NSW Central Coast wins top global green award in Berlin for growing ecotourism experiences

eco certified oyster leases in river
eco certified oyster leases in river
The NSW Central Coast is officially world-leading in the field of ecotourism!
The Central Coast has won First Place in the global Green Destinations Story Awards at the world’s leading travel trade show, ITB Berlin!

Taking place on Wednesday 6 March, the 2024 Green Destinations Story Awards at ITB Berlin celebrated the most inspiring sustainable tourism initiatives submitted across six categories - and the Central Coast has received the top accolade in the Destination Management category!

The Central Coast was the only Australian certified ECO Destination recognised on the international stage at ITB Berlin 2024. By winning this respected competition, the Central Coast has been confirmed as one of the regions leading the way for sustainable tourism on a global scale. Only two other Australian destinations have ever reached this level in the Green Destinations Story Awards ceremony since the competition started in 2014 – making this a huge feat for not only New South Wales, but Australia as a whole!

The Green Destinations Story Awards official ceremony showcased a diverse range of good practice stories from tourism destinations around the world, with the Destination Management category Second Place awarded to Cavinzas Islands and Palomino Islets in Peru, and Third Place awarded to Baie de Somme in France.

Central Coast Council’s Chief Executive Officer, David Farmer, said this incredible recognition on the international stage represents the undeniable progress we have made growing our ecotourism destination since 2021.

 “Taking home this award is testament not only to Council’s ability to lead tourism management for the region, but to the commitment from our local industry who are taking up the mantle and leading with sustainability in their tourism offerings,” Mr Farmer said.

Central Coast Council’s winning Sustainability Story submission focused on the region’s commitment to consistently building a thriving ecotourism community known as ‘ECO Advocates’, which has been a focus of Destination Central Coast, Council's tourism arm, since 2021.

The Central Coast’s winning good practice story under the Destination Management category, titled ‘A Destination of ECO Advocates with Whales, Alpacas and Wheels’ received high praise from the independent judges.

Chief Executive of Ecotourism Australia, Elissa Keenan congratulated Central Coast Council for taking out first place at the world’s most prestigious sustainable destination awards ceremony.

“The Council has worked tirelessly over many years to achieve ongoing global best-practice sustainable destination standards and support their local tourism industry on their own sustainability journey with Ecotourism Australia’s Certifications and Programs. Their winning story is a testament to the whole region’s commitment to sustainability and is an inspirational model for other Australian and international destinations to grow sustainability from the ground up,” Ms Keenan said.

Central Coast Administrator Rik Hart said the win is a real testament to Council’s support and investment in the tourism sector on the Central Coast.

“Our investment is being reflected in visitor numbers - for the year ending June 2023 in comparison to June 2022, total domestic visitor numbers have increased by 52.3% with 5,946,000 domestic visitors to the Central Coast.

“Council’s destination marketing and management initiatives have also resulted in winning accolades and major awards over the last few years, including this current global win, but equally significantly, Council’s support has also helped grow local business, economic growth and jobs in the sector.

“I want to congratulate everyone involved in helping achieve this outstanding global award,” Mr Hart said.

The Central Coast has been a consistent finalist in the Top 100 Stories competition for the last three years, recognising the region’s ongoing commitment to sustainable destination management best practice led by Central Coast Council, in partnership with the local tourism industry.

The Central Coast became Australia’s third certified ECO Destination in 2022, as part of a commitment to grow sustainable tourism practices in destination management and promote world-class nature-based experiences. You can find out more about our ECO Destination here.

Strickland State Forest hiking
Strickland State Forest
Image: Destination Central Coast x Isaac Tseng
The Central Coast's winning sustainability story
A Destination of Eco Advocates with Whales, Alpacas and Wheels

The 2023 Sustainability Story selected for the Central Coast focused on the region's commitment to building an ecotourism community, also known as its 'Eco Advocates'.

Judges praised our region’s winning good practice story under the ‘Destination Management’ category, titled ‘A Destination of Eco Advocates with Whales, Alpacas and Wheels’.

