Building coral gardens sponsored by tourists and launching more local “volun-tourism” ventures are just some of the ideas required to secure Tropical North’s tourism industry into the future.

That’s the view of CQUniversity’s Centre for Tourism and Regional Opportunities, based in Cairns, as it celebrates the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development.

With tourism on the Great Barrier Reef generating two billion dollars in annual revenue, the environmental health of this unique ecosystem is a major factor in the region’s future success.

But so too is diversification within the industry.sustainable tourism top end

Niche markets such as volun-tourism – where visitors “do good” while on holiday – and “geo-tourism”, which is described as enhancing the “geographical character of a place, such as its culture, environment, heritage, and the well-being of its residents” are required.

CQUniversity’s Dr Michelle Thompson, an associate lecturer in Tourism, stresses the importance of sustainability to the industry’s future.

“As sustainability is the future of tourism, understanding how tourism businesses and the wider industry achieve sustainability is central to our teaching and research”, Dr Thompson said.

“Examples of sustainable forms of tourism include eco-tourism, geo-tourism, volun-tourism and responsible tourism – all of which are growing industries.”

Reef tour company Passions Of Paradise is one of the local businesses currently working alongside CQUni.

The popular tourism business currently carries 27,000 visitors to the reef annually. Passions of Paradise operator Alan Wallish hopes to increase this number to 40,000 this year.

Mr Wallish believes that sustainability is a key factor in achieving this goal. “If we’re not sustainable we don’t have an industry in the future,” Mr Wallish said.

“As opposed to other companies that have three to four on a fleet, we upscale and use the same amount of carbon emission with more passengers to enjoy the ecotourism experience.”

This article was originally published by Tropic Now.

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