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Operator Sustainability

In the past three decades the popularity of nature-based activities has increased. Due to today’s urbanised society there is a growing tendency to access outdoor experiences through commercial providers. This demand has generated massive growth in the establishment of tour operations in most Australian states and territories. Read more

In the past three decades the popularity of nature-based activities has increased (see Chapter 15 in Quality Assurance and Certification in Ecotourism). Due to today’s urbanised society there is a growing tendency to access outdoor experiences through commercial providers. This demand has generated massive growth in the establishment of tour operations in most Australian states and territories.

A number of factors influence the sustainability of this sector. One of the key factors is the characteristic of the nature-based operator. Recent research completed by the STCRC indicates these businesses are typified by a number of features that suggest firms in this sector need help. These features include:

  • Largely micro businesses (average size is 6 FTE staff);
  • Inadequate resources (particularly marketing);
  • Owner-operators with little or no formal business or tourism training;
  • Many businesses are marginal and seek a second income to keep their business operational;
  • Motivation for being in business is often ‘lifestyle’ reasons;
  • Drop out rate for failed businesses is high (100s enter and leave each year and average lifespan is 10 years);
  • Feelings of isolation; and
  • Led by individuals who are fiercely independent.
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