An eco-resort is a lodging facility that actively seeks to strengthen environmental sustainability and social responsibility by ensuring it positively impacts the natural surroundings and the local community. The industry has benefited from growing consumer interest in sustainable consumption. It is characterised by the reliance on renewable energy sources and water conservation methods. Wang et al. (2014) reported that eco-resorts and spas are experience-based and motivated by the need to orient their customers to the regions they visit. Moreover, it involves the use of recycling services and eco-friendly toiletries. Locally-sourced food and utilising natural building materials are essential in reducing its carbon footprint.
Navarrete and Shaw (2020) observed that spa tourism is gaining popularity among people interested in wellness. Ensuring that their experience is nature-based without compromising the environment is critical in enabling them to get the value they need. This demonstrates that both eco-resorts and spas occupy an important part of modern society. Wang et al. (2020) noted that the sector would continue to evolve in ways that allow it to become one of the largest parts of the global economy in the future.
Some eco-resorts have on-site training programs to promote the adoption of sustainable practices by the people and non-toxic cleaning materials. Essentially, an eco-resort must adopt aggressive strategies to ensure that it can meet the diverse needs of customers without undermining the environment. This starts from the design of buildings to the day-to-day operations in these facilities.
Eco-resorts and spas can ensure respect for people’s privacy and culture. This is an important aspect of the business and the support it receives because traditional establishments face the criticism of being transactional and turning the heritage and dignity of indigenous populations into a commodity. However, many companies in this space often fail to support the work of conversation groups in the community. Instead, they focus on compliance with environmental statutes, which is good, but ultimately limits their capacity to contribute to realising their cause.
Ecotourism can ease the environmental pressures caused by traditional tourism. Moreover, it can help protect the habitats of wild animals and be an effective barrier against land pollution and the misuse of natural resources that rogue entities could otherwise do. However, there are concerns that it could hurt the stress responses of animals in ways that harm their well-being (Wang et al., 2014). The observation demonstrates that while the sector enjoys a positive perception among the public, it also faces significant challenges that must be addressed.
According to Richins (1996), the evolution of ecotourism in Australia gained much traction around 1992 and 1993 when the Department of Tourism within the Australian government adopted a program to promote the sector. Australia’s emphasis on the natural landscape and commitment to environmental conservation provided an enabling environment for the sector’s growth. Roscioli (2021) reported that the rising interest in eco-resorts can be linked to concerns about climate change in contemporary society. In addition, ecotourism gained popularity in the 1990s as there was a shift towards alternative tourism experiences that will protect the environment (Richins, 1996). Moreover, state tourism organisations and local communities supported the sector’s growth due to the belief that it would be good for the ecosystem and the people who depend on it. Ennion (2014) reported that ecotourism had become a $1 billion industry as many resorts and spas seek to cash in on the trend. Besides increasing consumer demand, the increased investment in the sector is linked to the benefits companies get from adopting sustainable business practices.
The case study has demonstrated that eco-resorts and spas can have a disruptive effect on the environment. For example, the proposed development on a 10-hectare land overlooking the ocean could have irreversible landscape impacts. Besides undermining the charm of the affected areas, these developments can affect flora and fauna in the ecosystem. While it is true that eco-resorts emphasise environmental conservation, it’s also likely that increased human activity could hurt the animals and plants in the area. Some eco-resorts and spas may fail to meet the expected environmental standards due to structural and systemic challenges (Warnken, Bradley & Guilding, 2005). In this regard, ensuring that resource use efficiency is a priority from the project conceptualisation stage is pivotal.
The fact that these facilities tend to be located in historically important areas or strategic natural settings creates a dilemma for the host communities. In effect, they are forced to contend with choosing between their cultural heritage and economic development. The visitor economy is essential to the Australian economy and must be supported. However, the tradeoffs often involved when considering the realities facing the sector can be immense. As such, there is a need to ensure robust stakeholder engagement to improve the quality of decision-making and ensure that all the relevant concerns are addressed.
The ecological damage caused by infrastructure development could hurt the sustainability of an ecosystem. For example, the location of the eco-resort near the ocean would hurt the coral reefs and could invite pollution due to human activities. In some instances, the disruption of water systems could increase the risk of flooding and affect other people in the area (Neal, Clayton & Longbottom, 2022). As such, there must be an aggressive effort by participants in this sector to mitigate against the adverse environmental impact it has on the environment.
