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Recreation and Tourism as a Key Value of Parks

Protected areas contain important recreation and tourism values. Much of Australia’s $40 billion tourism industry is based on Australia’s natural environment and rich biodiversity and stunning landscapes, most of which can be found in protected areas.
Australia’s national parks in 2001 attracted around 80 millions visitors each year (see Pursuing Common Goals) and it could reasonably be expected to have exceeded 100 million visitors per annum currently. Visitation to national parks is increasing and will continue to increase as the world’s population becomes more crowded and affluent. Sixty eight percent of all international visitors to Australia can be classified as nature-based tourists. As people become more aware of the human impacts on the environment the demand to see the world’s rare and beautiful natural areas will grow. Protected areas in Australia and overseas will be exposed to increasing visitor numbers and changing visitor patterns and activities, leading to increased ‘Visitor Monitoring’ and concerns regarding the possible ‘Visitor Impacts’ that visitors on the natural values of these areas.

Outdoor recreation in national parks is also a major contributor to the economy through the purchasing of goods and equipment and businesses providing outdoor recreation services, life skills programs and outdoor education courses to schools, tourists and other groups.

National parks, marine parks and other protected areas provide a wide range of recreation opportunities including nature appreciation, walking, camping, four wheel driving, horse riding, mountain biking, scenic driving, swimming, sailing, and snorkelling, to name just a few.

The relationship between the tourism industry and national parks is mutually beneficial as tourism provides support (through economic and social benefits) for establishing and protecting parks. Park-based tourism also creates new opportunities for regional economies, builds a support base that helps educate people about parks, contributes to protecting park values and assists park managers in lobbying for a greater share of public resources.

The success of this relationship relies on effective park management to sustain an appropriate balance between use and protection.

This includes accommodating the tourism industry while recognising the full range of park values for which other users and nonusers appreciate parks.


Browse Recreation and Tourism as a Key Value of Parks case studies:

Parks and Legislation

Governance Models and Strategies

Management Principles


Browse sustainable tourism online 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

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

Natural Partnership: Making National Parks a Tourism Priority

The broad purpose of this report is to contribute to the general goal of ‘making national parks and other protected areas a national tourism priority’. National parks and other protected areas need to be recognised as major assets for Australian tourism, both domestic and international.

by Tony Griffin and Megan Vacaflores

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.