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Wildlife group backs commissions, not koala cuddling

July 31, 2017 Headline News No Comments Email Email

Australian Wildlife Journeys (AWJ), a not-for-profit group of like-minded, independently owned and operated small businesses, is dedicated to giving tourists authentic professional wildlife experiences – and that entails paying agents commissions.

AWJ’s 12 member companies represent a broad cross-section of Australia’s different ecosystems and wildlife classes. They are keen to raise the global profile of Australian wildlife encounters – real encounters that take place in the wild – and they also strive to regenerate Australia’s local ecosystems. In short, AWJ aims to connect the dots between tourism and conservation.

Speaking in Sydney last week, AWJ chair Craig Wickham, who is also managing director of South Australia-based Exceptional Kangaroo Island, said demand was increasing among travellers, in Australia and around the world, to encounter animals in their natural habitats.

“When you go to Africa, you don’t spend a lot of time in zoos,” he pointed out.

Craig Wickham

To develop a professional product, “you need to pay commissions” he said.

You also had to “put it together in a way that makes it easy”.

Wickham said AWJ ignored state boundaries as these were of no importance to overseas visitors nor to wildlife.

“Since 1970, the wildlife population has halved and the human population has doubled,” he said. The tide was now turning and people wanted to respect wildlife and encounter it in ways which didn’t interfere with the animal or its natural environment. TripAdvisor, for instance, no longer supported properties which exploited wildlife, Wickham said.

Janine Duffy, director marketing of Echidna Walkabout, based in Port Melbourne, said tourists were often delighted to particicipate in research projects. One project involved pulling out an invasive weed which endangered koalas.

Travellers who enjoyed getting into this activity were not backpackers but people staying at five-star properties in Melbourne.

Janine Duffy with pavlova

“The more high-end they were, the more they loved it,” Duffy said.

Wildlife-loving clients are out there in the world, she added. They tend to head for South America, Africa and Costa Rica. They want to come to Australia but what they seek had previously not been available. AWJ seeks to redress this and it wants to build relationships with distributors.

AWJ is integrating local researchers and experts to create more enriching itineraries that add value for travellers. Its members address special interests such as photography, birdwatching, diving, multigenerational travel and active travel. Needless to say, cuddling koalas does not come into the picture.

Rather than a booking service, AWJ facilitates referrals through to each member’s website and booking systems. The company is currently working with Tourism Australia, various Australian State and Territory tourism organisations and travel consultants from around the world.

It plans to expand, but only like-minded operators will be able to join. Members so far are as follows (with the headquarter state shown in brackets though activities may extend beyond that): Exceptional Kangaroo Island (South Australia), Wildlife Coast Cruises (Victoria), Goin’ Off Safaris (South Australia), Exmouth Diving Centre (Western Australia), Echidna Walkabout Nature Tours (Victoria), SEIT Outback Australia (Northern Territory), Premier Travel Tasmania (Tasmania), The Maria Island Walk (Tasmania), Lords Kakadu & Arnhemland Safaris (Northern Territory), Arkaba (South Australia), Oz Whale Watching (New South Wales), Lady Elliot Island Eco Resort (Queensland),

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Written by Peter Needham

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