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Developing a national approach to visitor data collection, management and use for protected areas: thoughts from Australian research and practice

Griffin, T., Moore, S.A., Darcy, S. and Crilley, G. (2008) Developing a national approach to visitor data collection, management and use for protected areas: thoughts from Australian research and practice. In: Fourth International Conference on Monitoring and Management of Visitor Flows in Recreational and Protected Areas: Management for Protection and Sustainable Development, 14 - 19 October, Montecatini Terme,Tuscany, Italy

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    Abstract

    Information on visitor numbers, activities, expectations and satisfaction is vital for protected areas managers on two counts: to assist in the provision of the services and facilities that visitors need and want; and to determine if managers have been efficient and effective in meeting these demands. This paper builds on a recently completed national study in Australia of visitor data collection and usage, and the future visitor data needs, of protected area management agencies. Australia is a federation of states and provides a challenging backdrop for developing a national approach as most responsibilities for protected areas rest with the states rather than the national government. Thus, the success of such an approach rests on cooperation rather than an overarching national regulatory responsibility. The study found that all protected area agencies collected visitor data, however, their approaches were highly variable in what was measured, how the measurements were applied and how data were managed and used. This variability was problematic because it becomes very difficult to determine issues of general importance for protected area management or to benchmark performance across areas. Based on these findings and knowledge of the institutional settings for protected area management in Australia, this paper poses some ideas for progressing a national approach for standardising the measures and measurement of key variables so that comparisons and benchmarking become possible and reliable. Core and supplementary visitor data variables can be identified, with the former being of national interest and hence requiring collection and storage under national coordination and guidance. Implementing such an approach will require working creatively and collaboratively within the current institutional settings.

    Publication Type: Conference Paper
    Murdoch Affiliation: School of Environmental Science
    Conference Website: http://web.fi.ibimet.cnr.it/MMV4/
    URI: http://researchrepository.murdoch.edu.au/id/eprint/2880
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