Ecotourism in Australia: What Are the Lessons Learned?

by Andri Djufri Said, Catur Hadianto, Noorman Effendi, Rio Budi Rahmanto, Yuni Suryati

Tourism industry could generate many economic benefits for a country and its people. Tourism in Australia is an important component of the economy. In financial year 2014/15, tourism represented 3 percent of Australia’s GDP contributing A$ 47.5 billion to the economy.[i] Between January-July 2016, as many as 7.94 million visitors arrived in Australia; an increase of 10.6 percent to the previous year.[ii] Tourism also employed 580,800 people in Australia in 2014-15 or around 5% of the workforce.[iii] Moreover, tourism is expected to grow by 1.6 percent annually for the next ten years.[iv]

Similar to Australia, Indonesia has huge potentials in tourism particularly ecotourism. Indonesia is the world’s second mega-diversity and has abundant natural tourism attractions. In Indonesia, tourism sector contributed 4 percent of Indonesia’s US$ 836.98 billion GDP in 2015.[v] By 2019, the Government wants to have doubled this figure to 8 percent of GDP with about 20 million foreign visitors. However, development of ecotourism in Indonesia is still below its optimum potential. For that reason, this article would like to explore how Australian developed its ecotourism and what are lessons learned that could be taken in developing ecotourism in Indonesia?

Ecotourism is an important part of Australia’s tourism. One of the key players is Ecotourism Australia that was established in 1991 which developed into the Ecotourism Australia Limited (EA) in 2002. EA represents over 500 ecotourism operators. EA actively promotes ecotourism in Australia and develop partnership with neighbouring regions. One of EA’s main programs is to develop certification programs on ecotourism. For example, ECO certification developed by EA is a world-recognized program in cooperation with UNESCO World Heritage Centre and recognized by the Global Sustainable Tourism Council. Furthermore, EA has offered policy recommendations and lobbies as well as develop national, regional and international networking. In 2013/14 the combined annual turnover of all EA certified tour operators reach more than A$1billion.[vi]

In addition to the above specific player in ecotourism, Australia launched the National Long-Term Tourism Strategy in December 2009, which was followed by the launching of the 2020 Tourism Industry Potential (or Tourism 2020) in November 2010. Tourism 2020 has 6 strategic areas, namely to: (i) grow demand from Asia, (ii) build competitive digital capability (iii) encourage investment and implement regulatory reform agenda, (iv) ensure effective tourism transport, (v) increase supply of skilled human resources, (vi) build industry resilience, productivity and quality.[vii] The Tourism 2020 appears to be in line with the objective EA in promoting ecotourism in Australia.

Indonesia’s ecotourism started in 1995 when Pact-Indonesia and WAHLI convened a national seminar to strengthen Indonesian ecotourism movement. In 1996, participants of the second national seminar in Bali 1-5 July 1996 agreed to form the Indonesian Ecotourism Society (Masyarakat Ekowisata Indonesia/ MEI) to increase awareness on conservation of potential natural tourism resource; to develop quality education on environment; and to provide economic benefit for local communities in ecotourism destinations. [viii]

There are three tourisms characteristic in Indonesia, namely nature (35%), culture (60%) and manmade (5%). Within nature, there are 3 main products: natural destination (35%), ecotourism (45%) and adventure tourism (20%). So, ecotourism is definitely an area in which the Government intends to further promote in the near future.[ix]

In this regard, Indonesia and Australia has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on Cooperation in the Tourism Sector in 2001 with areas of cooperation, among others, research and development, human resource development, promotion, investment, private sector cooperation and other areas of common interest. After overviewing the above trend, there are many ways in which Indonesia could learn to develop ecotourism in Australia.

First, MEI develops cooperation with EA in capacity building, strategic policies, and certification on ecotourism. One of the key messages by EA is commitment to preserve the nature while in the same time exploiting nature to attract foreign tourists. The main challenge might be different level of institutions between the two institutions.

Second, exchange of information and best practices in relation to developing long-term strategy on tourism as Australia has developed Tourism 2020. At least there are 2 strategic areas that Indonesia could learn from Australia, i.e. how to promote in emerging China and India, and how to maximize internet to promote Indonesia’s ecotourism. Problem might arise since both countries are interested to capture the same customer in their promotion.

Third, Indonesia and Australia develop a joint research on implementation of ecotourism in each respective country. The joint research would be important as a barometer for both countries and could serve to develop linkages in the future, such as develop packaged ecotourism in Indonesia and Australia. The research, however, might be difficult to fund and might need time to develop a compatible team.

With a view of the above options, we would like to recommend the first option, namely MEI develops cooperation with EA in capacity building, strategic policies, and certification on ecotourism. The effort would hopefully suit the President’s Joko Widodo target for foreign visitors as well as develop concrete and tangible cooperation with direct impact on tourism. This will go in line with Indonesia’s effort to focus on domestic improvement such as increasing the readiness of Indonesia’s tourism destinations as well as easing accessibility and connectivity to various tourism destinations beyond Bali. Rest assured, there are still many hidden paradises in Indonesia.


[i]  Australian National Accounts: Tourism Satellite Account 2014-15, Australian Bureau of Statistic.
[ii] Visitors Arrival Data, Tourism Australia Corporate Website.
[iii] Australian National Accounts: Tourism Satellite Account 2014-15.
[iv] Ecotourism Australia — Blueprint for a Sustainable Future, Ecotourism Australia.
[v] Indonesia Misses Target of 10m Foreign Tourists in 2015, Jakarta Globe, 1 February 2015.
[vi] Ecotourism Australia Website,
[vii] Tourism 2020, Tourism Australia Corporate Website.
[viii] Anak Agung Gde Raka Dalem. “Ecotourism in Indonesia”, in Linking Green Productivity to Ecotourism Experiences in the Asia–Pacific Region. 2002. Tokyo: Asian Productivity Organization.
[ix] I Gde Pitana, “Perkembangan Pariwisata Terkini”. Presentasi Powerpoint di Kamar Dagang Indonesia.


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