Nature key for Australian tourism

By Alexandra Best 10 May 2010
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A new documentary puts nature first for potential Australian visitors.

A STUDY BY TOURISM Australia has revealed that two thirds of international visitors identify an Australian nature experience as a highlight of their visit.

Revenue from visitors is extremely valuable to Australia’s economy — the $40 billion tourism industry employs around 500,000 people and contributes nearly 4 per cent to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) annually.

Following Australia’s infamous “Where the bloody hell are you?” campaign, initially banned in parts of the US and UK, a new, more natural face of Australia is being revealed to the world.

A natural highlight

The Art of Walking: Great Ocean Walk, directed by Zach Merch, demonstrates the pull of nature for tourists in Australia. The 1-hour documentary follows a team of three along Australia’s beautiful Great Ocean Road on foot: American environmentalist John Francis, a.k.a. the ‘Planet Walker’; German Olympic figure-skater Katarina Witt; and Michael Milton, Australia’s fastest skier and the world’s fastest Paralympic skier.

The team is led by Head Ranger Will Cox along the scenic 104 km track that stretches from Apollo Bay to the world renowned Twelve Apostles. Skier Michael Milton from Canberra, ACT, saw the walk as an opportunity to slow down and unwind.

The skier, who lost a leg to bone cancer as a child, is no stranger to physical challenges. But he insists the hike along Great Ocean Road is far superior to sitting inactive on a beach all day. “I found the combination of physical exertion and the beautiful surroundings more rejuvenating, and a much greater process to help you relax,” Michael says.

Australia’s best destinations

Tourism Australia’s latest pitch is a campaign to collate the world’s favourite Australian experiences. The international push incorporates prize money and effectively creates a database of holiday tips for Australia.

Meanwhile, the Federal Government announced last month that WA’s Kimberley region would be included in Tourism Australia’s National Landscapes Program. The program, which highlights community-nominated destinations across the nation, includes a pledge that the region will feature prominently in future international tourism campaigns.

Michael, comparing the Great Ocean Walk to iconic trails around the world, puts nature at the forefront of the Australian experience.

“Most of the walks I’ve done in the past— Kokoda, Mt Kilimanjaro — were
about speed and pushing my limits,” says Michael. “[In Victoria] I had the chance to slow
down, let the camera crew catch up, and take in the beauty of the area.”

Kimberley close to being heritage listed