A NSW Government website

Commercial tour operator policy

The NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service partners with commercial tour operators to provide high-quality, nature-based visitor experiences, help promote our parks and encourage visitors to appreciate, understand and enjoy them.


Under the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974 (NPW Act), the Secretary of the Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water can issue licences and permits for a range of commercial activities to be carried out in NSW national parks and reserves.

The NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) Parks Eco Pass program licences operators who conduct commercial tours and recreation and educational activities in NSW national parks and reserves. The Parks Eco Pass program streamlines processes and ensures consistency in the licensing of commercial tour activities in national parks and reserves across New South Wales.

This policy outlines key principles to guide the management and implementation of the NPWS Parks Eco Pass program. Detailed, procedural information on specific aspects of the program is available on the Environment, Energy and Science, Parks Eco Pass webpage and in the Parks Eco Pass Operator Handbook (the handbook).


  1. NPWS's commercial tours and recreation will be guided by the following principles:
    1. Activities must be undertaken within the framework established by the NPW Act, NSW Government policies, departmental policies and strategic planning processes.
    2. NPWS will engage operators in a partnership to improve public access to parks so that operators can be advocates for conservation.
    3. Access and activities of commercial recreation and tour operators will be regulated through licence conditions to ensure they are aligned with all park management values, including environmental sustainability and respectful of Aboriginal cultural and historic heritage.
    4. Aboriginal cultural heritage interpretation will only be undertaken by members of the relevant Aboriginal community, or in association with Aboriginal people, and operators must adhere to the requirements set out in the handbook.
    5. All licences will carry general and activity and location conditions and are non-negotiable.
  2. NPWS manages visitor safety and risk consistent with the objects and management principles of the NPW Act and with other NPWS policies and procedures (including the Visitor Safety Policy).
  3. Licensed operators must adhere to all relevant visitor and work safety requirements.


1–5. All commercial tour operators on-park will require a Parks Eco Pass
  1. Any business entity, organisation or individual undertaking a 'commercial guided experience' associated with recreation, tourism and/or education in a NSW national park or reserve must hold a Parks Eco Pass licence.
  2. The nature of the activity, rather than the organisation itself, will determine whether a licence is required.
  3. NPWS will determine whether a licence is required based on a range of factors as outlined in the handbook.
  4. Private groups and individuals undertaking recreational or educational activities (and not conducting a business or commercial activity) do not require a licence.
  5. The handbook provides detailed information on permitted activities and all aspects of licensing, including eligibility criteria, how to apply and key contacts.
6–9. Aboriginal cultural heritage interpretation and jointly managed parks and reserves
  1. An authentic Aboriginal tourism experience can only be developed and delivered by or in association with Aboriginal people. NPWS is committed to ensuring that on-park Aboriginal tourism experiences are developed and delivered in a culturally sensitive way.
  2. The experiences must respect the authenticity and integrity of local Aboriginal people and their culture, adhere to their cultural protocols, and recognise that Aboriginal culture is the cultural intellectual property of Aboriginal people.
  3. Some NSW national parks and reserves are jointly managed, either as Aboriginal-owned with leaseback arrangements to NPWS, or cooperatively managed by NPWS in consultation with special advisory committees with a majority of Aboriginal representatives and specific consultation and approval processes may apply.
  4. Any commercial tours or activities on such lands must comply with this policy, the handbook, and other NPWS policies and procedures.
10–11. Environmental sustainability
  1. NPWS will work with operators to manage visitor impacts, especially at popular sites, to ensure that the natural and cultural values of national parks are protected.
  2. All licensed operators must ensure the sustainable and culturally appropriate use of sites by informing and educating their clients and always operating in a sustainable manner.
12–13. Compliance and monitoring
  1. NPWS will undertake compliance and monitoring in accordance with internal policies and procedures, ensuring it does so in a measured, reasonable and proportionate way.
  2. Where a breach of licence condition occurs, NPWS will manage in accordance with the Parks Eco Pass Penalties for Breaching Conditions matrix (including the NPW Act and the National Parks and Wildlife Regulation 2019), which includes a range of measures, including the suspension or termination of a licence.
About the policy

Policy first adopted June 1994.
Policy last updated February 2022.

Scope and application

This policy applies to all lands acquired or reserved under the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974 (NPW Act) except for lands reserved under Part 4A of the Act (unless the Board of Management for those lands has adopted the policy). However, NPWS staff can use the policy as guidance in their dealings with Boards of Management.


This policy aims to:

  • encourage ecologically sustainable and culturally appropriate visitor use
  • improve the performance and standards of commercial recreation and tour operators
  • improve enforcement of and compliance with legislation, policy and procedures.


Commercial activity means an activity conducted on a commercial basis.

Commercial tour operator is a person or entity (includes companies and incorporated bodies) carrying out commercial activities within an NPWS park or reserve.

Conditions means the conditions set out in the handbook and the Parks Eco Pass licence.

Handbook means the Parks Eco Pass Operator Handbook and any amendments made from time to time.

Licence means a Parks Eco Pass licence and all schedules to and variations of the licence.

Licensed operator is a person or entity (includes companies and incorporated bodies) that holds a Parks Eco Pass licence with NPWS.

NPW Act means the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974 (NSW) as amended from time to time.

Parks Eco Pass is the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service program for licensing operators of commercial tours, and recreational and educational activities, in parks.

Secretary means the Secretary of the Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water and includes any person for the time being acting as such or in such alternative position or office as the licensor may notify from time to time.

Contact us

National Parks and Wildlife Service

Phone: 1300 072 757

Email: [email protected]