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Nature Tourism could save rural Victoria if we're smart.

There is a reason the UN has called 2017 The International Year of Sustainable Tourism.

Nature tourism is big and it makes sense.

The South Pacific Tourism Organisation recently commended the Asian Development Bank for drawing attention to the issue of sustainable eco- tourism at the ADB Pacific Update Conference. This annual event brings together leading thinkers and policy makers in the region to discuss development and policy issues at regional levels, and is co-sponsored by the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the Development Policy Centre at the Australian National University (ANU), and the University of the South Pacific (USP).

"There is a growing interest amongst new travellers in off-the-beaten-track destinations and those who seek unspoilt nature and environmentally responsible, culturally rich and pristine destinations, which are opportunities for the region."

Already just a few global examples of governments who understand the economic benefit of their nature assets are as follows;

  • Dharan's nature habitat- it's success as a tourist destination has become the economic lifeblood of the community.

  • The UAE has so far set aside 14% of their landmasses as protected, in recognition of the importance of ecotourism, Egypt 15% and India is actively promoting eco friendly "wander trails".

  • In China a deal has just been signed with WWF to protect its precious wetlands on the flight path of hundreds of thousands of our critically declining migratory birds.

Back at home in Aus,

  • Kakadu, "just a swamp" like our own Victorian wetlands, is one example of the success and appeal of nature to tourists.

  • Philip Island Nature Park brings in over 498M in revenue each year and supports 2000 jobs.

  • Warnambool attracts over 56,000 visitors to watch whales every year.

Nature Tourism brought in a whopping 40Bn to Australia back in 2014, with 68% of International visitors coming here to enjoy our wildlife and stunning landscapes. Since then it has gone from strength to strength.

The Adelaide International Bird Sanctuary, a relatively new venture, is admirably set to protect endangered birds as well as tap into the growing and lucrative avitourism market.

"Birding" according to Griffiths University, is one of the fastest growing past times in the world, with "birders" known to be well educated, affluent and likely to care for, stay longer and spend money in, the environments they visit.

So what to do with Victoria's small rural towns who according to SGS Economics and Planning 2016, have slipped backwards financially for the fourth consecutive year?

Here's a thought. Victorian rural towns are lucky enough to still have precious wetlands, together with the unique and endangered native bird species they house, when wetlands globally are disappearing faster than any other ecosystem.

Victorian rural towns are perfectly poised to leverage the growing and lucrative trend of nature tourism and we deserve the jobs and growth that would come with it.

Nature tourism and looking after our precious natural assets as opposed to destroying them with months of shooting Australia's dwindling number of native waterbirds each year, is the one and only thing that makes sense.

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