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Two way track

Biodiversity Conservation and Ecotourism: an investigation of linkages, mutual benefits and future opportunities
Biodiversity Series, Paper No. 5

Noel Preece and Penny van Oosterzee, Ecoz-Ecology Australia and David James, Ecoservices Pty Ltd
Department of the Environment, Sport and Territories, 1995

9. Summary of conclusions and recommendations

Given that tourism in Australia is largely dependent on and a major user of natural resources and biodiversity, it is recommended that it be identified specifically as a sector in national policies that deal with biodiversity, conservation, ESD and the environment, where it is not already identified. (Sn.2.1)

Recommendation: that any national deliberations on the Conservation of Australia's Biological Diversity also incorporate the Tourism Sector (Sn 2.2).

It is recommended that the Ecologically Sustainable Development process be revitalised through the accelerated implementation of the National Strategy for Ecologically Sustainable Development. The ESD process was a significant step in achieving the long-term goals of an ecologically sustainable future for Australia. (Sn2.3).

Recommendation: that the tourism industry, through the Tourism Council of Australia and Regional Tourism Associations, be involved in the bioregional planning process pursued in section 3.2, and recommended in Australia's Tourism Strategy. (Sn.2.6)

Despite the widespread commitment to a number of important agreements involving tourism and biodiversity conservation, progress towards implementation has been slow. It is strongly recommended that all governments review their plans of action in relation to this important area of policy and take tangible steps towards accelerating the terms of these agreements (Sn.2.8)

Recommendation: that governments review the deficiencies in understanding of environmental matters in the tourism industry and take appropriate steps to rectify these deficiencies (Sn.2.8).

Recommendation: that IBRA be used as a basic framework for the classification and assessment of ecosystems and biodiversity for Australia. IBRA, however, will provide only broad-brush information. The heterogeneity within each IBRA region should be considered at the regional level using more detailed environmental and biological data. (Sn.3.2).

Recommendation: that the bioregional approach to planning be developed and adopted as a sound planning tool for tourism which considers the natural resources and integrates human constructs over the land (Sn.3.2).

Recommendation: that the allocation of $150 million for acquisition of representative reserves, recommended by the HORSCERA, and identified as an objective under the National Biodiversity Strategy, be revitalised for the conservation of Australia's biodiversity, on both intrinsic grounds, and on the basis of the reserve system being of crucial economic value to Australian tourism, Australia's biggest industry. (Sn.3.3).

It is recommended that creation of a representative system of protected areas be accelerated, being crucial to the protection of Australia's biodiversity. The process of establishing such a system is an essential component of ecologically sustainable development. A representative system is proposed in national policy documents such as Schedule 9 of the InterGovernmental Agreement on the Environment and is both practicable and achievable. It should be a high priority supported by the tourism industry (Sn. 3.3).

It is further recommended that a national environmental planning program be developed using a landscape scale for the implementation of the national system for establishing, managing and monitoring protected areas (Sn.3.3).

Recommendation: That the Bureau of Tourism Research or Department of Tourism collate all available data on visitation to national parks and other protected areas on a park-by-park basis across Australia to quantify visitation and usage and the value of these areas to tourism (Sn.3.3).

It is recommended that a national system of NBE/conservation covenants be investigated which involve legally binding Conservation Management Agreements for private lands with high conservation values and sympathetic managers/owners who wish to develop a tourism enterprise. Part of the revenue from such enterprises would go toward managing the private reserve. Lands covered by such Agreements should be given support for: the rehabilitation of lands, for example in the establishment of native vegetation corridors; funding for necessary restoration programs; technical support and the provision of appropriate seed stocks; development of a monitoring and reporting program to determine the effectiveness of rehabilitation; and the integration of data into national park and national monitoring databases. In addition, assistance should be given for the development of NBE enterprises. Such assistance would include business planning, training, product development and marketing (3.4).

Recommendation: that research on the environmental impacts of tourism receive high priority and that such research be integrated with national management and monitoring plans for natural areas and biodiversity. Funding for this research should be provided by the National Ecotourism Programs or other sources, and conducted by researchers disciplined in ecological and social impacts (Sn 3.6).

Recommendation: that funding be made available to develop those areas identified in the National Ecotourism Strategy, presently unfunded or underfunded but which are crucial priorities for the ecological sustainability of the industry and conservation of biological diversity, particularly codes of conduct, education on ecological sustainability, management of operators by licensing and accreditation, and research and monitoring of impacts. Funding could be provided by the Department of Tourism (Sn 3.6).

Recommendation: that the Department of Tourism through its National Ecotourism Programs and other means produce a set of guidelines for identification of management issues, possible solutions and means of addressing management problems. The guide should include exemplary case studies of actual impacts, such as those identified in section 3.7.

Recommendation: that preparation of guidelines or frameworks for workshops to specifically address issues related to resource management, biodiversity conservation and tourism, be arranged by the Departments of Tourism and Environment, in consultation with State and Territory management authorities (Sn.3.7).

