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Social and Economic Impacts of Protected Areas / Visitors

The social and economic effects of protected areas on local communities can be perceived as both positive and negative. For this reason and because impacts are often relative, such impacts are best described as ‘change’. Read more

The social and economic effects of protected areas on local communities can be perceived as both positive and negative. For this reason and because impacts are often relative, such impacts are best described as ‘change’.

In terms of social concerns, six types of changes typify the effects of protected areas on communities: (from Fortin & Gagnon, 1999, Environmental Conservation 26, pp. 200-211)

  • Resource management - such as changes to zoning and control limits, access restrictions
  • Local economy - park expenditure by government, tourism infrastructure, job creation
  • Tourism - changes to economic and political conditions favourable or unfavourable to tourism
  • Living Conditions - changes in community orientation to tourism, changes in living standards and cost of living;
  • Social mobilisation - mobilisation of local players and changes in the involvement of the community in park management, and
  • Social organisation and dynamics - arrival of new families and influx of casual workers

Recent research undertaken by the STCRC on the economic 'value of parks' has found that:

  • national parks and other protected areas can:
      • make significant contributions to local businesses and economies through tourism revenue and park management expenditure;
      • make significant contributions to local State government revenue through park fees;
      • contribute to social outcomes such as local employment and training;
  • effective 'community involvement in planning' can improve the positive impacts and mitigate negative impacts by helping inform management practices and directions for tourism development;
  • many factors influence the economic contribution of a particular park to an economy including the inherent values of the area and its accessibility, the market profile of visitors (age, place of origin, occupation) and visit characteristics (length of stay, accommodation options, activities undertaken).
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