The sector has a positive impact on the host locations because of the employment opportunities for the locals. The construction process employs those in the construction sector, while the operations of the company also involve the participation of the local workforce. In addition, the reliance on local suppliers would boost the local community. Additionally, the sector can play a key role in strengthening social-economic development in the community.
Furthermore, the development of eco-resorts and spas can have a contagion effect which can positively affect the growth of a community. For example, it can signal its capacity to support investment which will attract other investors to the area. In addition, the development of support industries can contribute to the area’s growth by increasing tax revenue and employment opportunities. When eco-resorts and spas implement corporate social responsibility programs, they can improve the quality of life of the people in the area. For instance, when they implement training programs, they are likely to play a key role in empowering young people from the community to experience professional and personal development.
Bassey and Esien (2010) stated that empowering people to be active partners in protecting the environment will ensure they contribute towards the attainment of institutional competence regarding environmental protection. Furthermore, there should be a focus on not only not depleting natural resources but also undoing the harm done by human activities. Despite the complexities involved in ensuring the sector has a positive environmental impact, it is possible to achieve a symbiotic relationship with the ecosystem through deliberate and sustained business practices.
In light of the positive social-economic contribution of this sector, there is a need to ensure that its growth is encouraged. This can involve training professionals and customers to ensure they limit their carbon footprint by being conscious of how their interactions with the environment affect them. The approach will play a key role in cultivating an eco-friendly mindset. In the long term, this will ensure that every stakeholder minimises any negative environmental impact the sector has. Active participation in ecology will influence people’s thinking and increase awareness about conversation and protection.
In sum, the evolution of eco-resorts and spas is improving Australia’s tourism sector’s capacity to ensure the visitor economy does not hurt the environment. However, the sector must become more transparent and accountable to overcome criticism over its inability to meet basic environmental standards. In addition, there is also a challenge concerning ensuring that human activities do not hurt flora and fauna. Nonetheless, the employment opportunities and social-economic rejuvenation associated with the sector demonstrate the need to continue supporting its growth while strengthening its capacity to protect to promote sustainable tourism and hospitality practices.
Ennion, J. (2014). Green is gold for Australian hotels and resorts as ecotourism becomes a billion-dollar industry. Retrieved from https://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/travel/australia/green-is-gold-for-australian-hotels-and-resorts-as-ecotourism-becomes-a-billiondollar-industry/news-story/1deabe06b638c330c72d116fa696fc6a?amp=&nk=4fc5e04cab2ae811d47b0fa3b83dc4e6-1665630572
Bassey, I E & Esien, I E. (2010). Problems of Ecotourism and Ecoresort Developments, Associated with the Restriction of Access of the Indigenous Communities to the Vital Resources of Rural Regions in Developing Countries. Retrieved from http://www.prm.nau.edu/prm300/Problems-Ecotourism-Ecoresort-Development-art.htm
Navarrete, A P., & Shaw, G. (2021). Spa tourism opportunities as strategic sector in aiding recovery from Covid-19: The Spanish model. Tourism and Hospitality Research, 21(2), 245–250.
Neal, M., Clayton, R & Longbottom, J. (2022). Long-running battle over Great Ocean Road eco-resort proposal. Retrieved from https://www.abc.net.au/news/2022-06-04/princetown-great-ocean-road-eco-resort-battle/101116516
Preiss, B. (2021). Government rejects lavish eco-resort on South-West Coast. Retrieved from https://www.theage.com.au/national/victoria/government-rejects-lavish-eco-resort-on-south-west-coast-20210921-p58tes.html
Roscioli, L. (2021). Eco-resorts vs. mainstream accommodation providers: an investigation of the viability of benchmarking environmental performance. Retrieved from https://thelatch.com.au/best-eco-resorts-australia/
Richins, H. (1996). Setting an international precedent: Ecotourism in Australia. Visions in Leisure and Business, 15(1), 27-54.
Wang, L., Zhong, L., Zhang, Y & Zhou, B. (2014). Ecotourism Environmental Protection Measures and Their Effects on Protected Areas in China. Sustainability, 6, 6781-6798.
Warnken, J., Bradley, M & Guilding, C. (2005). Eco-resorts vs. mainstream accommodation providers: an investigation of the viability of benchmarking environmental performance. Tourism Planning, 26(3), 367-369.