Recommendation: that all working groups convened to prepare or implement strategies and land management plans which relate to nature-based and related tourism include at least one member who is expert in ecology, conservation biology or a related discipline, and that a reciprocal arrangement should occur for all land management strategies where tourism might be involved (Sn.3.7).

It is recommended that primary surveys and analyses of the data be undertaken to improve general understanding of the whole tourism market's attitude to and preferences for the natural and traditional cultural environment (Sn.4.1).

Recommendation: that surveys of tourists and tour operators similar to the ones conducted by Burgess and by Finucane be carried out across a broad cross-section of the industry and market in all states. The surveys could be funded by the Department of Tourism under the Ecotourism grants scheme (Sn.4.2).

It is recommended that available data be accessed and interpreted to identify, as far as possible, tourism that can be associated with natural features and biodiversity. The information is fragmented and anecdotal. Further surveys are clearly required on a comprehensive basis to collect better primary data (Sn 4.3).

It is recommended that visitor surveys be improved by incorporating questions specifically directed to nature-based and ecotourism. The attributes and preferences of visitors should be identified as part of this information gathering (4.7).

It is recommended that the content and coverage of domestic visitor surveys be vastly improved. We know very little about the recreational and tourism habits and preferences of domestic visitors, even though domestic tourism involves much greater total expenditure than international tourism (4.8).

Available empirical studies provide convincing evidence of the economic benefits of natural areas. It is recommended that such information is widely disseminated to representatives of the tourism industry and to government policy makers to demonstrate the need for ongoing and improved environmental management of these special areas. Economic benefits can support the case for biodiversity conservation. Additional economic studies should be undertaken to strengthen the understanding of the nexus between the two. (Sn.4.11).

It is recommended that data on specific patterns of nature-based and ecotourism expenditure be compiled for Australia, based on the bioregional or regional planning models discussed in sections 3.2 and elsewhere (Sn. 5.2).

It is recommended that primary research be undertaken by governments and the tourism industry to develop regional multi-sectoral models matched to key bioregions throughout Australia. By combining such models with detailed market research of ecotourism profiles and expenditure patterns, a sound basis for regional development planning will be established (Sn. 5.6).

Recommendation: that the principles espoused in the National Ecotourism Strategy for sound and ecologically sustainable practices should be recognised as applicable to the whole industry, and not confined to just the narrowly defined "ecotourism" segment (Sn.6.2).

It is recommended that any program that attempts to promote resourcing of biodiversity conservation should cover the entire tourism industry, including the transport and accommodation sectors (Sn.7.1).

It is recommended that marketing hyperbole be reviewed for the accuracy of its claims and that educational programs and material emphasise the value of each place in its own right and in its relationship with other places (Sn. 7.1).

It is recommended that small ecotourism operators, faced with limited marketing resources, be assisted in their endeavours to reach larger markets. This could be achieved through industry cooperatives, support by tourism commissions and promotion by governments, particularly for the overseas market (Sn.7.2).

It is recommended that the Bureau of Tourism Research and the Australian Bureau of Statistics initiate studies of domestic and international visitor psychographic profiles and studies of expectations, desires and fulfilment (Sn. 7.3).

It is recommended that educational programs covering the basics of environmental science and ecology be a component of training and accreditation procedures for travel agents, tour operators and field staff (Sn.7.4).

It is recommended that a compendium of successful models be prepared so that operators and agents can be made aware of the range of initiatives that have been carried out. One incentive that governments could introduce is tax deductibility for such initiatives (Sn. 7.7).

It is recommended that regional planning capabilities be developed jointly with Federal Government, State and Local government for the encouragement and management of ecotourism. This requires the development of information and data systems, modelling capabilities and arrangements for collaborative planning processes (Sn. 8.2).

Strategic planning for infrastructure development should also be improved. Government should work closely with private sector in relation to development approvals, environmental impact assessments and investment in infrastructure.

EIAs, particularly for proposals involving development based on ecotourism, should be examined to determine their efficacy in achieving biodiversity conservation. This requires, among other things, that greater attention be paid to the cumulative impacts of development (Sn.8.2).

Support should continue from the Commonwealth, States and Territories on resource attribute surveys, monitoring programs, State of Environment Reporting and work on environmental indicators. It is essential to maintain the development of comprehensive environmental data sets and environmental indicators to monitor the state of the environment in terms of baseline conditions, species diversity, rare or threatened species, danger signals, ecosystem structure and processes (resilience, maximum carrying capacity) and management targets (Sn.8.3).

Overseas marketing should continue to promote Australia's rich diversity of ecosystems and species. This requires informative advertising and educational programs and literature. Such strategies could be implemented by a joint government/tourism industry effort, possibly making use of Austrade and international educational networks tapping universities and educational institutions (Sn.8.4).

It is recommended that innovative funding mechanisms be investigated to cover costs of research, market analysis, and environmental management. Ecotourism has various potentials to contribute to the funding process. Governments should also consider methods of raising revenue from tourism in general and from other sources. To validate the economic benefits of public revenue-raising and expenditure programs for the protection of natural areas and promotion of the ecotourism trade, the application of benefit-cost analysis and financial studies is strongly recommended (Sn 8.6).