Eco Lodge Assessment

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Hidden Valley Cabins Ecotourism Report

Introduction
The purpose of this report is to examine Hidden valley Cabins, located one and half hour North West of Townsville, in relation to three key components. Firstly, an evaluation of the operations relating to the provisions of ecotourism products and services will be undertaken. Secondly, potential positive and negative environmental, economic and sociocultural impacts of the operation are identified. Thirdly, recommended strategies based on the former two sections will be presented. The term ecotourism has come under much debate as to its true and complete definition. With reference to the leading experts in the field the foremost definition of ecotourism is as follows; ecotourism is nature-based travel that encompasses principles of sustainability (Osland & Mackoy, 2004), and thus contributes to the conservation of the ecosystem (Wight, 1993), while providing economic and social benefits to the local community (Weaver, 2001), and includes an educational component. For Hidden Valley Cabins to be considered an ecotourism operation its functioning practises must be consistent with the generally accepted definition. Ecolodges are the high profile symbol of ecotourism and a critical component of ecotourism. There are three key areas in which ecolodges differentiate from other forms of tourist accommodation were identified by Osland and Mackoy (2004). The distinctive areas are; design (integrated with the natural environment compared with developments that dominate their environment), food (local grown and cooked compared with gourmet), activates (nature based educational compared with relaxation and service based) (Osland & Mackoy, 2004). Another case study of two ecolodges located in the Gold Coast and Brisbane used four categories to analyse the lodge’s sustainability practises (Lim & Mcaleer, 2005). This report uses a hybrid of both studies analytical categories to describe the practises of Hidden Valley Cabins in relation to ecotourism. The categories under consideration are building design, power and water management, waste management and, activities and attractions. Hidden Valley Cabins Operational Practises

According to the Hidden Valley Cabin website the lodges were designed to blend with the natural environment (Hidden Valley Cabins, n.d.). This statement complies with Osland and Makoy’s (2004) design criteria for ecolodges. It is an important aspect from an anaesthetics point of view allowing the ecotourists to view the natural environment in the most undisturbed manner as possible. An important natural asset in Australia is the suns heat producing properties, Australian ecolodges should look to take advantage of these assets in every possible way. No information was available on whether any thought had been put into placement of the lodges at Hidden Valley Cabins in relation to sun exposer. For example, Aquila Eco Lodges have been built in precise locations to maximise their solar design, allowing maximum sun exposure in the winter and minimum exposure in the summer (Henderson & McAuliffe, 2006). The timber used through the lodges is recycled or selectively-logged hardwood resulting in minimal impact on the environment. The furniture is handcrafted from local timber, minimalizing the use of machinery and lowering delivery expenses (Hidden Valley Cabins, n.d.). Hidden Valley Cabins is Australians first fully carbon neutral resort and tour business (Cheatham, 2008). It is possible to release Carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere and still be carbon neutral, so long it is balanced by a CO2 reduction elsewhere (Martin, 2006). An example of this is burning biofuels. For every gram of CO2 released by burning a biofuel, there was a gram removed from the atmosphere by photosynthesis just a few months ago (Martin, 2006). Hidden Valley Cabins is a hundred precent solar powered, which results in a saving of seventy eight tonnes of (CO2) (Hidden...
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