Ecotourism Australia

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FAQ for operators

The following FAQ does not cover technical questions about the portal; it covers questions about the program and the process of getting certified. Before using our online platform, check our Online Portal User Guide. You will find information on how to report on criteria, upload documents and track your progress. If you need help, do not hesitate to send an email to eco@ecotourism.org.au or give us a call on 07 3256 6777.


1. Where can I find help to answer the criteria?

First, we recommend having a look at the 'Guidance' tab. You will often find more information or examples. The 'Best practices' tab can also be a great source of inspiration. For some topics, we have developed templates and fact sheets that you can download from the 'Guidance' tab, or the toolkits in the Resources menu.

If none of this helps you to answer the criteria, then you can contact your coach. You can leave a note using the Remarks tab, send an email to eco@ecotourism.org.au or give us a call on 07 3256 6777.

2. What should I do if my business cannot meet all the criteria?

If a criterion is not applicable to your business but the N/A tab isn’t available, please let us know by email (eco@ecotourism.org.au) and we will assess the situation.

If your business cannot meet some advanced criteria, you can still obtain certification. Only 75% of advanced criteria are required to reach the Advanced Ecotourism level of ECO Certification.

If you cannot meet a core criteria, we advise that you book a coaching session with our coach to discuss your situation. Send an email to eco@ecotourism.org.au or give us a call on 07 3256 6777.

3. What happens after the audit if I don't meet all the standards?

It is normal that the auditor will identify some areas for improvement, as some elements of certification criteria have changed since your last audit, and there may have been changes within your business. 

If your auditor finds areas that are not meeting the requirements for your level of certification, they will highlight this with you during the audit and include a corrective action in your audit report. EA will then allocate a timeframe within which you will need to complete the corrective actions. EA will also provide any available resources that may assist you with addressing your corrective actions and certification coaches will be available to provide further advice and assistance where needed.

4. How long will the application process take?

This is different for each business and will depend on the following factors:

  • The number and complexity of products you are seeking certification for;
  • The level of certification you are applying for i.e. to achieve the highest level, Advanced Ecotourism, you need to complete four additional sections and answer advanced criteria in each section.
  • If you have business documents in place already (i.e. business & marketing plan)or if you need to develop them for the application.
  • How sustainable your business currently is i.e. if you have to implement a large number of initiatives to meet the core criteria it will take you longer

If we took an example of a simple B&B applying for Nature Tourism with no staff, that has implemented a large number of sustainability initiatives and has a good business and marketing plan – they could complete an application within a couple of weeks.

5. How can I add a product to my certification?

Please email eco@ecotourism.org.au

A form will be sent to you and you may need to answer a few additional criteria if your additional product includes different activities than the already certified products.

6. How can I upgrade my level of certification?

In the overview of your certifications, you have access to all levels of ECO Certification. We encourage continuous development and won’t charge you extra to upgrade.

You can start filling the criteria for the next level at any time. Once you are ready to upgrade, email your coach at eco@ecotourism.org.au for a review. When complete, your upgrade application will be sent to an assessor.

7. How can I become a Green Travel Leader?

The Green Travel Leader logo celebrates ten years of ECO Certification and represents a long-standing commitment to sustainability from our certified operators.  It is awarded to businesses which have consistently proven their commitment to sustainable tourism management over ten years.

8. Where can I find other ECO certified operators?

For a list of certified operators in your region, we recommend using our Green Travel Guide.

If you want to connect with other certified operators in Australia, we recommend joining our Facebook group. Email eco@ecotourism.org.au for more information.

9. Who created the standards?

The first Ecotourism Australia certification was launched in 1996 and has been revised many times over the years to ensure the criteria accurately reflects current global best practice standards for sustainable, minimal impact tourism. Many experts from various backgrounds provided feedback and input on the criteria. Contributors to the latest revision are listed here.

10. How is the credibility of the program maintained?

The program’s credibility is maintained through a number of avenues:


  • Onsite audits and referee checks are in place
  • Certification can be revoked or downgraded if operators are not conforming to the standards
  • All complaints are investigated

11. What does HSTO stand for?

HTSO stands for High Standard Tourism Operator, a program implemented by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA). GBRMPA is committed to rewarding Marine Park operations certified to the Ecotourism and Advanced Ecotourism levels. Incentives include the opportunity for longer permit terms (eligible to apply for 20-year permits).

12. How long will my certification last for?

Your certification will last for the life of your business!  All you need to do is upkeep your annual fee, agree to the occasional audit and address any new criteria that are developed due to legislative, technological or scientific changes/developments. 

Ecotourism Australia is committed to continuous improvement and will review the criteria regularly to ensure that certification programs maintain a best practice standard.  Ecotourism Australia also works with operators to understand and adhere to new criteria developed through this process.

13. What is involved in an onsite audit?

The auditor will review the documents you were required to have when applying and then go through a range of criteria you answered within your application. The auditor doesn’t have to go on tour; however, they will need access to the accommodation, attraction and/or your main method of transportation for your guests (if applicable), so we will try and arrange a suitable time for the audit to ensure access.

This process is to verify that what you put in your application translates to what you are doing in practice.  It is also an opportunity to discuss new ideas or issues with a qualified environmental auditor and get their feedback on current best practice.

14. What happens when there is a change of ownership?

If a business is sold, the new owner can continue certification for the business if they are committed to maintaining the standards set by previous owners. There is no additional cost to process the transfer of ownership. Please contact the EA office for further information (eco@ecotourism.org.au or call 07 3256 6777).

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