Queensland Eco and Sustainable Tourism (QuEST)

    What is QuEST?

    The Queensland Eco and Sustainable Tourism (QuEST) delivers a policy framework for ecotourism operators accessing high visitation national parks.

    QuEST provides:

    • business certainty
    • best practice standards
    • support for authorised tourism operators
    • opportunities for growth
    • streamlined administration.

    The Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service (QPWS), a division of our department, is determined to ensure the tourism industry is consistently able to provide high-quality, nature-based experiences across a range of iconic protected areas. QPWS will deliver more opportunities for tourism growth through the QuEST initiative by actively managing access to ensure that full commercial opportunity is attained at sites within a sustainable management framework.

    A key issue that QuEST will address is permits not being used to full capacity, creating latency problems. QuEST will focus on the effective use of allocated capacity to make available the full tourism opportunity.

    The tourism industry supports the removal of latent capacity to sustainable levels to maximise the full extent of commercial opportunities. Any available capacity will not be released for a minimum of 12 months from the date tourism operators’ move to agreements, allowing a period for tourism operators to adjust their business models.

    Further information on QuEST is available, including:

    When will QuEST be implemented?

    QuEST provides a contemporary tourism management policy for Queensland’s national parks. Initially, QuEST will be implemented in stages for tourism operators conducting guided tours in the state’s most popular national parks including:

    • Fraser Island Recreation Area
    • Moreton Island Recreation Area
    • Daintree National Park
    • Cooloola Recreation Area
    • Whitsunday islands Area

    QPWS will manage the implementation process and communicate directly with all permitted tourism operators in these locations to advise of scheduled dates for implementation.

    What does QuEST mean for current authorised tourism operators?

    All tourism operators conducting guided tours in areas identified for QuEST implementation will be required to be authorised under a commercial activity agreement. 

    All operators currently authorised by a commercial activity permit to conduct guided tours in QuEST locations are eligible to transfer to 15-year commercial activity agreements. Tourism operators will be offered the opportunity to transfer to an agreement prior to the expiry of their permit. The application fee will be waived for tourism operators transferring prior to expiry of their permit.

    If an existing tourism operator chooses not to take up an agreement, they may continue operations only until expiry of their current permit.

    Long-term agreement holders who conduct guided tours in QuEST locations will be required to:

    • commence the application process for ecotourism certification within 12 months of the release of QuEST and finalise ecotourism certification within 18 months
    • have their capacity reviewed five years after the release of QuEST or on renewal of the agreement, whichever is earlier
    • comply with QuEST subcontracting requirements—for further information refer to the QuEST frequently asked questions.

    Why is QuEST needed?

    Queensland’s protected areas are a major tourism drawcard. The iconic nature of our national parks and marine parks, including five World Heritage areas—more than any other state—provides a strong competitive advantage in both domestic and international markets.

    Each year there are in excess of 51 million visits by Australians to Queensland’s national parks, marine parks and they are a key driver for international visitation.

    The Queensland Government together with tourism operators and industry representatives developed a 20-year plan for the state’s tourism industry, positioning it to meet future challenges and opportunities. Ecotourism is a key part of this and will play an important role in meeting the 2020 growth target for the tourism industry, to double overnight visitor expenditure to $30 billion by 2020.

    The department is committed to increasing ecotourism opportunities in our national parks. A number of key initiatives have already been achieved, including:

    • release of the Queensland Ecotourism Plan 2016–2020 in September 2016
    • review of the Nature Conservation Act 1992 providing for ecotourism facilities leases on national park and other protected areas
    • permit streamlining and the reduction of permit types by 50%
    • an expression of interest for sustainable ecotourism investment initiatives on national parks and state lands adjacent to national parks, released in June 2013.

    The Queensland government continues to work in partnership with tourism industry to deliver on key initiatives from the plan.

    QuEST was released in July 2013. It was developed in close consultation with industry supported by the Queensland Tourism Industry Council (QTIC) and the Australian Marine Park Tourism Association (AMPTO).

    In addition to providing economic benefits, QuEST provides a framework ensuring sustainable management of national parks whilst safeguarding business certainty for existing tourism operators in offering long-term agreements.

    The QuEST initiative continues essential existing policy elements and incorporates a policy framework to increase ecotourism opportunities in national parks, streamline management and best practice operations.