions of dollars every year, boosting local businesses as well as providing employment.
The latest data from Tourism Research Australia shows in the year ending December 2022, total regional expenditure was up 42.5% on the Central Coast, totalling $1.23 billion in overnight and day trip visitation.
“Our Marketing and Tourism team at Council play a key role in driving the region’s visitor economy, tourism industry capability and positive reputation forward, and their commitment and collaboration with local businesses and other stakeholders is what helped the Central Coast achieve ECO Destination Certification.
“Over the last three years, the team has achieved outstanding results including recognition in numerous industry awards, the latest being overall Award winner in the 2022 NSW Local Government Excellence Awards in the Special Project Initiative category for leading Council’s ECO Destination journey.”
Other Award success has included:
- Finalist National Banksia Sustainability Awards 2023
- Finalist NSW Top Tiny Tourism Town Awards 2023
- Silver Local Government Award for Tourism, NSW Tourism Awards 2022
- Bronze Local Government Award for Tourism, NSW Tourism Awards 2021
- Green Destinations Top 100 List finalist in 2021 & 2022
- Finalist in NSW Top Tourism Town Awards 2021 & 2022
- ‘Outstanding Region’ in 2022 delicious. Harvey Norman Produce Awards
- Judges Choice Award ‘Most Compelling Itinerary’ NSW Top Tourism Awards 2021
- ‘The Entrance’ Finalist in Wotif’s Aussie Town of the Year Awards 2021
Explore more via our dedicated destination website: LoveCentralCoast.com