Tourism professor cruises to AM honour

Ross and Wendy Dowling. Photo: Martin Kennealey d493751
Ross and Wendy Dowling. Photo: Martin Kennealey d493751

HE has travelled extensively but Ross Dowling ranks WA as one of his favourite places – and he wants to make sure the rest of the world knows it.

The Karrinyup resident yesterday received a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) for his “significant service” to higher education, and tourism and conservation.

It follows his Medal of the Order of Australia in 2011 and he now joins his wife Wendy in receiving the prestigious Queen’s Birthday Honour, with Mrs Dowling appointed AM last year for her work raising awareness of coeliac disease.

The latter said she was incredibly proud of her husband and “certainly won’t be trying to pip him” for a higher honour.

Professor Dowling retired from his position as foundation professor of tourism at Edith Cowan University in Joondalup in 2018 after 16 years but remains an honorary professor.

He holds more than 20 positions related to tourism, conservation and cruising locally and internationally, including vice-president of Geoparks WA, ambassador for WA Parks Foundation, life member of Ecotourism Australia, advisor to UNESCO Global Geoparks, World Commission on Protected Areas member and founding member of the international Cruise Research Society.

“I’ve always had a love of two things: the environment and travel,” Prof Dowling said.

“I believe through tourism you can foster conservation.”

He disagreed with former Premier and tourism minister Colin Barnett’s strategy to promote Perth instead of the whole State and is “completely against” the quokka selfie fad: “The number one rule is leave animals alone”.

Prof Dowling is pushing for a chain of georegions in WA, which would lead to creation of geoparks: areas of important geology that encourage conservation, community growth and economic development.

The UNESCO Global Geoparks network comprises nearly 150 geoparks in more than 40 countries but none in Australia.

Prof Dowling said geoparks were drawcards for Chinese and European tourists and potential regions included Shark Bay, Murchison, Rottnest Island and Margaret River.

“We want to be the first state with a geopark,” he said.

“Geotourism is an exciting way to bring about conservation.

“People come to WA for wide open spaces and natural environment.”

Mr and Mrs Dowling’s favourite international destinations include Antarctica, Yosemite National Park, Galapagos Islands, Iceland and Oman – but also up there is WA’s southern forests and the Kimberley, with Shark Bay Mr Dowling’s favourite place in WA.

He said accessibility was key and was working hard on better facilities for cruise ships in Exmouth and Broome.

Prof Dowling said Broome needed an international airport and supported the State Government’s plan to offer subsidised one-way car rentals to northern WA.

“If we really want to develop tourism, we need to do some things,” he said.

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