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The role of wildlife icons as major tourist attractions : case studies : Monkey Mia dolphins and Hervey Bay whale watching

Smith, A., Newsome, D., Lee, D. and Stoeckl, N. (2006) The role of wildlife icons as major tourist attractions : case studies : Monkey Mia dolphins and Hervey Bay whale watching. CRC for Sustainable Tourism, Gold Coast, Queensland.

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This study investigated the issues surrounding iconic wildlife in terms of both visitor perceptions and experiences and also in terms of the economic contribution of visitors to the destination. The methods employed consisted of a literature review and development and distribution of questionnaires to visitors and tour operators
and an interview of managers at Monkey Mia, Western Australia and Hervey Bay, Queensland. It was found that the absence of dolphins from Monkey Mia would greatly detract from visitor satisfaction, with the opportunity to experience dolphins close up being the best part of the overall experience. Managers were of the view that there would be an economic impact on local businesses and on the tourism industry and staffing levels would have to be reduced both at CALM and at the resort. Operators indicated that they would change their itinerary and would consider no longer coming to Monkey Mia. Management felt that Monkey Mia would lose its identity if the dolphins were no longer present and there would be a reduction in visitor numbers. Similar findings were indicated at Hervey Bay in that an absence of whales would greatly detract from the visitor experience, while seeing whales close up, including along side of the boat, was the best part of the their experience. Managers and tour operators generally thought that if it was not possible to take a whale watching tour then tourists would still come to Hervey Bay but there would be a reduction in the number of visitors. Some operators indicated that a long-term absence of whales from Hervey Bay would result in them having to close their business and that there would be a large impact on local businesses and accommodation providers. Economic analysis shows that the residents of the Gascoyne are more dependent on wildlife icons for their livelihood than the residents of Hervey Bay, although the total visitor expenditure that is attributable to wildlife icons is approximately equal in both regions. This study highlights the importance of maintaining the icon and a high quality experience through interpretation and management of potential impacts. More importantly there is a need to diversify the tourism product that is currently available at both icon sites in order to alleviate problems that may arise as a result of dependence on wildlife icons.

Item Type: Report
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Environmental Science
School of Social Sciences and Humanities
Publisher: CRC for Sustainable Tourism
Copyright: © CRC for Sustainable Tourism Pty Ltd 2006
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