Margaret River, WA

Getting started on your Destination Certification

Ecotourism Australia provides two certification programs for destinations, ensuring that certified destinations are supported by a robust, well-managed commitment to continuous improvement of sustainable practices and offer high-quality tourism experiences within the region. The Destination Certifications are based on international best practice expectations and utilises the Green Destinations framework which is recognised by the Global Sustainable Tourism Council.

ECO Destination Logo

ECO Destination Certification

Designed for regions that prioritise nature-focused visitor experiences and have national parks, reserves, as well as a commitment to preserving nature and scenic landscapes.

Sustainable Tourism Destination logo

Sustainable Tourism Destination Certification

Designed for urban destinations wanting to grow their sustainability credentials and support a thriving sustainable tourism industry.

Destination certifications apply to a specific region with a clearly defined boundary. It requires one organisation, such as the local council or tourism body, to be responsible for managing the certification. However, the assessment encompasses the entire region’s tourism destination management practices. Destination certification goes beyond the tourism sector, illustrating an all-encompassing approach to environmental sustainability that involves the entire community.

Why apply ecotourism principles to your destination?

Embarking on the journey to become a certified Destination means joining a well-established global network of destinations sharing a common commitment to achieving excellence in sustainable tourism and ecotourism. Increasingly, visitors are demanding authentic, unique, culturally responsible, and environmentally sustainable experiences.

A core belief is that visitors experiencing certified eco and sustainable tourism destinations do notice the difference. Destination certification is about more than the tourism sector: a focus on sustainability and constant improvement are demonstrated by how the entire community operates.

The Destination Certification programs are a framework for the region to:

  • Build a business environment in which ecotourism thrives.
  • Align internal and external destination management practices to ensure they are in line with international best practice sustainability expectations.
  • Encourage high-yield visitation by offering visitors an easy way to determine where genuine and authentic ecotourism experiences are found.
  • Promote the destination to those who are seeking a high-quality ecotourism experience and value the landscape they are visiting.
  • Develop Use the Destination Certification Framework as a business development tool for your region.
  • Connect Join an established global network of like-minded destinations striving for eco and sustainable tourism excellence and learn from each other’s best practice examples.
  • Recognition Be recognised for your efforts and achievements in developing eco and sustainable destination management practices.
  • Showcase that the destination’s sustainable and ecotourism credentials have been verified by a third-party independent auditor.
  • Grow Build a relationship with an industry expert who conducts regular onsite visits, providing guidance to enhance your sustainability practices and ensures long-term accountability.

We strongly encourage you to actively collaborate with local businesses, key stakeholders, and residents throughout the certification process, fostering a collective effort towards a more sustainable and responsible future.

Consumers are looking for more sustainable travel options

Increasingly, visitors are demanding authentic, unique, culturally responsible, and environmentally sustainable experiences. Travellers don’t just want destinations to say they are sustainable. More and more research shows a growing demand for genuine ecotourism and sustainable tourism experiences that align with travellers’ conscious consumer ethos.

Did you know?

  • 75% of global travelers say that they want to travel more sustainably over the next 12 months (Booking.com, 2024 Report)
  • 75% of travelers are more likely to choose a sustainable hotel (Accor Pacific)
  • 75% of WAMs visitors mention their sustainability practices in their post trip reviews. (Wild Adventures Melbourne)

Destination Certification Programs

Echo Point, Blue Mountains, NSW
ECO Destination Certification

Designed for regions that prioritise nature-focused visitor experiences and have national parks, reserves, as well as a commitment to preserving nature and scenic landscapes.

Brisbane skyline at sunset with pink hues, overlooking the Brisbane River.
Sustainable Tourism Destination Certification

Designed for urban destinations wanting to grow their sustainability credentials and support a thriving sustainable tourism industry.

Green Travel Guide Colour Logo

Ecotourism Australia’s online search engine showcasing all our certified tourism operators and destinations.

Each operator receives a free listing with an opportunity to upgrade to a premium listing to maximise their reach.


