Eco-tourism’s “untapped potential” needs further probe
ECO-TOURISM is being seen as an "untapped" industry that could be a long-term saviour for tourism on the Southern Downs.
With national parks such as Girraween and Sundown in the area, statistics show that they're a big draw card to the region.
Rick Humphries from the Granite Belt Sustainable Action Network says a workshop will be held this Friday where more discussion will be had, delving into what opportunities are there.
The group have teamed up with the Rare Wildflower Consortium, with a goal to achieve greater protection for biodiversity in the area.
"A good place for us to start was to work with existing landholders that have land for wildlife and nature refuge covenance on their blocks," Mr Humphries said.
The Granite Belt is a "hot spot" in terms of the number of nature refuge's according to Mr Humphries.
But he believes there's lots of room to expand
"The workshop will basically update landholders on what support is available in terms of funding and expertise.
"We want to attract others to join and put covenance on their blocks.
"This is part of a broader program to get more areas of the Granite Belt protected."
Mr Humphries said they hope to eventually work in with Granite Belt Wine Tourism.
"Wineries are the primary reason people come here but the second is Girraween and the nature experience.
"We think there's a great opportunity to develop a great eco-tourism strategy for the Granite Belt.
"It's really about land conservation. We need to get more activities like mountain biking, more walks and more nature based tourism experiences to add to the package that is on offer.
"With the fires and the drought … there's a real need to think about how to manage things better.
"Because we're at the northern end of the New Englan Tablelands, we're pretty unique.
"So there's lots to do and lots to protect. We need to make sure we do it in a way that it enhances the tourism experience so there's an economic dividend.
"Eco-tourism is pretty well untapped.
"We hope to generate some enthusiasm at the community level to start pushing the council and state government for eco tourism and greater protection more broadly.
"All the research says nature based tourism is a big draw card to the region so we need to protect and make sure places like Girraween are in great shape.
"We've seen if those places are closed or knocked out of action tourism numbers drop," he said.
The workshop is this Friday (December 29) from 10am-3pm at the Supper Room at the Civic Centre.
Lunch is provided and there will be guest speakers.
RSVP to email@example.com