The Port Douglas Daintree region has become the world’s first destination to be awarded Ecotourism Australia’s ECO Destination Certification.

The announcement was made at the 27th Annual Global Eco Asia-Pacific Tourism Conference in Cairns.

Julia Leu, Mayor of Douglas Shire, said receiving a big green tick demonstrated to visitors that as a destination, the region was committed to strong, well-managed sustainable practices and providing high quality nature-based experiences.

“The Port Douglas Daintree region sits at the very heart of two significant World Heritage natural sites – the Great Barrier Reef and the Daintree Rainforest.

“The ECO Destination certification, through its rigorous auditing process, sets the Douglas Shire and its unique natural experiences apart from everywhere else.”

To become an ECO Certified Nature Destination a minimum 80 of 100 criteria, based on the internationally accredited and recognised Green Destinations Standards, must be met. These standards encompass six main themes, including destination management, nature and scenery, environment and climate, culture and tradition, social well-being, and business and hospitality.

CEO of Tourism Port Douglas Daintree, Tara Bennett, said recognising and encouraging responsible travel to natural areas made the choice much simpler for visitors.

“More travellers than ever are seeking to minimise the carbon footprint of their holiday, travelling with climate in mind by planning wisely and choosing consciously a destination that supports culture, community and environment.”

Ms Bennett said achieving certification was a “wonderful example of the private and public sector working together” with Ecotourism Australia.

“The Douglas Shire Council, Tourism Port Douglas Daintree along with local businesses, community groups, and the area’s 12,000 residents have introduced environmental, economic and social sustainability practices unseen in many places. We will continue this process of continuous improvement to ensure best practice, looking at future opportunities such as reducing carbon consumption, implementing sustainable energy solutions and enhanced community participation to support sustainable tourism growth.”

The Port Douglas Daintree region has more than 80 per cent of its land protected under World Heritage Listing with 80 per cent of economic activity derived from tourism.

“This proves nature and tourism can co-exist while also achieving positive social, environmental and financial outcomes.”

Ecotourism Australia CEO, Rod Hillman, congratulated the destination on achieving certification.

“An onsite audit conducted by an international team of independent auditors assessed every aspect of the Shire’s application in detail,” Mr Hillman said.

“This included reviewing documentation, visiting key tourism sites and conducting interviews with council employees, community group representatives and service providers.”

He said destination certification was the next step for the organisation, which oversees the widely recognised ECO Certification program for tourism operators. There are currently 24 tour operators in the Douglas Shire that are certified under this program.

Sheraton leads the way

Not only leading the way in environmental practices, the Sheraton Grand Mirage Resort, Port Douglas is a trailblazer when it comes to meetings and incentives.

The property – which is more of a destination than a resort – is an idyllic setting for incentive groups, meeting and events who are looking for a five-star, tropical experience.

With the largest meeting space holding 850 people, the resort boasts 18 indoor and outdoor meetings and event spaces, a dedicated onsite sales and events team, and an in-house audio visual company.

This scenic beachfront location nestled within two World Heritage listed UNESCO attractions has Sheraton Grand Mirage at the forefront of the destination to meet and gather.