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Two way track

Biodiversity Conservation and Ecotourism: an investigation of linkages, mutual benefits and future opportunities
Biodiversity Series, Paper No. 5

Noel Preece and Penny van Oosterzee, Ecoz-Ecology Australia and David James, Ecoservices Pty Ltd
Department of the Environment, Sport and Territories, 1995

4. Markets for nature-based tourism and ecotourism

4.1 Profiles of ecotourists, tourists and the differences between the two

It is important for the industry and government to gain a clearer understanding of the profiles of tourists, to determine which kinds of natural areas may be sought by tourists as well as identifying potential impacts on the relevant ecosystems. Information required included general socioeconomic characteristics, the types of nature-based activities that are typically undertaken, and demands for different kinds of natural environments, particular features or species of plants and animals, and levels of satisfaction received in relation to expectations built by advance promotional information.

From an economic perspective tourist profiles can be important in designing and delivering tourism packages and supporting infrastructure. With improved predictions of future trends in NBE markets, appropriate planning can be undertaken to meet consumer preferences, structure the industry accordingly, and implement effective anticipatory measures to avoid or minimise potentially adverse environmental impacts.

As discussed in sections 1.2 and 1.4, the profile of a typical ecotourist is not easily specified, as there is so much variation in the scope for defining ecotourism itself. Beekhuis has questioned the value of segmenting the travel market at all (Ziffer 1989). She explains that the total travelling market could potentially be interested in ecological experiences and therefore should not be rigidly separated into exclusive groups. Her comments support the notion of segments flowing into one another (see also section 1.2).

Having recognised in this report (Sn. 1.2) that narrow definitions of ecotourism and nature-based tourism are essentially self-defeating, it is nevertheless instructive to consider the studies that have been undertaken in attempts to quantify and analyse ecotourism in Australia.

The common perception of ecotourism is that it provides an intimate experience with the natural environment, usually combined with some kind of educational or learning experience. For this reason, Richardson (1993) suggested that ecotourism "usually involves a small number of people in a group, with a leader who is knowledgeable about the environments and cultures being visited".

This profile is consistent with the results of a survey of ecotourism operators conducted by Finucane (1993) in Western Australia. Finucane selected 30 nature-based tourism operators from WA Tourism Commission brochures and from the Autumn/Winter 1992 edition of Tread Lightly. Responses were obtained from 19 operators. As shown in Table 4.1, the most important characteristic of ecotourism noted by operators was an interest in observing and learning about the components and processes of the natural environment.

Table 4.1: Definitions of ecotourism given by WA tour operators, 1992
Rank¹ response² Common element Per cent
1 Primary focus on enjoyment and appreciation of the natural environment 63.2
2 Low impact tourism 52.6
3 Aims to educate about the environment 31.6
4 Activities maintain natural systems 21.1
5 Small groups of participants 15.8
6 Contributes economically on a local scale 10.5
7 Sustainable development 5.3

1. Ranked by percentage of responses by tourism operators
2. Per cent of respondents including this element in their definition. Percentages do not total 100 as more than one element may be included in each definition.

Source: Finucane (1993, p14)

Established thinking on ecotourism is that group sizes are mainly small. Australian 'ecotourism' operators are documented in a directory of more than 200 tour operators, resorts and other organisations involved in ecotourism compiled by Richardson (1993) and the Editors of Choice Books, a division of the Australian Consumers' Association. Day tours, according to this book may cater for large groups, but for longer trips the groups usually number around 15 to 20. The survey by Finucane (1993) found that ecotourist groups in Western Australia usually were less than 15, especially when undertaking bushwalking. Ecotourism can also include free and independent travellers, although this may be less conducive to education and learning (Richardson 1993).

Size alone is not one of the necessary criteria for ecotourism, in our considerations of the NBE industry. While ecotourism is often associated with low-impact, small group activities, the general concept can be extended to larger-scale tourism operations that are dependent on natural areas or attributes. These include day tours to the outer Great Barrier Reef, day trips on Yellow Waters with 100 others in Kakadu National Park, sailing cruises around Cape York for a month with maybe 50 other people, or visits to Phillip Island Wildlife Reserve with hundreds of other mainstream tourists to view fairy penguins on the beach. All these tours that provide an educational program for tourists as well as direct experience. Some of the best qualified guides in tourism conduct tours of this kind. Large groups may participate in and enjoy the natural environment just as much as smaller groups.

