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Ecotourism New Zealand Conference (2007)

Conference Program

Reflections on the the Ecotourism NZ 2007 Conference held in Greymouth, New Zealand August 1-3, 2007. The event was hosted by the Tai Poutini Polytechnic.

Planeta.com’s Ron Mader was a keynote speaker.

Ron: I would love to hear from people I met at the conference and from fans of tourism and ecotourism in New Zealand. There were some great conversations and we continue to update the relevant resources on Planeta.com.

Key Links
Flickr Album

Ecotourism means something different depending on your point of view. I certainly have my own definition, but so do many other people. While there is no common language that engages visitors and locals, those who offer ecotourism need to be clear about what they mean. In our review of global ecotourism trends, we see a growing debate on carbon emission offsetting and tourism, the role awards play in developing awareness and how the web is being used for distance learning. Five years past the International Year of Ecotourism and there is disappointment that leading global institutions are not doing enough. Does Web 2.0 – aka the social web – promise a new way of engaging visitors and locals? Here’s our summary. (Presentation)

Carbon Emissions
Most visitors to New Zealand indicate strong interest in nature and conservation. New Zealand is taking a loading role in discussing carbon emissions and developing strategies in respect to long haul travel. Visitors who travel a great distance are conscious of why they are traveling and what they are seeking. How will New Zealand officials answer questions about the environmental impact of transportation? As travelers are increasingly concerned about climate change, will this manifest in changing travel plans?

Recommended reading: Carbon Emission Offsetting
Participants in the Ethical Marketing of Ecotourism Conference and the Ecotourism Certification Workshop emphasized that awards play an important role in establishing a positive reputation for an eco lodge or guide service. Acknowledging best practices in tourism ecotourism may be a practical alternative to expensive certification schemes. Leaders who attempt to work in an ethical and ecological fashion do so not necessarily for the recognition, but appreciate the kudos given by their peers.

Recommended reading: Ecotourism Spotlight Award, Reflections on Awards

Web 2.0, aka the Social Web
The changes at hand in tourism are notable. The online booking industry has been transformed with reviews by travelers and by operators and associations using new online tools that revolutionize the way visitors are guided. A challenge for operators lies in understanding the new venues for dialogue and promotion. As veteran trend watcher Steve Bridger points out, much of the action is taking place ‘out there’ in social networks and online communities instead of from your own website.

Recommended reading: Strategies for using Web 2.0 for Travel Operators and Visitors, Web 1, 2, 3

Using the Web for Distance Learning
How to best leverage limited resources depends on bridging the online and offline worlds. Challenges for educational institutions will be the incorporation of rating systems that evaluate individual professors and student work. The ‘ethics’ within institutions will be a hot topic.

Recommended reading: Education, Educational Travel, Sharing Cultures

Five Years after the International Year of Ecotourism
In May 2007 Planeta.com conducted a survey to evaluate the development of ecotourism in the five years since the International Year of Ecotourism. Three dozen respondents have responded. Among the finding: respondents are cynical about the development of ecotourism, believe that indigenous people are not actively included and give low marks to United Nations Environment Programme and World Tourism Organization. These criticisms, Mader argues, should be taken as a roadmap for making immediate corrections that can win over the critics.

Recommended reading: Evaluating the Impact of the International Year of Ecotourism: Anniversary Report, IYE+5

Urban Ecotourism
Also, in connection with our focus on City Environments, Planeta.com hosts city guides to Auckland, Christchurch and Wellington.

Recommended reading: Cities

About the West Coast
The West Coast covers a distance of 600 kilometers, with a population of 31,000 and contains 1.9 million hectares of land protected by the Department of Conservation. On the Coast there are five national parks, two Wilderness Areas and a World Heritage Area and there is an outstanding range of natural features including rainforests, glaciers, wetlands and an ocean habitat that is home to the world’s stronghold population of Hector dolphin.

In 2007 the Department of Conservation estimated that the conservation area on the West Coast generates $221 million a year within the local economy. In addition about 15% of the West Coast workforce is employed on conservation land.

More than 100 people participated in the 2007 Ecotourism NZ Conference held in Greymouth August 1-3, 2007. Tai Poutini Polytechnic hosted the 5-star event.

Planeta.com gave the event a top rating for accomplishing the following:

Locals were included in the development of the program
The event bridged academic, business and government sectors
The event attracted stakeholders from around the country and provided a great venue for interaction (many of the participants commented that being out of cellphone reach was a plus).
Conference presentations and outcomes are archived online (see below).
The conference prompted the Ecotourism Challenges E-Dialogue

In the New Zealand Listener article Melting Away, Dave Hansford recounts a popular anecdote he heard at the conference: “The owner of a South Island backpackers getting grief from German tourists for not providing recycling facilities. So, eager to please, he puts out three multi-coloured bins for plastic, glass and paper. Come 10 o’clock when everyone has checked out, he takes them around the back and throws them all in the same skip, because there are no recycling facilities on the Coast.”

My questions – Is this a factual story? And what sort of expectations should visitors have for the ‘eco’ in New Zealand?

I was told at the beginning that the previous event the minister of tourism admitted to not having a definition of ecotourism. This year the minister did not shy away from a definition but opted to focus the presentation (and the country’s tourism policy) on sustainable tourism strategies.

2007 Ecotourism NZ Conference Programme – Tai Poutini Polytechnic
2007 Ecotourism NZ Conference Outcomes – Tai Poutini Polytechnic
Global Perspectives (PDF)
Australian Perspective (PDF)
Online marketing (PDF)
Managing a business (PDF)
Growing your business through partnerships (PDF)
Case study: Hiking New Zealand (PDF)
Standards and benchmarking (PDF)
Concessions and land management (PDF)
Why you should cater for tourists with disabilities?
Growing Ecotourism on the West Coast (Word)
Training and Education (PDF)
A partnership to deliver a cultural experience at Abel Tasman National Park (PDF)
Ecotourism in New Zealand Conference 2006


Talking Heads


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Tai Poutini Poly


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