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Developing indicators for the sustainable management of visitor use of protected areas in Australia

Tonge, J., Moore, S., Hockings, M., Worboys, G. and Bridle, K. (2005) Developing indicators for the sustainable management of visitor use of protected areas in Australia. CRC for Sustainable Tourism, Gold Coast, Qld.

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With protected areas in Australia receiving over 80 million visitors a year and covering 10% of the continental land mass, it is essential that these areas are managed in a sustainable manner so that they can continue to be enjoyed by future generations. Protected areas in Australia and elsewhere are being subject to increasing visitor numbers leading to escalating concerns regarding the impacts that visitors may have on the natural resources of these areas. Protected area managers have the dual obligation of ensuring the conservation and protection of natural and cultural heritage while providing high-quality recreation experiences.

Protected area managers need to balance the protection of natural heritage while still ensuring the provision of satisfactory experiences for visitors. Both these goals need to be achieved while under mounting public scrutiny and the associated need to be publicly accountable for their actions. Performance reporting has emerged as a response to this trend in accountability, whereby objectives for management are developed and then the progress of agencies in achieving these objectives is documented and reported. The extent to which outcomes have been achieved is usually assessed through the use of indicators. Reporting is increasingly being directed towards the achievement of sustainability and its triple bottom line of environmental, social and economic outcomes.

This 7-month scoping project was commissioned to begin the task of developing indicators for the sustainable management of visitor use of protected areas and most importantly to recommend future research directions to the Board of the Sustainable Tourism Cooperative Research Centre (STCRC). Also as part of this commissioning process, the STCRC requested that the indicators be developed for potential inclusion in the EarthcheckTM benchmarking system. This environmental management and benchmarking system underpins the international Green Globe 21 Certification Program available to tourism businesses worldwide. Given the widespread view that indicators are best located and activated from within a conceptual or management framework, the recently developed IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas evaluation framework was used in this study to assist with indicator development.

To ensure the relevance of this scoping project and its recommended future research directions to potential end users the project was guided by an Industry Reference Group. Members included managers of visitor services from a number of protected areas agencies around Australia, plus the manager of Earthcheck™. This particular group of stakeholders was satisfactory for this scoping project. Further research must, however, draw on a broader range of expertise and interests, in particular stakeholders in the tourism industry working in protected areas such as tour operators, staff from state tourism organisations, local community members and indigenous interests.

Item Type: Report
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Environmental Science
Publisher: CRC for Sustainable Tourism
Copyright: Copyright © CRC for Sustainable Tourism Pty Ltd 2005
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