Click on the frequently asked questions to find your answers. If you still have questions, contact eco@ecotourism.org.au

Why does Destination Certification matter?

Destination Certification does not encourage overtourism in a destination – it invites quality visitors who will care for and respect the community, local Indigenous cultures, and the natural environment. We treat our visitors as our invited guests, who must treat our region with care in return and who leave our region in a better place than when they arrived.

What is the difference between ECO Certification and ECO Destination Certification?

The ECO Certification program is for nature-based tourism businesses that assesses the financial, social, environmental, and cultural sustainability of business management. ECO Destination Certification concerns the region, including how the council and local tourism organisation supports its local tourism industry through their practices.

What is the difference between ECO Destination Certification and Sustainable Tourism Destination Certification?

ECO Destination Certification is for a nature focused destinations with visitors coming to the region to experience the natural offering (e.g. diving, snorkelling, hiking). The Sustainable Tourism Destination Certification is for an urban based region with food, drinks and culture at the heart of the experience.

What are the benefits of Destination Certification for my region?

Regions in the Destination Certification programs are part of an international network of over 200 destinations supporting one another to increase sustainability standards globally. Undertaking certification ultimately enhances the sustainability of your destination, focusing on product development. It encourages you to implement and maintain high standard practices that will help you, your staff, the community, and the local visitor economy plan for the long term.

How much does Destination Certification cost?

For a personalised conversation about the Destination Certification’s pricing, please contact the office on (07) 3256 6777 or email eco@ecotourism.org.au.

How long does Destination Certification take to complete?

The time commitment varies from destination to destination and will depend on several variables including:

  • The level of existing sustainable management practices and stakeholder engagement
  • The deadline in which the destination would like to achieve certification
  • Other project priorities for the destination representative
  • The complexity of the destination’s management
  • The level of buy-in from key stakeholders
  • The scope of the region and the support packages chosen.

The process of certification allows a destination to proceed at its own speed, but on average an applications reached within 1-2 years.

What documentation is required?

Following the preliminary assessment, which compiles existing (publicly available) documentation, policies, and plans, you will have a greater understanding of the certification requirements prior to beginning certification. Examples of documents required include a Biodiversity strategy, a Destination Management Plan with all 4 pillars of sustainability considered, a tourism impact assessment (template provided), low impact mobility strategy, waste management strategy. A summary of documentation required for the assessment can be provided in advance upon request.

Who is responsible for managing the certification application?

Each destination has multiple agencies managing the area (e.g. local government, Traditional Owner representatives, local tourism organisation and national parks), however one agency needs to be the ‘lead agency’ with responsibility for the certification.

Destination Certification is often led by local government as they have the most responsibility for the destination. It is recommended that one representative from the lead organisation is the main contact for the program. This is normally an allocated staff member who has tourism and sustainability knowledge and is well connected across various departments/stakeholders.

Optional engagement of consultants can assist with the speed/quality of the application. However, it is suggested that the main responsibility still sits with an internal staff member of the destination’s lead organisation to ensure the organisation is satisfied with the information submitted on its behalf and ownership continues beyond the consultant.

What support is provided by Ecotourism Australia?

Ecotourism Australia provides extensive and personalised support throughout the application process and then beyond certification. Initial engagement includes the choice of multiple tiers of support packages to help destinations through the application process. These packages include onsite visits to facilitate engagement with key stakeholders and industry and various levels of coaching time included.

As Ecotourism Australia is the certification body, they can support the destination through the application process as a ‘coach’ but cannot complete the application on behalf of the destination – that is where an independently engaged consultant can assist.

Does a destination need to be perfect to be certified?

Sustainability is not an endpoint, but an ongoing journey of improvement. Destination Certification means that a region has met a minimum standard and is committed to ongoing best practice processes and procedures to grow sustainable and ecotourism offerings in their region.

A preliminary assessment will establish a baseline of the destination’s current sustainability performance against the Global Sustainable Tourism Council recognised certification standard. Through regular auditing, Ecotourism Australia’s independent auditors will assess the destination’s continued commitment to sustainability and may leave recommendations for your region to address.