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Natural/Protected Area Assets

As consumers become increasingly environmentally aware and the trend towards outdoor / nature activities grows, the importance of managing a destination’s natural assets has come into greater focus. While natural areas can be some of the most popular visitor attractions in a destination they are also some of the most fragile, requiring extensive planning and management to maintain and preserve. Research into the development of tourism products and experiences in natural areas has shown that:

  • Tourism and protected areas can co-exist with appropriate planning for tourism product development to preserve the ecological and cultural values of the site. The EarthCheck Design and Operating Standard developed by the Sustainable Tourism Cooperative Research Centre (STCRC) is used as a minimum requirement in many protected areas worldwide;
  • A comprehensive impact assessment should be undertaken when identifying potential tourism development opportunities for natural areas, including the economic, social and ecological impacts and benefits. Continual assessment, such as that demonstrated by Kangaroo Island with its Leave Only Footprints environmental reporting program, is important for monitoring the impacts of tourism on the environment;
  • Planning for tourism development in natural areas needs to take into consideration visitor interests and needs and matching visitor demands with the management and conservation goals of the site, accessibility, supporting facilities, interpretation and education;
  • Strong partnerships with natural area managers, local government, industry operators and the community is essential for identifying tourism opportunities within natural areas and ensuring appropriate development and management. The partnership between the Department of Environment and Conservation, the Water Commission and industry in managing protected areas in the Tapestry Region in Western Australia is a best case example of a successful cooperative partnership.
  • Protected area management in particular is a complex process, finding a balance between visitor experiences and enjoyment, maintaining the conservation values of the area and ensuring appropriate visitor management practices;
  • Recognising the potential impacts of climate change on natural areas is important for long-term planning and strategic direction.

In-depth analysis and planning for the development of tourism in natural areas is required prior to investment in development. For more information on the tourism development in natural areas please see ‘Protection of the Natural Environment’ in the Destination Development section. The Sustainable Tourism Research Centre has an extensive body of research on development and management in protected areas which discussed in further detail in the dedicated ‘Parks and Culture’ section of the portal.

Destination Management Tip

Making the most of protected areas means considering visitor needs and aligning these with the management and conservation values of the area.


Browse case studies:

The Economic Value of Tourism to National Parks and Protected Areas in Australia

This technical report concludes a project supported by Sustainable Tourism Cooperative Research Centre aimed at reviewing and developing methodology to place an economic value on tourism to Australian national parks and protected areas. In particular this project had a focus on producing state or territory level estimates of the economic value of tourism to national parks.

by Sally Driml

Public/Private Partnerships for Sustainable Tourism

The objective of this report is to provide a framework for the sustainable development of the travel and tourism industry in the APEC region, through public/private partnerships, and to deliver a sustainability strategy for tourism destinations.

by Terry De Lacy, Marion Battig, Stewart Moore, and Steve Noakes

Tourism – Protected Area Partnerships in Australia: Designing and Managing for Success

In Australia, the need for partnerships and their potential contribution to sustainable tourism has been identified in a number of recent reports. This project aimed to identify the features involved in developing, fostering and maintaining partnerships among those involved in sustainable tourism associated with protected areas. An associated aim was determining how these features contribute to the success or otherwise of these partnerships. A total of 21 partnerships from across Australia were the focus of this study–all included the tourism industry and almost all included a protected area agency as a partner.

by Susan Moore, Betty Weiler, Glen Croy, Jennifer Laing, Diane Lee, Michael Lockwood, Sharron Pfueller and Aggie Wegner

Tourism and Protected Area Management Research Snapshot

This document profiles key STCRC research in the field of tourism and protected area management from 2005 to October 2008. The aim of this summary is to provide a ‘snapshot’ of research that informs the parks-tourism relationship and its management.


Tourism And Protected Areas: Partnerships In Principle And Practice

The aim of this report is to describe a selection of successful partnerships between commercial tourism and protected area managers, and to identify the advantages of expanding such partnerships.

by Ralf Buckley and Michael Sommer