In just three years, the Central Coast of New South Wales has experienced a strategic shift in the way it presents tourism products to locals and guests. Rollover sanitised coastal hollow holidays, and rollout a refreshing new era of eco-conscious experiences respecting nature, culture, place and people, to naturally make you feel whole again. This positive change at a destination management and marketing level is led by a small tourism team, Destination Central Coast, within the region’s local government organisation, Central Coast Council. But the real heroes in this landscape are a cohort of “ECO Advocates” growing since 2020. These local tourism businesses joining the wider ECO Destination journey are championing sustainable tourism practices on their home turf and now, in 2023, the Coast’s ecotourism portfolio has never been stronger, more diverse, or better placed to showcase the unfurling value in promoting sustainable tourism best practice. These are the dedicated entrepreneurs walking the talk every day, for a living.

The Central Coast's story shares with the world how it’s the small, people powered gestures that make up one big movement toward creating a more sustainable destination! Finalist status in this competition three years running confirms the NSW Central Coast as a key part of a global list of respected locations leading the way for sustainable tourism best practice on the ground.

The Central Coast’s winning story is also available on the Green Destinations website.

man patting alpaca at farmgate
Iris Lodge Alpacas
Image: Destination Central Coast x Remy Brand
Nurturing natural experiences
Book with globally recognised ECO Advocates

Achieving ECO Certification is a big deal for a tourism business. It recognises a tourism experience that is committed to quality and sustainable practices at the core of its operations, and also sharing that respect for nature and culture outwards with its valued guests.

ECO Certified experiences give conscious travellers a clearer choice of the best eco-friendly, nature-based experiences, attractions and accommodation the Central Coast region has to offer. There are currently eight (8) ECO certified Central Coast tourism experiences leading the region's sustainability journey, with many more pursuing accreditation as part of our ECO Advocate community.

This includes unique natural and cultural experiences such as breakfast with alpacas in the Central Coast hinterland, immersive marine education tours, climbing high in eucalyptus canopies, and immersive in-water seafood dining.

Make your Central Coast adventure a conscious one - explore and support a visit by booking with ECO Certified businesses:

eco certified kayakers on lake
Aquafun Avoca Lake
Image: Destination Central Coast x Isaac Tseng
5 Feel good reasons to visit our ECO Destination

1. You'll be experiencing one of Australia’s first certified ECO Destinations – get a feel for the epic 20-month journey here

2. You can explore sustainably minded Central Coast businesses leading the way with their eco-experiences

3. You can support our Central Coast Sustainability Pledge in partnership with Take 3 for the Sea – have you checked it out?

4. You can borrow a free Destination Central Coast recyclable cup with Green Caffeen at 30+ coastal cafes to reduce single use (the Coast has already saved more than +3,700 single use cups from landfill!)

5. You can grab a copy of our latest edition Central Coast Visitor Guide showcasing the natural beauty and stories of our region – available at many local businesses and the Central Coast Visitor Centre at The Entrance.

two people on whale watching ocean tour with breaching tail
Terrigal Ocean Tours
Image: Destination Central Coast x Remy Brand

About our ECO Destination

Explore eco-experiences on the Central Coast at our dedicated Nature experiences hub. Do you have more questions about what it means to be a certified Australian "ECO Destination"? There's a chance we've answered it for you on our handy FAQ page.

About ITB Berlin

ITB Berlin 2024 takes place from Tuesday 5 to Thursday 7 March. Since 1966, ITB Berlin has been the World’s Leading Travel Trade Show. As in previous years, the internationally acclaimed ITB Berlin Convention will take place parallel with the show as a live event on the Berlin Exhibition Grounds. Under the heading ‘Pioneer the Transition in Travel & Tourism Together’, leading speakers from business, science and politics will discuss the industry’s current and future challenges on four stages with a total of 17 themed tracks and more than 24,000 attendees.


About the Green Destinations Top 100 Story Awards at ITB Berlin 2024

The Green Destinations Top 100 Story Awards, held annually at ITB Berlin since 2014, celebrated excellence in sustainable tourism practices worldwide in its 10th Edition on 6 March 2024. This prestigious event recognised destinations that demonstrated leadership and innovation in sustainability across six categories based on nominations from the Green Destinations 2023 Top 100 Stories. Hosted on the Blue Stage (Hall 7.1) at ITB Berlin, the ceremony announced the winners of the Green Destinations Story Awards, introduced the newly Green Destinations Awarded and Certified destinations, and unveiled the host destination for the Green Destinations 2024 global conference, among other significant updates.