Being too purist about what constitutes an ecotour or ecotourism business or indeed a nature based tour or enterprise, may well limit the options and will certainly constrain the debate about strategically integrating biodiversity conservation and ecotourism. In such a rapidly changing and growing industry as tourism, it is essential to recognise the full range of activities that might be described as ecological. Even 'conventional' tourists may be educated to appreciate the value and beauty of natural areas in their undisturbed state.

The lack of precise definition and paucity of information on ecotourism profiles is not considered an obstacle to achieving the goals of ecotourism and the detailed planning and implementation for ecologically sustainable tourism. The real needs are for better understanding of all tourists' preferences in travel and experiences, their current and past levels of satisfaction with tours and travel experiences, how best to deliver the message of ecologically sustainable tourism, how to provide returns to the environmental resources, and how to best identify key natural features or aspects which appeal to tourists without diminishing them in any way.

It is recommended that primary surveys and analyses of the data be undertaken to improve general understanding of the whole tourism market's attitude to and preferences for the natural and traditional cultural environment.

4.2 Activities of nature-based and ecotourists

Ecotourists and tourists seeking a nature-based experience engage in a wide range of different activities. The main activities identified by the 'ecotourism' operators in the Western Australian survey by Finucane (1993) are shown in Table 4.2. Bushwalking and observing animals were clearly the most popular activities. Nature photography and camping were also popular.

We caution against reading too much into the survey data and analyses, because the study was based on a very small segment of the industry (19 operators), one which was essentially self-proclaimed 'ecotourism' product. We make no comment on the veracity of their claims. Our observation is that the study, by being so focused, has ignored the main and much larger segment of the tourism industry in Western Australia, much of which may provide suitable nature-based experiences. The results cannot be extrapolated to the rest of the potential or existing nature-based and ecotourism industry and market.

It appears that for those surveyed who were identified as ecotourists, activities were merely the means of experiencing natural environments rather than an end in themselves. Burgess (1993) for example has conducted a survey of 30 ecotourism operators in Tasmania which showed that main activities undertaken were bushwalking and camping-based mixed outdoor pursuits such as rafting, bushwalking, cycling, rock climbing and abseiling.

Table 4.2: Ecotourism activities undertaken in WA
Rank¹ Common element Per cent Response²
=1 Bushwalking 73.7
=1 Observing animals 73.7
Bird watching 73.7
Whale watching 31.6
Turtle watching 26.3
Crocodile watching 5.3
Others (dolphins, seals, reptiles etc.) 5.3
2 Observing wildflowers and other plants 68.4
3 Nature photography 57.9
4 Camping 52.6
5 Scientific study 31.6
6 Backpacking 15.8
=7³ Art tours 10.5
=7 Diving 10.5
8 Heritage tours 5.3

1. Ranked by percentage of responses by tourism operators
2. Per cent of respondents including this element in their definition. Percentages do not total 100 as more than one element may be included in each definition.
3. Activities included sketching and drawing of native plants and animals or landscapes.

Source: Finucane (1993, p15)

Recreational travel has been noted by the Victorian Department of Conservation and Environment as 'the most popular means of enjoying the natural environment through passive and active recreation, including adventure activities, admiring the scenery, bushwalking, camping, rock climbing and the like' (Victorian Department of Conservation and Environment 1992, p5).

Many activities in natural environments can be described as 'adventure activities' rather than ecotourism. Forestry Tasmania (1994a) carried out a survey of the ecotourism industry and its dependence on forest environments in Tasmania which revealed the main nature-based activities in state forests to be walking, rafting, four-wheel driving, cycling and horse-riding. These activities were not necessarily directed at the specific enjoyment of biodiversity or educational processes, but were certainly dependent on the natural environment.

Activities undertaken by ecotourists appear to be closely associated with particular socio-economic characteristics. The survey of tour operators in Tasmania undertaken by Burgess (1993) indicated that all types of clients sought access to natural or wilderness areas. The demand for outdoor pursuits and adventure experiences was most popular in the 20-40 year age bracket. Interpretative services relating to natural, cultural and historical experiences were sought mainly by well-educated professional people above 35 years of age. This client segment also had a preference for high level of comfort with access to natural areas.

