An exploratory study of compliance and non-compliance by eco-certified tour operators in Australia's protected areas
Jenkins, JM 2008, 'An exploratory study of compliance and non-compliance by eco-certified tour operators in Australia's protected areas', in JM Jenkins (ed.), Proceedings: 6th Asia Pacific CHRIE (APacCHRIE) 2008 Conference & the ICE Panel of Experts Forum 2008, Perth, WA, 21-24 May, pp. 173-185.
Ecotourism certification has had limited acceptance and uptake in Australia and overseas, yet it has been widely argued that it is a means to enhancing tourism product standards and contributing to environmental sustainability. Assessments of ecotourism certification in Australia and overseas are far from conclusive about its impacts on operators, and operators’ attitudes and perceptions of such schemes. The purpose of this exploratory, small-scale study was to investigate compliance with ecocertification criteria by eco-certified operators in Australia. The study was based on complete participant observations conducted on six Australian certified eco-tours. The findings indicate that certification of ecotourism product provides no guarantee of operator compliance. Auditing principles and processes underpinning Ecotourism Australia’s (EA) Eco Certification Program are flawed, most products observed in the study did not meet certification standards, and nor did these products adequately reflect the key elements in widely accepted definitions of ecotourism. A recent review of EA websites revealed products advertising their eco-certification are not listed on designated EA websites, leading to scepticism about whether there is congruence between operator marketing and promotion and operator certification.