ECO Destination Certification

Eco Tourism Image

Surf Coast Shire Council has commenced an exciting journey to become an ECO Destination Certification through Ecotourism Australia.

Why An Eco Destination 

We all care deeply about the beautiful and unique environment that we are lucky to have here on the Surf Coast, and we love to welcome and share it with the many visitors who come to the region every day.

Ecotourism aims to preserve the integrity of a destination. Its focus is on conserving the local environment and historical heritage, while supporting the culture and encouraging people to look after the natural resources that attracts them to the region.

Becoming an Eco Destination supports our community vision to leave the Surf Coast better than we found it.

What is Eco Destination Certification

An ECO Destination is a globally recognised destination that has an outstanding natural environment and best practice management. Becoming an ECO Certified Destination is a natural extension of the work we are already doing in our community to protect and conserve our environment. When we get there, we will join eight other Australian destinations dedicated to sustainable tourism, with many more going through the program.

As the peak body for ecotourism and sustainable tourism, Ecotourism Australia's ECO Destination Certification program assures travellers that certified destinations are backed by a strong, well-managed commitment to ongoing improvement of sustainable practices and provide high-quality nature-based tourism experiences.

Our goal is to achieve certification by the end of 2025.

What is Ecotourism? 

Bridging nature tourism and sustainable tourism, the definition of ‘ecotourism’ adopted by Ecotourism Australia is:

“Ecotourism is ecologically sustainable tourism with a primary focus on experiencing natural areas that fosters environmental and cultural understanding, appreciation and conservation”


What are the Benefits of Becoming an Eco Certified Destination? 

  1. A focus on protecting the natural environment makes the Surf Coast a great place to live. Our community benefits now and we also protect the Surf Coast’s natural beauty for future generations. 
  2. A great place to live is a great place to visit. Travellers are choosing destinations with strong environmental credentials. Eco Certified Destinations attract visitors and importantly visitors that share our value to tread lightly and respect nature.
  3. Caring for the natural environment protects cultural heritage, enhances our understanding of culture and enriches lives.
  4. Becoming ECO certified supports our future economy. It’s fantastic for local business.

How do we achieve Eco Tourism Accreditation? 

  • We shine a light on what we have already achieved in this space.
  • We complete work in progress including plans and policies and address shortfalls and roadblocks.
  • We commit to continuous improvement. We are in this for keeps!

The certification process

Destination Management
Our focus will include addressing criteria on:

  • Visitation to sensitive sites & assets monitoring its impact.
  • Reporting on sustainability and things being put in place to address challenges.
  • Ensuring tourism in the destination is carefully planned. 

Nature and Scenery
The emphasis here for Surf Coast will be on nature conservation and wildlife protection and what stakeholders are doing locally to avoid the local extinction of wild flora and fauna. The protection of habitats in The Eagle Rock Marine Sanctuary is a wonderful local story of nature conservation and protection. How can we learn from and build on this success and are there other areas we can extend protection to and support biodiversity? 

The completion of our Biodiversity Conservation Plan will be a key milestone in achieving accreditation in 2025

Environment and Climate
Our local Tourism Industry is already being affected by climate change, especially by the increased frequency of extreme weather and bushfires. The frequency of heat waves, unseasonable cold, droughts, storms and heavy rains not only affects visitor comfort, safety and satisfaction, but also the assets and products attracting our visitors.

Following two community petitions, Surf Coast Shire Council declared a climate emergency in 2019. This declaration acknowledged the need for more urgent and extensive action to reduce emissions and build resilience to local climate change impacts.

Ecotourism Australia, through the accreditation process encourages us to identify risks and opportunities that climate variability may bring, as well as to take action to improve our resilience.

Culture and Tradition
Caring for the natural environment protects cultural heritage, enhances our understanding of culture and enriches lives. Cultural heritage is a non-renewable resource. While vandalism and destruction are common challenges presented in protecting cultural artefacts, often the innocent collecting or acquiring of souvenirs by tourists (including the singular collecting of stones or shells) can also result in dramatic consequences when done by large numbers of people. This is why it is important for us to have in place measures that can help protect our cultural artefacts significant sites. Our strong relationship with our Traditional Owners has seen concerted efforts to protect ancient midden sites at Bells Beach. What more can we do is this space to protect cultural heritage across the region?

Business and Communication
This is a team effort. A collaborative multi-stakeholder approach is ideal when communicating about environmental issues. We can as a Council improve on how we engage and communicate with tourism-related enterprises. We will as a Council do better with the encouragement and support we provide tourism related enterprises to make their operations more sustainable.

The eco accreditation process will be the catalyst to bring together our incredible local business community to establish common goals and create a framework for joint action.

Social Wellbeing
While tourism brings economic benefits, it is important for Council to understand the social impact of visitors to the local community. The Aireys Inlet Affordable Housing Project highlights our commitment to play our role in the affordable accommodation challenges coastal towns are facing at present. The eco accreditation process will challenge us to do more in this area and provide targeted response and support where it is most needed. 

How Can You Be Involved?

  1. Join other local tourism businesses who have completed certification programs offered by Eco Tourism Australia.
  • Desa Retreat (since 2023)
  • Lorne Bush House Cottages (since 2010) website
  • Southern Exposure Eco-Adventure Sports (since 2012) website
  • Torquay Surfing Academy (since 2013) Website

         2. Share your Story

The environmental sustainability journey you are on as a business is a story we would love to hear. Please email us on: with:
Business name
Contact details