Bellingen Shire achieves prestigious ECO Destination Certification

by | Apr 10, 2024 | Article

Bellingen Shire

The Bellingen Shire has received recognition for its commitment to global sustainability standards announcing they have been awarded Ecotourism Australia’s prestigious ECO Destination Certification.

The region joins an elite cohort of eight Australian destinations dedicated to sustainable tourism and is the fourth in New South Wales to achieve this significant feat. Through Ecotourism Australia’s certification partner Green Destinations, Bellingen Shire is also recognised in a global network of more than 200 leading sustainable destinations.

The Shire is renowned for its stunning coastal scapes, dramatic waterfalls and World Heritage-listed rainforest scenery with State Forests and National Park covering more than half of the local government area, making it a haven for ecotourism and nature-based tourism activities.

Following the 2019/20 Summer Bushfires, the destination joined the certification program with support from the World Wide Fund for Nature-Australia’s (WWF) Australian Wildlife and Nature Recovery Fund. With its adherence to sustainability principles, this latest ECO Destination continues to help the region build back better through ecotourism.

“We congratulate Bellingen Shire on their achievement of ECO Destination Certification. This is a significant milestone on the region’s sustainability journey, and a recognition of their commitment to sustainable tourism practices,” said Ecotourism Australia CEO, Elissa Keenan.

“Maximising positive benefits for the community and nature through sustainable tourism experiences is a core objective of our ECO Destination Certification and we look forward to ongoing partnership with Bellingen Shire as they support their own industry to adopt sustainable tourism practices and Certification.”

The Certification application was led by the Bellingen Shire Council with collaboration and support from a variety of stakeholders including Gumbaynggirr representatives, National Parks and Forestry, business chambers and the local community throughout the application process.

“Today marks a significant milestone – this certification formally acknowledges our strong, well-managed commitment to sustainability and high-quality nature-based tourism,” said Bellingen Shire Mayor Cr Stephen Allan.

“Council and our community are proudly focussed on sustainable tourism that benefits businesses, locals and visitors alike. This is about us asking our visitors to join us in protecting our natural treasures and honouring our cultural heritage.

“We look forward to continuing the partnership with Ecotourism Australia and working with our local business community as they adopt their own sustainable tourism practices. We’re all on a continuous learning journey together.”

Meeting 90 criteria to achieve the globally recognised certification at the Ecotourism level, assures travellers that the destination is genuinely committed to holistic sustainability and providing high-quality nature-based and sustainable tourism experiences within the region.

“We’re pleased to see the Bellingen community placing such a strong focus on tourism experiences that are good for people and nature,” said Darren Grover, WWF-Australia’s Acting Chief Conservation Officer.

“We know there are a growing number of travellers who are hungry for nature-based tourism experiences, so we must ensure this industry is made as sustainable and nature positive as possible.”

“Bellingen Shire’s achievement of ECO Destination Certification is a fantastic accomplishment,” said Destination NSW CEO Steve Cox.

“This prestigious recognition showcases their commitment to sustainable practices and positions them as a leader in ecotourism. With the addition of Bellingen Shire, NSW now has four ECO certified destinations to help meet the growing demand for sustainable travel experiences and is well-positioned to attract visitors seeking an authentic and eco-friendly adventure.”

The ECO Destination Certification supports nature-based tourism destinations to improve their holistic sustainability planning and development against the four pillars of sustainability: environmental, socio-economic, cultural and sustainable management, as well as encourage local business engagement in ecotourism and sustainability. 11 Bellingen Shire tourism businesses are currently undergoing the pre-certification benchmarking program Strive 4 Sustainability Scorecard to measure and improve their current sustainability practices.

Ecotourism Australia CEO Elissa Keenan is attending the official launch event in the Bellingen region today to present the Shire’s Certification certificate and offer her congratulations.

The ECO Destination Certification was developed by Ecotourism Australia using the international Green Destinations standard, which is recognised by the Global Sustainable Tourism Council. The Certification assesses a region across the four pillars of sustainability and the destination must pass an on-site audit conducted by a third party auditor before Certification can be granted.

Discover Australia’s latest ECO Destination, Bellingen Shire: https://greentravelguide.org/destination/bellingen-shire




Media Contact:

Ecotourism Australia: Georgie Snare, Communications and Events Officer, (e): georgie@ecotourism.org.au (ph): 07 3256 6777

Bellingen Shire Council: Gemma Steller, Communications & Engagement Lead, (e): gsteller@bellingen.nsw.gov.au (ph): 6655 7300

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