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Range of Values

Protected areas are valued for a many reasons. Understanding the values people assign to protected areas is fundamental to successful park management. Protected areas contain both intrinsic (non-use) and instrumental (use) values. (For more information see Managing Protected Areas: A Global Guide). Something is of intrinsic value if it is of value of, or in itself. In other words, value exists irrespective of any benefits that humans may derive from them. Instrumental values can be defined as the value derived from the actual use of a good or service.

The Earth’s natural systems are under an enormous strain as can be witnessed by the unprecedented loss of biodiversity and the failure of natural systems. National parks and other protected areas conserve biodiversity and provide ecosystem services that derive from the earth’s natural processes such as fresh air and water, climate regulation and assimilation of waste. The important role that ecosystem services play is not well understood and is not adequately recognised in economic markets, government policies and land management practices (see The Value of Parks).

Natural areas, bush land and green space provide opportunities for exercise and other forms of recreation while national parks also allow for more active forms of recreation and outdoor pursuits and adventure activities like bush walking, kayaking and mountain biking, all of which contribute to a healthier lifestyle, personal health benefits and reduce the potential for and incidence of depression.

Parks also bring people together to relax with family and friends, socialize and enjoy each other’s company. Many ethnic communities use local green spaces, urban and peri-urban national parks and regional parks as a location to bring their community together and celebrate their culture. Many national park volunteers who contribute to caring for and managing national parks also benefit from the social and personal interactions.

National parks are also the home to parts of Australia’s rich history and heritage including the history and culture of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians. ‘Cultural heritage’ sites remind us of our past and provide a sense of identity and meaning for the present and future.

National parks also act as a scientific laboratory and classroom for studying, education and learning about the natural environment. They act as a baseline for measuring changes to natural systems and the broader environment. Some species may hold the answer to medical and other scientific challenges facing human kind.

Now more than ever national parks, marine parks and other forms of protected areas are major draw cards for Australia’s tourism industry and are multi billion dollar contributors to the tourism industry, which in turn has both direct and indirect economic impacts on local and regional economies, as well as providing a source for local and regional employment. National parks also employ large numbers of people and significant economic activity is generated through developing and maintaining parks. Parks also create financial opportunities underpinning the businesses of thousands of tour operators providing commercial services to tourists.

The focus of Sustainable Tourism Cooperative Research Centre (STCRC) economic valuation research has on developing a robust and widely supported methodology for measures the direct visitor expenditure that can be attributed to a national parks or group of parks and other protected areas in a region.

The STCRC has developed a handbook that provides a step-by-step guide capable of developing a study, which adopts the ‘spending by tourists’ approach to measuring economic value of tourism to national parks. It allows for a study of national park tourism in a single sub-state region or for the compilation of state / territory level estimates, based on a representative selection of regions in the state / territory.

Research undertaken by the STCRC on the economic impacts of national parks and other protected areas includes Queensland National Parks, the Great Barrier Reef, Ningaloo Marine Park and Cape Range National Park, the south west forests of Western Australia, Kakadu National Park, north eastern New South Wales, Watarrka National Park (NT), Tasmanian National Parks, the Gold Coast (including its hinterland and beaches) and the Australian Alps.

 Other points of focus for the economic valuation of tourism include cultural heritage, wildlife tourism and festivals and events.


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

Assessment of the Economic Value of Recreation and Tourism in Western Australia’s National Parks, Marine Parks and Forests

This is the first assessment of the value of national parks, marine parks and forests for tourism and recreation in Western Australia. A case study approach was adopted and two study regions were nominated because of their significance for tourism and recreation and their endowment of natural attractions within parks, forests and marine areas. This study estimated the direct yearly tourist expenditure in two regions known for their unique natural attractions – the Southern Forest Region and the Gascoyne Coast Region.

by Jack Carlsen and David Wood

Developing Indicators for the Sustainable Management of Visitor Use of Protected Areas in Australia

