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Resource Capacity

Tourism growth, along with population growth, creates growing demand for the natural and cultural assets of a destination. Understanding the social and environmental ‘carrying capacity’ of a destination is part of sustainable destination management. Planning for sustainability has become an imperative for destinations, responsive to growing concern within industry, community and consumers regarding environmental degradation, resource constraints and more recently climate change.

Developing a sustainable approach to resource management in a destination should:

  • Forecast visitor demand to predict the social and environmental demands and impacts of tourism developments and growth;
  • Assess a destination’s existing environmental footprint and identify the tourism impact on and use of scarce natural resources;
  • Engage stakeholders to actively participate in a more sustainable and resource efficient approach to tourism development and management; as demonstrated in the Great Ocean Road Sustainability Framework program that engaged industry stakeholders in identifying and implementing sustainability strategies and practices;
  • Assess the environmental legislation and policies that influence destination development and resource usage including carbon taxes and development controls;
  • Engage with government on developing appropriate land-use planning and development policies to ensure appropriate and sustainable design and development of tourism precincts and facilities, as demonstrated in the Byron Shire Council’s consideration of the destination’s image and values when developing land-use planning and development controls;
  • Identify strategies and actions for implementing sustainable practices in destination development, as demonstrated by Hong Kong in its development of an Environmentally Sustainable Development Strategy for Tourism focusing on environmental management, sustainability training, information development and land-use planning for tourism development;
  • Implement a performance monitoring program based on a defined set of sustainability indicators to review and monitor environmental impacts, as demonstrated in Queensland’s Sustainable Regions Program that assess four regions against a set of environmental indicators and the subsequent development of an environmental action plan;
  • Undertake environmental performance improvement through benchmarking performance against best practice; and
  • Reporting on environmental and sustainability performance to all stakeholders including consumers.

Leveraging approximately $260 million in research and the knowledge of more than 250 scientists from 16 leading universities, the Sustainable Tourism Cooperative Research Centre developed the EarthCheck program, an environmental benchmarking and performance system based on the principles of Agenda 21. The Earthcheck program provides destinations and communities with an opportunity to measure and manage their environmental footprint against a comprehensive set of indicators, benchmark results against industry best practice, report and achieve certification for performance.

Destination Management Tip

Environmental certification programs such as EarthCheck provide destinations and communities with an opportunity to measure and manage their environmental footprint against a set of indicators.


Browse case studies:

Australian Tourism in a Water Constrained Economy: Research Agenda

STCRC commissioned the development of a research agenda in January 2009 with the following aims: to map the process for increasing our understanding of fresh water as an input in the production of tourism outputsto illustrate the modelling required to establish the trade-offs and complementarities between the use of water for the production of tourism versus other outputs (e.g. agriculture, urban/industrial, environmental) to test and explore the range of policy and institutional responses that would be required to deliver an optimal allocation between competing water demands—including those arising from activities related to tourism.

by Lin Crase, Sue O’Keefe, Pierre Horwitz, May Carter, Ronlyn Duncan, Darla Hatton MacDonald, Fiona Haslam McKenzie and Ben Gawne

Climate Change and Australian Tourism

Two scoping studies have been integrated into one report to address the issue of climate change and the tourism industry in Australia. 1) Climate Change Policies and Australian Tourism: scoping study of the economic aspects by Peter Forsyth, Larry Dwyer and Ray Spurr. 2) Climate Change and Australian Tourism: a scoping study by Jeremy Buultjens, Nadine White and Steven Willacy.

by Sustainable Tourism CRC

Green Globe 21 Designing Tourism Infrastructure: Steps to Sustainable Design

This paper comprises three parts, the first provides some steps to integrate sustainability into the design of buildings and the second provides a brief outline of the state of play in the tourism industry and proposals to move forward with a new standard for assessing the design of tourism infrastructure through Green Globe Asia Pacific. The third part provides abstracts of three pilot case study projects.

by Richard Hyde and Joyce Law

Mapping Spatial Attributes for Conservation and Tourism Planning, Otways Region Victoria: Survey of Residents and Visitors

The project was undertaken to better understand resident and visitor preferences for conservation and tourism development in the Otways region of Victoria, Australia. The project used a survey technique where participants were asked to map place-specific landscape values and development preferences with the goal of identifying  priority areas for conservation, development and resource management in the region. Two survey instruments were developed for the study – one for Otway residents and one for visitors to the region.

by Greg Brown and Chris Raymond

Planning and Design Standard for Improving Sustainability of Neighbourhoods and Precincts

The aim of the project was to generate a new Green Globe product by creating a new standard, the Precinct Planning and Design Standard (PPDS). The PPDS has to be suitable for use with developments such as Salt and Sydney Olympic Park (SOP). The existing design and construct standard is too narrow to use in isolation for the Salt and SOP projects, since it is largely a building-oriented standard. The Salt/SOP developments are multi-land use and multi-functional and need to be tested by a more holistic product, such as the PPDS.

