Every mother in the world has barked this quote at their child at some point in time, however, it appears, now more than ever, we need to consider this quote carefully when considering the Douglas Shire’s tourism recovery.
This week, Port Douglas and the Daintree was, for the second year running, confirmed by consumers as the top global destination of 700, validating the tourism industry’s forward-thinking attitude in meeting the growing demand for nature-based, sustainable, eco-tourism experiences.
The accolade, bestowed by strategic consultation firm, Destination Think! via a comprehensive analysis of what consumers say about the Port Douglas and Daintree region online through sites including Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, YouTube, and TripAdvisor, clearly demonstrates our region is providing exactly what consumers who visit us are looking for – in other words, everything other destinations are not.
The Port Douglas and Daintree Visitor survey analysis prepared by CQ University annually, highlighted in both the 2017/2018 and 2018/2019 reports the top five motivators of visitors to the Douglas Shire – rest and relax, climate, to have fun, visit the beaches and experience the natural environment.
The first three motivators are fairly universal – my family and I are always motivated by them, even when visiting a cold climate, as we plan our trip around the season we travel. Visiting the beaches and experiencing the natural environment are far more specific, and when broken down, we realise just how important and special these motivators are.
The beaches of the Douglas Shire are stunning.
Why? Because they are natural. They are untouched. They are not shadowed by high rise blocking out the sun. They are not groomed to within an inch of their naturally landscaped vegetation. They are clean and free from washed up, man-made waste. For anyone who has ever travelled to Bali, you don’t go there for the beaches unless you are looking to drink endless cocktails and Bintangs whilst perched on a couch or bean bag ensuring your body is not touching contaminated sand from the polluted water lapping at the shoreline.
It makes sense that one of the top drivers of conversation for Port Douglas and Daintree centres around nature photography, the beaches, and our shoreline (Destination Think! 2020). Although tourists may visit Bali for a beach experience, it is vastly different from the Douglas Shire beach experience. Do not get me wrong, I love Bali and we travel there regularly, but we don’t go there for the beaches.
Where the Douglas Shire shines is its natural environment.
“Analysts had observed an upward trend over the past three years in the sharing of beautiful natural environments across all social platforms” and, “Port Douglas Daintree, with its stunning rainforest and access to the Great Barrier Reef, is well-positioned to benefit from this.”Mike Duffield, head researcher at Destination Think!
As Australia’s first and only holder of the ECO Destination Certification – Nature Destination Level, the credibility of the Douglas Shire stands out as a hero in the offering of a tourism product unlike anything else in Australia. A destination brimming with world-class sustainable tourism experiences within a pristine environment is worth more environmentally and in terms of future tourism economics than a few dollars of discounted Council rates to provide the convenience of a bridge over the Daintree or approval in the future of a man-made monolith higher than a coconut palm.
The Douglas Shire is poised to come out on the other side of COVID-19 because, as noted by Tourism Port Douglas Daintree (TPDD) CEO Tara Bennett, we “deliver inspiring travel experiences and sustainable practices.”
Professor Kelly Bricker, Vice-Chair of the Global Sustainable Tourism Council based in the US, the Douglas Shire’s largest international visitor market, observed travellers were increasingly exhibiting concern regarding environmental impact and were
“more likely to choose low-impact, sustainable travel options … seek out experiences that include cultural immersion and experiential education and have the potential to be eye-opening or life-changing (and enjoy) local products that are grown using environmentally friendly practices.”
With COVID-19 providing the natural world an opportunity to recover and shine whilst humans are in lockdown, the Douglas Shire, in all its natural glory is already delivering what tourism wants in spades. Given our destination marketing representative TPDD began driving the sustainable, eco-tourism message long before it was trendy, residents, as the custodians of this beautiful place need to get behind the message, support it and drive it whilst protecting the very thing we are selling.
The Douglas Shire wins these accolades because we are not like other destinations. We do not pander to calls to build what others have or pretend we’re something we’re not. We are a natural, unique destination winning the race in sustainable eco-tourism.
So think carefully about my question “if everyone jumped off a bridge, would you?” as the debate continues over bridges and amendments to the town plan, purchasing of lap pools and grooming of beaches, because there is nothing wrong with being different and unique, and once it is gone, you may never get it back.