In the Northern Territory, backpackers account for a large part of the market (Northern Territory Tourism Commission 1994a). Such tourists often tend to seek low-cost accommodation, preferring to spend their money on travelling and package tours. The levels of backpacker expenditure on tourist pursuits is surprisingly high, especially by visitors from other countries.

Some information is available for activities undertaken by international visitors, that may be associated with nature-based or ecotourism. Details are presented in Section 4.7. Less is known about the nature-based activities of domestic tourists.

The surveys of tourists' preferences, desires, activities and fulfilment have been useful in painting a cameo of NBE, but have, in our opinion, a basic flaw. By attempting to select operators and tourists by the definitions which were in the first place imprecise, the studies have biased the results to paint a false picture of the real interest in nature-based tourism. Studies in structure similar to those carried out by Finucane and Burgess and the Victorian Department of Conservation and Environment should be carried out for a broad cross-section of the industry and market.

A recent study (November 1994) conducted by Newspoll for the Commonwealth Department of Tourism, possibly the 'first real measure of the demand for environmentally friendly tourism in Australia' (Newspoll), highlights the point we make here about the desire for natural and cultural experiences. This survey of 1200 Australians showed that 53 per cent of Australians planned to visit national parks or natural attractions in the next 12 months. Of those surveyed, 54 per cent rated 'getting close to nature' as very important, and 46 per cent rated 'learning about nature' as very important in choosing a nature-based holiday. Of particular note, state the surveyors, is that the single most emphatic demand was for 'activities that don't damage the environment'. Seventy per cent of respondents felt strongly enough to rate this as very important. The results indicate that there is a distinctively different ecotourism market in Australia, one which is not the 'typical' or assumed one of free and independent travellers and inbound backpackers, Newspoll noted. There is a strong demand for nature holidays which are suitable for families, that are also affordable and not too physically intimidating.

Recommendation: that surveys of tourists and tour operators similar to the ones conducted by Burgess and by Finucane be carried out across a broad cross-section of the industry and market in all states. The surveys could be funded by the Department of Tourism under the Ecotourism grants scheme.

4.3 Natural attributes important for NBE

The attributes attracting the ecotourism trade vary according to specific sites and the preferences of visitors. Operators often make predetermined decisions about the attributes they consider to be most attractive to tourists.

In the survey conducted by Finucane (1993) the majority of the operators nominated national parks, nature reserves and bushland as key destinations. In choosing destinations, features of the natural landscape were important for 78.9 per cent of operators, and characteristic or unique flora for 68.4 per cent. Less than half of the operators relied on unique fauna or features of the cultural landscape. One third considered wilderness attributes to be important.

The studies by Finucane (1993) and by Forestry Tasmania (1994a) found that the attributes identified by the operators as important for tourists were not necessarily important for the tourists themselves. This implies the need for the tourism industry to obtain better information on what ecotourists really want, particularly the natural features that attract them.

As expressed in the report by Forestry Tasmania (1994a, p35):

There is a limited understanding of the profiles of nature-based tour clients, primarily due to the lack of verifiable research and the fact that clients do not appear to have given detailed thought to their own motivations and values.

Other studies have revealed that the attraction of natural features was important to a broad cross section of tourists in different ways and to different degrees. Some tourists value the mere existence of natural and seminatural areas for occasional and incidental visits, while others place great value on more detailed features such as 'naturalness', remoteness, level of disturbance, rarity of species, and so on. The majority of tourists place value on the continued existence of natural areas.

It is recommended that available data be accessed and interpreted to identify, as far as possible, tourism that can be associated with natural features and biodiversity. Much of the information is fragmented and anecdotal. Comprehensive surveys are required to collect better primary data.

4.4 Trends in international tourism markets

The World Tourism Organisation has estimated that in 1993 total receipts from world tourism, excluding international travel, amounted to $US 324 billion. The market expanded by 9.3 per cent in that year. According to the World Travel and Tourism Council, the industry in 1993 employed approximately 127 million persons worldwide representing 7 per cent of total employment. International arrivals at all borders globally increased by 4 per cent in 1993 to a total of 500 million. The East Asia and the Pacific region accounted for 14 per cent of this total, as well as exhibiting the highest growth rate of 12 per cent (CDoT 1994b).