by Richard Hyde, Richard Moore, Lydia Kavanagh, Karin Schianetz, Deo Prasad, John Blair, Melinda Watt, Ben Bayada and Angela Hair

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

Spatial Mapping of Community Values for Tourism Planning and Conservation in the Murray River Reserves, Victoria, Australia

This project aimed to identify sites on the Victorian bank of the Murray River where community values indicate that either further conservation is desired or where development is acceptable. Since the region is under pressure from population and tourism growth and a diversity of land uses, the Victorian government is considering the use of public land and the appropriateness of access to commercial and community activities. In this study, questionnaire surveys were sent to a representative sample of residents, visitors and tour operators asking them to indicate their preferences for future development and show locations of a range of values including biological, scenic, economic, recreation, therapeutic and wilderness and sites for future tourism or residential growth. Spatial analysis of the survey data using GIS revealed the locations of particular importance. On the basis of modelling using these values, these locations were predicted to be national/state parks.

by Sharron L. Pfueller, Xuan Zhu, Paul Whitelaw, Caroline Winter

Sustainable Development and Management of Tourism in Moreton Bay

The Sustainable Tourism CRC, in partnership with Brisbane City Council and Redland Shire Council, was requested to develop a framework for the sustainable management of tourism and recreation in Moreton Bay. Before developing any strategy for sustainable tourism in Moreton Bay it was essential to understand the extent of tourism, as well as recreation activity, in the area and to conduct a preliminary analysis of how that visitation may impact on the surrounding natural and social environment.

by Michelle Whitmore and Terry De Lacy

Sustainable Development and Management of Tourism in Moreton Bay – Executive Summary

The tourism potential of Moreton Bay and Islands (Moreton Bay) has been largely undiscovered. Moreton Bay has great beaches, water, wildlife and a relaxed atmosphere but it is the combination of these features with the environmental sustainability of all aspects of the region that should form the foundation of promotion. The opportunity exists to create Moreton Bay as a sustainable tourism destination, delivering all of the advantages of tourism with minimal negative consequences. As its point of difference Moreton Bay needs to establish itself as a sustainable, Platinum Plus destination.

by Michelle Whitmore and Terry De Lacy

Sustainable Tourism Precincts in Rural and Regional Areas

This report focuses on the concept and operation of sustainable tourism precincts in rural and regional areas. The successful development of new precincts and efficient maintenance of existing ones require the appreciation and implementation of a complex range of skills applied to a wide variety of interconnected issues. These include community dynamics, tangible physical infrastructure, the intangible characteristics and values of place, and understandings of sustainability. The study aims to improve understanding of rural and regional tourism precincts by:

  • providing a useful working definition of a precinct;
  • identifying the major issues of precinct development and maintenance;
  • summarising the theoretical and practical state of knowledge of these issues and identify ‘gaps’ in both knowledge and practice;
  • recommending areas of future action on precincts and precinct planning.

by Catriona McLeod, Gregory Nolan and Margaret Bartholomew

The Carbon Footprint of Australian Tourism

This research represents the first comprehensive measure of carbon emissions for the tourism sector, both within Australia, and including associated international aviation. It is provided to inform and stimulate discussion, and to assist this, the report provides additional estimates and data to support national policy for the sector.

by Peter Forsyth, Serajul Hoque, Larry Dwyer, Ray Spurr, Thiep Van Ho & Daniel Pambudi

The Impacts of Climate Change on Australian Tourism Destinations: Developing Adaptation and Response Strategies –  A Scoping Study

Following discussions within the Tourism and Climate Change Taskforce in 2007–2008, STCRC decided to undertook a study of the potential adaptations to climate change in five key tourist destinations in Australia: Kakadu National Park, the Cairns region (including the Great Barrier Reef and Wet Tropics rainforest), the Blue Mountains, the Barossa Valley and the Victorian Alps.  The research project examines existing knowledge on anticipated biophysical changes and, through primary research (stakeholder interviews and social learning workshops), gauges the expected adaptive approaches of destination communities and the tourism sector to these changes for 2020, 2050 and 2070. It then estimates likely economic consequences. This technical report presents the research findings in full and supports the summary developed by STCRC.

by Stephen Turton, Wade Hadwen and Robyn Wilson (editors)

The Impacts of Climate Change on Australian Tourism Destinations: Developing Adaptation and Response Strategies Summary

This report provides a complete summary of the scoping study report which has been undertaken by STCRC, The Impacts of Climate Change on Australian Tourism Destinations: Developing adaptation and response strategies — a scoping study. The goal of the project was to build a framework to inform and prioritise adaptation strategies which can be undertaken by destinations and tourism businesses. To do this, the climate change vulnerability of each destination was assessed, with a focus on the potential impacts on tourism infrastructure, activities and operational costs. Summary chapters highlighting key research, findings and recommendations for each of the case study regions are included in this document.