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QuEST frequently asked questions
How will QuEST be implemented?
The Queensland Eco and Sustainable Tourism initiative (QuEST) will be implemented in stages at the following locations:
- Fraser Island Recreation Area
- Moreton Island Recreation Area
- Daintree National Park
- Cooloola Recreation Area
- Whitsunday islands Area
The Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service (QPWS) will manage the implementation of QuEST. QPWS will communicate directly with all permitted tourism operators in these areas to advise of scheduled dates for implementation.
What does this mean for tourism operators?
All current permitted tourism operators conducting tours in areas identified for QuEST implementation will be required to be authorised under a commercial activity agreement.
Tourism operators who hold a commercial activity permit can choose to apply for a new commercial activity agreement when their location transitions to QuEST arrangements, or when their current permit expires. Applications made prior to the expiry of a current permit will not incur an application fee.
If an existing operator chooses not to take up an agreement, they may continue operations only until expiry of their current permit.
For more information, refer to the Advice to tourism operators authorised by a commercial activity permit in QuEST Areas fact sheet .
What fees will be payable under a commercial activity agreement?
Fees under commercial activity agreements will be based on the number of passengers actually carried, and will be paid in arrears as per the current system. Fees will be set at a level equivalent with fees specified under regulation relevant to that location. Tourism operators will only pay an application fee upon renewal of a 15-year agreement rather than every three years with a permit.
Who will require a commercial activity agreement?
Any business entity, organisation or individual undertaking commercial guided tours in the specified areas must hold an authorised commercial activity agreement.
Can commercial activity agreements be transferred?
Tourism operators may apply to transfer either the whole capacity, or part of the capacity, authorised in a commercial activity agreement to another business operator. For example, in circumstances where there is a change in business ownership, the buyer must meet all legislative and policy requirements to operate on protected estate.
Can subcontracting occur?
A number of circumstances have developed over time resulting in authorised tourism operators subcontracting capacity to unauthorised tourism operators. This practice presents challenges for industry because it potentially creates a situation where access to national parks is determined independently of government. It also presents challenges for QPWS because it results in a lack of transparency in management, auditing of returns of operation and compliance arrangements.
To establish an equitable and transparent approach to management of tourism operators, subcontracting of a commercial activity within nominated QuEST locations will no longer be permitted.
In recognition of the existing and established subcontracting arrangements an 18 month transitionary period commencing upon initial entry into an agreement will be provided to authorised tourism operators who provide evidence of an existing formal subcontracting arrangement, to allow an adjustment period for the subcontracting arrangements to cease. Operators who are currently unauthorised and subcontracting will have the opportunity to approach authorised tourism operators to acquire capacity via a transfer within this transition period.
Where there is a gap between the 18 month phase-out period and an expressions of interest process, existing authorised tourism operators with existing subcontracting arrangements, may be granted an extension of their arrangement until an expression of interest process is initiated.
It is recognised that operators of ecotourism facilities located on or near QPWS managed estate rely on access to the national parks for commercial activities and deliver services through subcontracting arrangements, as part of their product offering. Ecotourism facility operators located on and near QPWS managed estate are eligible to apply for an exemption enabling subcontracting arrangements to continue. This application should be made in writing to the Chief Executive of the Department of Environment and Science.
How will QuEST agreement capacities be determined?
Firstly, tourism operators will receive an information letter that will detail the timetable for implementation for QuEST in the location in which the tourism operator conducts tours.
Tourism operators will be asked to nominate their calendar ‘year of highest use’. The data from the nominated year will be used by QPWS in calculating capacities to be issued in agreements. The year nominated must be verifiable with official records that the tourism operator submitted as returns of operation to QPWS.
Tourism operators will be requested to provide the nominated calendar year within 20 business days of receipt of the information letter. Following this, QPWS will collate data relevant to the year nominated by the tourism operator. The new allocation of capacity will include a margin for growth within sustainable limits.
An additional information letter will be provided to the tourism operator detailing the proposed new capacity allocation under QuEST. Tourism operators will have 40 business days to consider the capacity allocation. Given the complexity of tourism operations at some locations, it is anticipated that there may be issues that require clarification. QPWS encourages tourism operators to request a meeting to resolve any areas of concern, and this can be done at any time.
On expiry of the 40 business days, a commercial activity agreement will be sent to each tourism operator for review and signature. Tourism operators will have 20 business days to sign the agreement and return it to QPWS.
The agreement will be for a term of 15 years, be transferable and will detail:
- Capacity allocations
- Location-specific conditions
- Requirements about ecotourism certification
- Requirements about existing subcontracting arrangements (if relevant)
- All other requirements of the tourism operator under the agreement.
Once all tourism operators in a QuEST location have transferred to agreements QPWS will assess the availability of commercial capacity at sites, consider prevailing market conditions informed by industry advice and determine whether to make capacity available to the market. An expression of interest will be considered no earlier than 12 months after the transition of all permitted tourism operators in the same location.