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Tourism – protected area partnerships in Australia: designing and managing for success

Moore, S., Weiler, B., Croy, G., Laing, J.H., Lee, D., Lockwood, M., Pfueller, S. and Wegner, A. (2009) Tourism – protected area partnerships in Australia: designing and managing for success. CRC for Sustainable Tourism, Gold Coast, Queensland.

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Partnerships are increasingly being regarded as essential for sustainable protected area tourism. They are a pivotal part of increasing efforts by protected area agencies to encourage more involvement by the private sector and local communities in protected areas and associated tourism opportunities. In Australia, the need for such efforts, particularly with regards to partnerships, has been identified in a number of recent reports. These reports have examined the potential contributions of partnerships to sustainable tourism (including protected areas and beyond) (De Lacy, Battig, Moore & Noakes 2002) as well as more tightly focusing on partnerships centering on tourism and protected areas. In 2003, the Department of Industry, Tourism and Resources published a report exploring common goals between tourism and conservation. This was followed by two Tourism and Transport Forum (TTF) Australia reports, in 2004 and 2007 (TTF Australia 2004; 2007), both advancing the critical need for partnerships between national parks and tourism. At the same time, the Commonwealth Government of Australia released its Tourism White Paper, on 20 November 2003, which advocated partnerships to grow tourism in protected areas (DITR 2003). As part of an industry and research response to the concerns and opportunities raised in these reports and policy initiatives, the Sustainable Tourism Cooperative Research Centre commissioned the two-year research project which underpins this report. Most recently, the report by the NSW Taskforce on Tourism and National Parks (DECC 2008) has again emphasised the centrality of partnerships between nature based tourism and protected areas in assuring the future of both.

Numerous benefits of partnerships centered on natural resource management, where tourism is included in this broad grouping, have been identified in recent research. Partnerships can be a vehicle for mobilising resources and expertise, leading to efficiency and productivity gains (De Lacy et al. 2002). They can support change management (Rosenau 2000), stimulate innovation (Tremblay 2000), moderate power inequalities (Leach & Pelkey 2001), boost conservation initiatives (Stubbs & Specht 2005), foster collaborative decisionmaking and conflict resolution (De Lacy et al. 2002), and help coordination and improve understanding (Davidson & Lockwood 2008). However, partnerships can also be exclusionary, favour established interests (Rhodes 1997), compromise public accountability, and threaten public values and the capacity of governments to govern (Davidson & Lockwood 2008).

Given the extent of interest in partnerships and the benefits for both protected areas and tourism, it is vitally important to understand the factors that promote successful partnerships for tourism associated with protected areas. Successful partnerships would result in the benefits given above, and avoid the possible threats. They would also contribute to sustainable tourism, a much defined and contested term. Here, the agenda for sustainable tourism developed by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Tourism Organisation (UNEP & WTO 2005) is adopted as definitional. The twelve aims in this agenda, according to Macbeth’s (1994) four categories, are: (1) economic sustainability (economic viability, local prosperity, employment quality); (2) social sustainability (social equity, visitor fulfilment, local control, community wellbeing); (3) cultural sustainability (cultural richness); and (4) ecological sustainability (physical integrity, biological diversity, resource efficiency and environmental purity). Macbeth (1994, 42) also notes its long-term nature:‘Put simply, our task is to facilitate a tourism that will carry on, that will endure but that will also contribute, nourish and tolerate’.

While previous studies have sought to understand these factors, they have generally examined only one or two cases, so that the wider applicability of the findings is uncertain. Other studies, such as Buckley and Sommer (2001), have drawn together findings from previous studies, but with no unified analytical frame, and many are not theoretically informed, thereby limiting the understandings that can be generated. There has also been little analysis of ineffective or failed partnerships. The study reported on here was designed and conducted to addressed these limitations by: (1) identifying an appropriate theoretical framework for studying tourism partnerships; (2) undertaking mixed-method surveys of 21 protected area-focused tourism partnerships; and (3) integrating the results from the surveys with theoretical understandings to offer general insights into successful partnerships and the conditions required to achieve these.

Item Type: Report
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Environmental Science
Publisher: CRC for Sustainable Tourism
Copyright: © CRC for Sustainable Tourism Pty Ltd 2009
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