Why nature-based tourism is vital for new world cities

Words by Matt Thompson, Director at Zipline Australia

By this time next year, we expect the first stage of the multi-million-dollar Mount Coot-tha zipline project to be nearing completion in what we believe will become an iconic eco-tourist destination for travellers locally and internationally.

In December last year, Brisbane City Council announced our company, Zipline Australia, as the preferred proponent to build what is expected to be the largest zipline in the country; and just as importantly, one which follows the principles of eco-tourism in what we believe is the way of the future.

There are very few new world cities where you could deliver an eco-tourism experience like this within a few kilometres of the CBD. The site itself has a rich indigenous heritage story to tell as well as the alluring views of the bright city lights, the scenic rim and Moreton Bay.

Eco-tourism makes for a strong branding and marketing point for any product.

In marketing the zipline as an eco-friendly project that respects the environment it is in, shares the indigenous stories and histories of the area as well as being a hero experience for visitors, we know we will be tapping into a rich vein in the tourism market.

We also know this very much means not just talking the talk, but backing that up by delivering a truly unique experience that places us closer to nature in ways that can be exhilarating or soothing, and which do not hurt the very resource we are celebrating.

Melding nature with the zipline experiences

We have proposed three separate tours for Mount Coot-tha, each telling a distinctly different story.

This first is a Guided Treetop Canopy Tour that celebrates the unique flora and fauna of Mount Coot-tha.

At 1500m in length, the Treetop Canopy Tour will be the longest zipline in Australia, starting west of the Summit lookout and finishing near the JC Slaughter Falls picnic area.

The second tour is the Megazip, which celebrates Brisbane as a new world city. It will feature a 1400m Megazip capable of getting the heart running as you zip from the Mount Coot-tha Lookout, travelling at up to 65kph before finishing at the Brisbane Botanic Gardens. It comprises six parallel zip lines traversing 1.1km from the Summit to the Botanic Gardens and a second 340m traverse crossing the Melaleuca Lake within the Botanic Gardens.

The Megazip will offer Brisbane’s best views and will be a must-do experience for visitors.

The third tour is an indigenous guided Cultural Heritage tour that tells the story of Mt Coot-tha’s indigenous past, Dreamtime paths, bush tucker and hunting activities. The centrepiece of the tour is a 330m suspended pedestrian bridge 50m above JC Slaughter Falls. It will be the longest suspended pedestrian bridge in the Southern Hemisphere.

The nature opportunity in Brisbane

When we tendered for the Brisbane zipline project, we faced an international field of competitors. The feedback we received was that there were two features that made our submission stand out: our environmentally friendly approach, which fostered eco-tourism, and the creative design.

When we started Zipline Australia five years ago, we did so with the intention of developing opportunities in eco-tourism as a way of best using my brother Michael’s military background and engineering, rigging skills and rope access along with my experience in business, marketing and commerce.

Michael currently operates a successful zipline experience in Vanuatu and we are also working on the Cairns Rainforest Zipline, which will be hosted at the Skyrail Cairns site.

We truly believe there are significant opportunities to be found within eco-tourism, particularly in Queensland, which is already a world-famous holiday destination for the Great Barrier Reef, our beaches, rainforests and natural fauna and flora.

Growing up in Brisbane, we felt there was a closer connection between the people of Queensland with nature, possibly more so than you would find in the major capital cities of Sydney and Melbourne. So we felt there was also an appetite for eco-tourism among those living and holidaying here.

When people come to Queensland, they expect to be outside in nature, whether it be the beach or the bush, and this experience feeds that further – with a bit of speed for those who like a faster pace and a soothing treetop canopy tour for those in less of a hurry.

If there were any doubts about the power of a well-designed and built zipline to draw tourists to a destination, you just have to look at the Vanuatu Jungle Zipline in Port Vila.

Built six years ago, the business is now billed as Vanuatu’s “most popular tourist attraction” and some have credited this with helping to boost the number of cruise ships at Port Vila from 30 to 40 in 2005 to more than 150 a year.

If done properly, the Brisbane zipline project has the potential to further build Queensland’s reputation as an outdoors destination brimming with eco-tourism experiences. It can also attract and potentially keep tourists in Brisbane for a longer period of time, contributing to the economic growth of our state and city.

Marketing the zipline project as eco-friendly is not a cynical branding tool; it is something we are passionate about. Making sure new projects built to attract tourists are sustainable and do conserve the beautiful natural environment we are surrounded by here in Brisbane is central to our ethos and this project is simply the next step in Queensland’s burgeoning eco-tourism industry.

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