Latest COVID-19 impacts—Qld national parks, state forests and recreation areas. Check the latest information and updates.
Benefits of QuEST
Creating successful and best-practice tourism businesses requires the ability to plan ahead, innovate and diversify products to respond to changing market demands and invest in high quality service delivery.
QuEST contributes to this aim by providing access to commercial activity agreements that:
- increase the term of access from three years up to 15 years
- enable transfer of capacity issued under the authority either in part or whole
- enable transfer of an agreement in the event of the sale of a business.
Best practice standards
The quality and diversity of Queensland’s natural environment is increasingly recognised as the foundation of the state’s competitive tourism advantage.
Ecotourism certification programs identify standards that contribute to ensuring sustainable environmental practices and high quality nature-based experiences.
The Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service (QPWS), a division of our department, requires all operators authorised under long-term agreements to be ecotourism certified, thus sending a strong message to the market that tourism operations in national parks are best practice, and positions Queensland as a leading ecotourism destination.
All agreement holders must commence the application process for QPWS-endorsed ecotourism certification within 12 months and obtain accreditation within 18 months of entering into an agreement. Operators will be required to maintain this for the life of the agreement.
For more information on the ecotourism schemes recognised by QPWS refer to the Ecotourism home page.
Support for authorised tourism operators
QuEST provides a fair and efficient means of managing authorised tourism operations on national parks. Many tourism operators invest substantially in their business to provide a high quality experience for visitors to Queensland.
It is important to provide a management framework that is efficient, transparent and supports growth and innovation in high quality authorised tourism operations in national parks and other protected areas. Operators conducting unauthorised tourism activities in national parks can compromise the value and reputation of authorised operations.
Effective compliance of tourism on national park is an essential strategy to support authorised operators. Ongoing returns of operation monitoring will also ensure authorised tourism operators are conducting their businesses within sustainable limits. The department will be conducting audits and returns monitoring on an ongoing basis.
QuEST provides a clear and consistent policy with respect to subcontracting as well as a flexible approach to support authorised tourism operators. QuEST does not support subcontracting arrangements given the complexities involved with field compliance. QPWS recognises that this may require an adjustment of business arrangements for a number of tourism operators. An 18-month phase-out period commencing upon initial entry into the agreement will be provided to tourism operators who provide evidence of an existing formal subcontracting arrangement, to allow the subcontracting arrangements to continue during the phase-out period.
Operators of ecotourism facilities on or directly adjacent to protected areas may be eligible to apply to subcontract commercial activities.
Opportunities for growth
A key tool in the implementation of QuEST is to identify a level of activity in locations that is ecologically, economically and socially sustainable.
This will provide a foundation for tourism in national parks to develop and diversify in a way that complements the natural environment. Unique natural values, including landscape, wildlife, and cultural and heritage values are fundamental to tourism attraction, and carefully managing these is paramount in developing the vision for the area. To achieve this QuEST considers how the site is currently being used and the effects of this activity; the natural restrictions of the area; existing park infrastructure; and complementary and competing opportunities available in the wider region. QuEST will take into account tourism trends, anticipated future growth, and desirable new opportunities that will strengthen the product offering.
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.
All existing tourism operators are required to submit returns of operations. New site allocations will be determined by the operator’s highest historical annual use—with the year to be nominated by the operator. The data will be collated by QPWS and then verified with the operator. All allocations will be within sustainable levels. For more information on how new capacities will be worked out, refer to the QuEST frequently asked questions page.
Once existing tourism operators’ transition to commercial activity agreements, site capacities will be reviewed and, subject to prevailing market conditions, there may be commercial capacity available for offer to the market. An open and equitable expression of interest process will be used to offer capacity to the market no earlier than 12 months after the transition of all existing tourism operators to agreements.
QuEST provides a more efficient and streamlined system for tourism operators and QPWS. Administrative benefits include:
- reducing renewal requirements four-fold. Currently permits are renewed every three years, whereas under agreements one renewal will be available upon expiry of the 15-year term
- quarterly reporting on returns and daily passenger fees, instead of monthly reporting
- online access forms and payment facilities.
QPWS is committed to continuous improvement in the processes and regulation associated with administering tourism permissions for national parks and welcomes industry feedback.