This project explicitly focuses on indicators for measuring the sustainability of visitor use, rather than the much broader suite of indicators needed to report comprehensively on protected area management. Also, the STCRC requested that the indicators be developed for potential inclusion in the Earthcheck TM benchmarking system.

by Joanna Tonge, Susan Moore, Marc Hockings, Graeme Worboys and Kerry Bridle

Economic and Social Values of Beach Recreation on the Gold Coast

The beach is generally recognised as the most important recreation amenity in the region for Gold Coast residents, as well as tourists. However, there is very little data to support the role that this amenity plays in the life of Gold Coast residents. This survey set out to collect data from Gold Coast residents regarding their beach use and the values they associate with the beach, and to develop estimates of the economic value of the beach to residents.

by Mike Raybould and Neil Lazarow

Economic Contribution on Kakadu National Park to Tourism in the Northern Territory

This report undertakes an analysis of the economic contribution of Kakadu National Park derived solely from tourism expenditures in the Northern Territory (NT). The project utilises the methodology of Carlsen and Wood (2004) to estimate the value of Kakadu as a tourism driver to the sub-region, the broader Top End region and for the NT overall. Visitor estimates for this project were derived using the NT Travel Monitor (NTTM) surveys; however, because the NTTM does not allow reliable estimates of visitor expenditure within a sub-region, a customised survey of visitors to Kakadu National Park was used to elicit this expenditure information.

by Pascal Tremblay

Economic Impact of Selected National Parks in North-Eastern New South Wales

This study examines the local economic impact of the recreational use of a suite of national parks in north-eastern New South Wales (NSW) and of the expenditure undertaken by the NPWS in managing these parks. This report examines the local economic impact of a suite of seven national parks in north-eastern New South Wales:  Yuraygir, Nightcap, Border Ranges, Boonoo Boonoo, Bald Rock, Gibraltar Range and Washpool National Parks.

by Jeremy Buultjens and Katrina Luckie

Economic Value of Tourism in the Australian Alps

The study’s primary objective was to measure the economic impact of tourists’ expenditure in the Australian Alps, on the economies of the Australian Capital Territory, New South Wales and Victoria.  The project involved measuring tourism expenditure in the Alps region and the associated multiplier effects of that expenditure.  The economic impact is shown in terms of Gross State Product (GSP) and employment/jobs that are attributed to tourism to each of the states’ Alps national parks.

by Trevor Mules, Pam Faulks, Natalie Stoeckl and Michele Cegielski

Economic Value of Tourism to Places of Cultural Heritage Significance: A Case Study of three Towns with Mining Heritage

This exploratory study of tourism to the three heritage Australian mining towns of Charters Towers, Maldon and Burra, has aimed to measure the economic impact of such tourism on the host regions and to learn more about the motivations and behaviour of visitors to the towns.

by Michele Cegielski, Ben Janeczko, Trevor Mules and Josette Wells

Economics, Wildlife Tourism and Conservation: Three Case Studies

This report presents the results of an economics component of the National Interdisciplinary Project (NIP) on wildlife tourism in Australia. The main objectives of the study were to outline and assess the role that economics can play in the valuation and management of wildlife-based tourism, undertake appropriate case studies to highlight the value of economics and its limits in assessing wildlife tourism in each case, take into account relevant environmental issues involved in wildlife tourism, and make future recommendations.

by Clem Tisdell and Clevo Wilson

Estimating the Economic Impacts of Festivals and Events: A Research Guide

This study reviews basic principles of economic impact and applies them to a series of four special events held during summer-autumn at Thredbo in Kosciuszko National Park. The four events were the Australian Mountain Bike Association Cup, National Runners Week, Shakespeare Festival and the Thredbo Jazz Festival.

by Ben Janeczko, Trevor Mules and Brent Ritchie

Estimating the Economic, Social an Environmental Value of Tourism to Protected Areas

This project provides series of detailed assessments of tourism values and costs in localities adjacent to protected areas in Tasmania, Victoria and Western Australia. The project demonstrates a range of techniques for respectively measuring social, environmental and economic impacts of tourism activity.

