Tourism sector to reach next level “naturally”

Published on 06 June 2024

wildlife land acquisition at Wongawallan

An ambitious program to expand the Gold Coast’s largely untapped nature-based tourism sector will begin in earnest after receiving a green light by Councillors today.

The three-pronged Nature-Based Tourism Program will encourage the development of new products and experiences through support and incentives for operators.

Mayor Tate said the Gold Coast had been losing tourism market share steadily in recent years.

“The data shows we are increasingly losing that share to regions that have capitalised on the demand for nature-based activities – places like New Zealand, the Hunter Valley, the Mornington Peninsula and the Sunshine Coast.”

“We know that more travellers want to connect with nature so it’s time we got serious about this sector.

“It’s time we showed the world what we have been keeping to ourselves for so long – that the green behind the gold is world class.”

An initial budget of $500,000 (funded from existing funds) will be established to support the grants category.

Mayor Tate said the program would be focused on three key areas:

Request For Proposals: inviting private investors and tourism operators to submit

proposals for new or significantly enhanced best practice, low impact, nature-based tourism experiences and associated infrastructure on the Gold Coast;

Grants Program: delivery of a nature-based tourism grants program to support existing and emerging Gold Coast businesses to deliver products in the nature-based tourism sector; and

Council-led Projects: The announcement of small number of low impact nature based projects – supported by council – yet to be publicly announced.

Council CEO Tim Baker said research confirmed that many domestic and international travellers sought greater “connection with nature”.

“Equally, these visitors want to have a low-impact experience meaning products or experiences must fit with people’s values around leaving the environment untouched and raw.

Some examples of products that align with these values include cultural tours led by First Nations people, or experiences like kayaking and eco camping.

“Without restricting people’s imaginations, we want to hear from locals and others on what products they feel can be expanded or created. In every way, this program will seek to bring out the best from locals, coast operators and the wider market.”

Across Australia, natured-based tourism attracts higher visitor spending through high value travellers who stay longer and spend more.