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New push to develop nature-based tourism in Canberra

Something to consider for Ginninderra Falls, Darryl

Canberra Times 8 February

A "business partner" is being sought to work with ACT park rangers to develop ecotourism opportunities and enhance Canberra's reputation as the bush capital.

Tender documents were released on Tuesday inviting proposals to manage the parks volunteer guide program and accommodation services. The tender also invites proposals for "signature" nature-based tourism experiences.

Gudgenby Ready-Cut Cottage​Gudgenby Ready-Cut Cottage is one of the accommodation sites included with a new tender seeking a business partner to work with the ACT Parks and Conservation Service. Photo: Matthew Higgins

The four accommodation sites tendered for management are Cinerea Cottage and Nil Desperandum in Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve and Corin Cottage and Ready-Cut Cottage in Namadgi National Park.

Parks and conservation service regional manager Brett McNamara said an existing contract to manage the volunteer program had expired and it was now intended to bundle this with cottage accommodation services and ecotourism.

"This is not about outsourcing or doing it ourselves in the bureaucracy, it's about striking a balance and finding someone with business prowess and acumen to take it to the next level," he said.

Signature experiences might include wildflower tours, mountain biking and canoeing.

"It could be as simple as the fact we've got 3500 followers on the Tidbinbilla Facebook page, there's a sea of orchids out there at the moment, the first 20 people who book with us will have a ranger-guided tour," Mr McNamara said.

"It's that type of signature experience that even we as rangers go 'wow'; we'd love to share that with people.

"One of the real keys is that we want someone to work with us at Tidbinbilla. We've got office accommodation set aside for this person or people.

"We want someone who can work with the local market and develop the international market as well."

Mr McNamara said introducing overseas visitors to native flora and fauna could be a signature experience.

"People want to have a unique experience. By bringing these three elements together, that's what we hope to provide," he said.

"We're open to new ideas, including things like behind-the-scenes tours at Tidbinbilla."

The tender document states the business partner will need to provide an annual report detailing statistics and proposed changes to booking fees "or other elements to enhance the ACT parks visitor experience".

Environment and heritage minister Mick Gentleman said the government was delivering on its commitment to encourage ecotourism by inviting businesses to collaborate on a range of nature-based tourism opportunities.

"As the bush capital, Canberra is well positioned to showcase our unique surroundings and attract more visitors," he said.

"Through this tender process, the government is seeking to work with third parties to provide a range of opportunities."

Any ecotourism activities are required to be consistent with conservation values, management plans and government policies.

Tenders close on March 16.


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