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The serious pursuit of ecotourism in Australia emerged nearly 25 years ago through the establishment of an industry grouping, Ecotourism Australia. Whilst the potential for geotourism was first recognised in Australia in 1996, the concept was only conceptualised locally by the convening in Western Australia of a Global Geotourism Conference in 2008, with the subsequent establishment of geotourism constituencies, firstly by the Geological Society of Australia in 2011, and then by Ecotourism Australia through the creation of a Geotourism Forum in November 2013.
As well as noting the rapid emergence and growth of geoparks overseas, in Australia however, the concept of ‘geotrails’ is thought to offer, as a first step, a universally acceptable mechanism for delivering deliver geotourism experiences through a journey linked by an area's geology and landscape ‘as the basis for providing visitor engagement, learning and enjoyment’. Geotrails can offer the advantages of relating directly to the tourism experience of a journey linking destinations and should incorporate and package in the biodiversity and cultural components (including mining heritage) of the region through which the geotrail traverses.
For geotourism to reach its potential nationally, new pathways for development such as geotrails need to be implemented, having regard to government interest in nurturing regional development and new job creation through celebrating geotourism, geological and mining heritage. Various iconic national landscapes and the development of a range of existing and proposed geotrail projects also offer exciting new opportunities for geotourism growth, whilst not overlooking Australia’s extensive protected areas as venues for enhancing geological and landscape interpretation and education as part of the overall ‘nature-based’ tourism mix.
Recently, several exciting geopark/geotrail proposals (offering UNESCO Global Geopark potential) have now emerged within two Australian regions under the auspices of supporting government agencies. These proposals are addressed in the presentation.