Sustainable tourism overview 2011-2016 | Parks Australia


Director of National Parks © Commonwealth of Australia 2011

The Parks Australia Sustainable Tourism Overview 2011-2016 identifies the principles and objectives that will guide Parks Australia in managing tourism in Commonwealth terrestrial reserves over the next five years.

This strategic overview is consistent with the management plans for each reserve and the Australian Government's National long-term tourism strategy (2009). Over time, additional internal policies and guidelines may be developed to support our tourism objectives.


"Sustainable tourism guides the management of all resources in such a way that economic, social and aesthetic needs can be fulfilled while maintaining cultural integrity, essential ecological processes and biological diversity" (UN World Tourism Organisation 2004).

The Director of National Parks is the statutory authority responsible for the Australian Government's protected area estate. The Director is assisted in managing the estate by Parks Australia, which is a division of the Australian Government Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities. The Director's estate is made up of the following terrestrial parks and reserves:

  • Australian National Botanic Gardens
  • Booderee National Park and Botanic Gardens
  • Christmas Island National Park
  • Kakadu National Park

The benefits

Tourism can be an effective tool for the conservation and management of protected areas (IUCN 2002). Well-managed tourism can generate the financial and political support needed to sustain the values of protected areas. It can also increase understanding of our reserves and their environmental and cultural values, and contribute to enriching visitor experiences.

Each year about 1.4 million people visit Commonwealth terrestrial reserves to experience natural landscapes and culture unique to Australia. These visitors provide critical support for the conservation of Commonwealth reserves through recognition, public support, revenue, and advocacy.

Nationally, the nature-based tourism sector contributes $23 billion to the Australian economy each year. In 2009, there were 3.3 million international nature visitors to Australia - 64 per cent of all international visitors to Australia (Tourism Research Australia 2009). It is estimated that Kakadu and Uluru-Kata Tjuta national parks alone contribute more than $320 million a year to regional economies in the Northern Territory, with about 740 jobs either directly or indirectly associated with park visitation (Gillespie Economics and BDA Group 2008).

Indigenous tourism is a key element of our protected area estate's existing and potential tourism offer. Indigenous tourism is recognised in the National long-term tourism strategy as important to the Australian tourism industry's competitiveness and to economic development for Indigenous Australians (Tourism Research Australia 2010). In the jointly managed parks (Kakadu, Uluru-Kata Tjuta and Booderee) it is a priority and a lease obligation to enhance Indigenous employment and business opportunities.

Guiding principles

To effectively manage Commonwealth reserves a sustainable approach to tourism is essential, the tourism industry, traditional owners, local communities, government agencies and visitors all have a part to play.

Parks Australia's overall approach to sustainable tourism will be guided by the following principles:

  • In jointly managed parks, Booderee, Kakadu and Uluru-Kata Tjuta, relevant Aboriginal persons guide the nature and pace of tourism development.
  • In jointly managed parks, tourism is planned, as far as possible, to provide business and employment opportunities to relevant Aboriginal persons.
  • Tourism is managed to deliver attractive, high-quality visitor experiences that provide environmental, social and economic benefits.
  • Visitor information and interpretation is delivered to promote understanding and appreciation of the natural and cultural values of reserves, and the need for their protection.
  • Visitor facilities and services are managed to a standard of excellence that reflects the status of the parks and takes into account national and international benchmarks.
  • Commercial tourism operations are subject to clear guidelines and conditions that facilitate an exceptional visitor experience.


Parks Australia will develop and implement management strategies to address the following objectives for sustainable tourism:

  1. To provide high-quality visitor experiences that are welcoming, engaging and raise awareness of the natural and cultural values of Commonwealth reserves.
  2. To minimise visitor impacts on the natural and cultural values of Commonwealth reserves.
  3. To achieve environmental, social and economic benefits through partnerships and commercial arrangements.
  4. To achieve social and economic benefits through tourism for relevant Aboriginal persons in jointly managed parks.