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Tourism in Different Ecosystems

Tourism occurs in almost every ecosystem in Australia including Antarctic and sub-Antarctic regions, alpine areas, rangelands, forests, rivers, inlets, lakes and coastal and marine environments. Read more

Tourism occurs in almost every ecosystem in Australia including Antarctic and sub-Antarctic regions, alpine areas, rangelands, forests, rivers, inlets, lakes and coastal and marine environments.

Much of the recent research undertaken by the Sustainable Tourism CRC has focused on understanding (and managing) the impacts of tourism and recreation on the structure, function and health of ecosystems, which is essential for long-term sustainability.

Visitation to the Antarctic and sub-Antarctic regions has experienced rapid growth over the past two decades, tourist visits to Antarctica have doubled and tourist vessels have increased from around 12 to almost 50. The number of ship-based tourists visiting Antarctica itself grew from 6,704 in 1992–93 to just over 46,000 in 2007–08. Research effort has focused on:

  • understanding the important relationship between protected areas, tourism and animal and plant species;
  • understanding the management implications for human-wildlife interactions, and
  • the interface between visitor use and protected area management in regions facing increased visitor growth.

Aquatic areas are very important locations for Australian tourism. Marine and coastal tourism is a crucial sector of the Australian tourism industry. Over 80% of Australia’s population lives close to the coast and 42% and 50% of all domestic and international tourism respectively is now marine or coastal based.  The value of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park to the tourism industry is alone estimated at  $4 billion pa (see Assessment of tourism activity in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Region). Yet, very little is known about the affects of recreation and tourism activity and tourism development on coastal, marine and aquatic ecosystems.See the 'Cruise Ship Tourism' section for more information.

Tourism and recreation is also a major activity on Australian inland water bodies and catchments and a significant contributor to local and regional economies.

Access to and protection of aquatic resources is an important issue for the tourism industry, for both consumptive and non-consumptive purposes.  There are many issues surrounding tourism and recreational access to water resources, including:

  • in Australia, recreation are generally excluded from the most important potable water supply catchments, the rationale being to absolutely minimise contamination risks;
  • freshwater resources have historically been considered as factors of production and dominated by agriculture, reinforced by entrenched property rights;
  • relatively little account has been given to recreation and tourism interests regardless of their growing significance as an economic and social force;
  • the economic interests of other industries such as tourism and recreation remain broadly underrepresented in the policy debate;
  • there has been limited trade-offs between recreation and tourism and major urban water catchments with exclusion of recreationists being the norm;
  • very little is known about the water using behaviour of tourists;
  • there are important historical socio-political and scientific lessons to be learnt for the history of water resource allocation; and
  • the potential for the tourism industry to develop alliances with other sectors (environmental) where mutual interests coincide.

Rangeland tourism and outback tourism offer great opportunities for tourism. Self drive tourism and organised tours across Australia’s rangelands and interior are growing as vehicle and communication technology and remote camping equipment improves the safety and comfort of travellers. There is also a desire to go places few have travelled and experience the majesty of the outback. Many of Australia’s remote and outback tracks such as the Canning Stock Route, the Savannah Way and Tanami Road are now recording unprecedented levels of traffic. The ongoing development of Australia’s National Reserve system has seen large areas of Australia’s rangelands added to the protected area estate. Given the cost of maintaining a presence in these locations and undertaking essential maintenance, park management agencies have looked at the potential for tourism to contribute to the operation of these properties.


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