by Michael Hughes, Tod Jones, Marg Deery, David Wood, Liz Fredline, Zachary Whitely, and Michael Lockwood

Estimating the Value of Tasmanian National Parks to Park Visitors

The main aims of this project were to quantify the value that visitors to certain Tasmanian national parks placed on those sites, and the responsiveness of park visitation rates to changes in park entry fees.

by John Madden, Nic Groenwold, Prem Thapa

Garnaut Climate Change Update Paper 4, 2011: Transforming Rural Land Use

The rural sector is a major source of emissions, but at the same time holds tremendous opportunities to play a significant role in Australia’s mitigation effort. Consequently, this Update paper looks at how the land sector is greatly affected by climate change and the large part it plays in its mitigation.

by Garnaut Climate Change Review

Handbook on Measuring the Economic Value of Tourism to National Parks

This handbook provides clear instructions and advice on how to undertake a study to estimate the economic value of tourism to national parks, using the ‘spending by tourists’ approach.

by Sally Driml, Char-lee McLennan

Impacts of National Park Visitation on Rural Economies and Government Revenue in Queensland: Girraween, Eungella, Daintree and Carnarvon

National parks and other protected areas traditionally have been created and funded to provide conservation benefits.  However, they also provide rural and regional economic benefits stemming from the jobs created both by management agency expenditure and by the spending of visitors who come to the parks.  Unfortunately, quantitative data on park tourism’s contribution to rural economies is limited.  The research reported here provided estimates of this contribution, while also providing information regarding park visitor characteristics, experiences, and preferences.

by Kreg Lindberg and Jon M. Denstadli

Inventory of Tourism Assets of Department of Environment and Conservation Rangeland Properties

The project assessed the tourism potential of inland pastoral properties recently acquired by the Department of Conservation and Land Management (now DEC, Department of Environment and Conservation) in the Murchison and Gascoyne regions of Western Australia.

by Amanda J Smith, Michael Hughes, David Wood  and John Glasson

The Value of Parks

Parks deliver many benefits to Australians and New Zealanders now; their importance will only increase with time as the stresses of urbanisation, population growth, climate change and resource depletion impact on our societies. It is our responsibility to ensure the ongoing protection and good management of parks for present and future generations to enjoy and cherish.

by Parks Forum

Tourism and the Economic Valuation of Parks and Protected Areas: Watarrka National Park, Northern Territory

This report provides an estimate of the economic value of Watarrka National Park (WNP) to the Northern Territory’s Centre region. Its importance lies in assessing what tourist expenditures would be lost to the Centre if WNP did not exist. While the objective of the research was to apply the Carlsen and Wood’s economic model for protected areas to WNP, to estimate the contribution of the park to the region through tourism, this report was not based on primary data collection but on building a reasoned argument about the contribution of WNP to regional tourism expenditures. The report also aimed at providing a broad picture of past and existing markets, and contrasts some of the secondary data sources available to comment on improved estimates of traffic and visitation by tourists.

by Pascal Tremblay and Dean Carson

Valuing Tourism Spend Arising from Visitation to Queensland National Parks

This report provides an estimate of direct tourist spending and the contribution of that spending to Queensland’s gross state product that can be attributed to tourists’ access to national parks (NPs). The first phase of The Valuing Tourism Spend in Queensland National Parks Study was designed to provide an assessment of tourist spending associated with national parks at the regional level. Following consultation with key stakeholders of the study, a research team from The University of Queensland collected primary visitor survey data in four regions of the State of Queensland with a view to determining an estimate of the visitor spend attributable to the NPs in these regions. These regions were selected as examples of the four different types of protected area region (urban, iconic, remote and outback) to be found in Queensland. The data collected in the survey were then used to infer a value for national park-generated visitor spending for all national park regions in Queensland. The results of this study indicate that a best estimate of visitor spending associated with national parks is approximately $4.43 billion per annum with $749 million per annum in national park-generated spending.

by Roy Ballantyne, Richard Brown, Shane Pegg and Noel Scott