This portal provides ready access to information on managing nature-based and cultural tourism in natural areas with a particular focus on national parks. Much of the content is also relevant to municipal parks, walk trails on private lands, and nature based tourism opportunities on private lands. It has been designed for a broad audience: tourism operators, park and cultural heritage managers, environmental consultants, researchers and students. The content is derived from over 200 research publications by the Sustainable Tourism Cooperative Research Centre (STCRC) and other researchers and research institutions working in this field.
‘Natural areas’ includes national parks, marine parks and other protected areas, private conservation reserves and local reserves and managed bushland, while ‘park’ is a general term that encompasses a wide range of parks reserved for public purposes, including national parks, marine parks, local green spaces which may encompass both local playing fields or natural bushland. Where the term park is used it means the full range of parks.
National parks and protected areas
Since the creation of Yellowstone National Park, the very first national park, almost 140 years ago, national parks have provided opportunities to recreate in natural areas enjoy the majesty of nature and contemplate our very being. They provide opportunities to relax, reinvigorate and energize and for many, to make spiritual and emotional connections with the earth. For much of their history tourism has been a constant companion of national parks and through education programs and interpretation of the wildlife, landscapes and culture, provided meaning, appreciation and understanding of these and many other values that these parks provide.
While national parks and other protected areas (see IUCN) play a primary role in protecting the world’s biodiversity by safeguarding nature, wildlife, and natural landscapes they also provide important socio-cultural and economic values. National parks have become important resources worldwide for ‘nature-based’, ‘cultural heritage’ and ‘ecotourism’.
Today protected areas are an international phenomenon with over 100,000 protected areas in over 200 countries. The Australian National Reserve System (NRS) covers more than ten per cent of the country’s land mass and coastal waters, representing over 9,000 protected areas. These areas epitomize Australia’s iconic natural landscapes, significant ecosystems, endemic wildlife and cultural identity.
These areas are the epitome of Australia’s iconic natural landscapes, significant ecosystems, endemic wildlife and cultural identity. Australia’s national parks are internationally renowned and are major attractions for both international and domestic tourism. Many of Australia’s protected areas are inscribed as international world heritage sites and national heritage sites for their outstanding natural and cultural heritage values.(Also see the UNESCO).
Today protected area management is changing in recognition of triple bottom line sustainability where social (better health through ‘recreation’), economic (tourism contributes to the livelihoods of communities) and environmental (conservation of landscapes and biodiversity) benefits are interconnected and pave the way to a better future for following generations.
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This report presents the results of a study of Australian protected area agencies in terms of: current practices for monitoring, evaluating and reporting on performance in relation to visitor use of protected areas; and, future approaches to enhance the usefulness of these practices in meeting agency goals.
by Karen Higginbottom, R.W. (Bill) Carter, Susan Moore, Kate Rodger and Yamini Narayanan