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Business Operations

Tourism is regarded as one of the top five employers world-wide, supporting a broad scope of tourism businesses and service providers across a number of industry sectors. In Australia, more than 90% of tourism businesses are small to medium enterprises (SMTEs); that is they have less than 100 staff. Tourism businesses, no matter what size, face a wide range of challenges in developing, operating, managing and growing their business in what is a highly competitive, rapidly changing and volatile environment.

Research undertaken by APEC in 2004 showed that the following factors are significant inhibitors to tourism business operation and development:

  • lack of trained and professional workforce
  • lack of entrepreneurial skills among operators
  • Low entry barriers – impacting on service quality, growth and business viability
  • Lending arrangement and taxation regimes not conducive to SMTEs
  • Conforming to (and supporting) sustainable regional infrastructure requirements
  • Inconsistent bureaucratic local authorities
  • lack of government recognition of the value of tourism
  • A failure to recognise the potential benefits of industry clusters and collaboration
  • Industry fragmentation and a proliferation of membership organisations
  • lack of technology and eCommerce skills
  • Relatively poor eReadiness and eCommerce uptake
  • Scattered, poorly-integrated and difficult to locate business research information

The Sustainable Tourism Cooperative Research Centre (STCRC) has invested over $260 million into sustainable tourism research over the last 12 years. One of the key themes of this research was to understand the factors that influence the ‘success’ of tourism businesses and to identify strategies for tourism businesses to address industry challenges and develop sustainable operations.

How to use Sustainable Tourism Online

Sustainable Tourism Online provides information and resources to assist tourism businesses in taking a sustainable approach to tourism. Drawing on the extensive research of the STCRC and other international partners, this section on Business Operations is presented in five modules:

Within each section you will find a summary of the research to date, specific research and resources on subject areas relating to sustainable business operation and links to case studies, reports and tools. These resources are provided to assist:

  • Tourism Businesses;
  • Tourism Professional Support providers;
  • Destination Management Organisations and other agencies supporting business development;
  • Academics, Researchers and Students; and
  • Media Agencies


Browse Business Operations case studies:

Business Growth and Development

Business Ready: Energy Efficiency


Monitoring and Evaluation

Ready, Set, Go! 


Product Development

White Papers


Featured case studies:

Engaging Tourism Enterprises: how operators source information for business improvement

The recognition that small to medium tourism enterprises (SMTEs) are a vital part of the tourism sector emphasises the importance of ensuring that their communication, learning and information dissemination and acquisition practices are as efficient as possible. This is especially the case since SMTEs are often under-resourced and time poor. Currently, our understanding of these practices and their implications for improving information provision and utilisation in SMTEs is limited. This research starts to address this gap and further our understanding of the information, communication and training needs of this sector of the tourism industry.

by John Breen, Brian King, Elizabeth Walker

Small and Medium Tourism Enterprises: the identification of good practice

The report is based on the analysis of the submissions of winners of 2001 State and Territory tourism awards. Interviews have also been conducted with the selected firms and the Executive Officers of some of the key  industry associations to help verify the findings of the study.

by John Breen, Sue Bergin-Seers, Leo Jago and Jack Carlsen