Australia faces strong competition from other countries in attracting international visitors to its natural areas, particularly less developed countries, some of which are particularly well endowed with areas rich in biodiversity and renowned for their national parks and reserve systems.

According to a recent report from the World Resources Institute (Lindberg 1991) developing countries reaped earnings of $55 billion from tourism in 1988 of which between an estimated $2 billion and $12 billion was derived from nature-based tourism. Kenya earned $400 million in foreign exchange from tourism. Other developing countries with significant nature-based tourism identified by the World Resources Institute included Thailand, Zambia, Rwanda, Costa Rica, Ecuador and Nepal. Some Asia Pacific countries are targeting ecotourism as a major source of future development.

4.5 Tourism in Australia

The Bureau of Tourism Research estimated that in 1991-92 tourism expenditure in Australia amounted to $26.2 billion, equivalent to 5.5 per cent of Gross Domestic Product. Of this, $7.8 billion comprised expenditure by international visitors and $18.4 billion by domestic visitors. In 1993-94 foreign exchange earnings from tourism increased by 15.4 per cent to $10.6 billion, equivalent to 12 per cent of total export earnings. On present trends, by the year 2000 the tourism industry will have an annual turnover of $15 to $21 billion (in 1992 prices) and 4.8 million arrivals of overseas visitors.

On a national scale, approximately 467,000 people or 6.1 per cent of the total work force are employed in the tourism industry. By the year 2000 additional employment of 210,000 to 270,000 new jobs is expected in the industry, accounting for 8 per cent of the total work force (CDoT 1994b).

4.6 International visitors

The International Visitor Survey for 1992 provides general data on in-bound tourism to Australia (Bureau of Tourism Research 1993a). Table 4.3 shows the countries of residence of international visitors to Australia for 1992.

Japan was the largest source of arrivals, accounting for 629,900 arrivals or almost a quarter of the total. Arrivals from other Asian countries were 489,100 or approximately 19 per cent of the total. New Zealand was an important source, with 447,500 arrivals representing 17 per cent of all arrivals. The UK and Ireland are significant, as are other European countries combined.

Table 4.3: Visitor arrivals by country of residence 1992
Country of residence Number Per cent
United States 262,900 10.1
Japan 629,900 24.2
Hong Kong 74,700 2.9
Indonesia 45,900 1.8
Malaysia 60,400 2.3
Singapore 116,800 4.5
Other 191,300 7.3
Canada 48,900 1.9
New Zealand 447,500 17.2
UK & Ireland 298,700 11.5
Germany 89,900 3.5
France 25,400 1.0
Netherlands 23,500 1.0
Scandinavia 39,000 1.5
Switzerland 29,000 1.1
Italy 27,400 1.0
Other Europe 44,100 1.7
Papua New Guinea 37,000 1.4
New Caledonia 18,000 0.7
Fiji 16,300 0.6
South Africa 15,300 0.6
Other 61,700 2.4
Total 2,603,300 100.0

Source: Bureau of Tourism Research (1993a)

The Survey reveals that 62 per cent of all international visitors came for a holiday and a further 18 per cent came to visit relatives. Business visits accounted for 11 per cent of all visits. Visitors in age groupings from 20 to 34 years of age account for 44 per cent of all visitors. Approximately 61 per cent of visitors who came for a holiday consisted of professional or technical persons, executives, clerks or sales persons.

Expenditure by international tourists is shown in Table 4.4. It includes all money spent on goods and services while on the trip within Australia but excludes all money paid in the visitor's country of residence for an inclusive package tour, all money spent on international airfares not purchased in Australia and money spent on the visitor by persons or companies in Australia.

The data in Table 4.4 reveal that European and Asian visitors have the highest per trip expenditure, of $2,463 and $2,315 respectively. Japanese visitors have the highest per night expenditure of $143.

The Survey contains further data indicating that the average visitor expenditure for people on holidays is $1,578 and for those visiting relatives it is $1,504. People visiting for business or other reasons have higher average expenditures per trip of $1,904 and $3,100 respectively.

Table 4.4: Average visitor expenditure in Australia by country of residence
Country of residence Average ($ Aust) Av stay (No of nights) Average per night
United States 1901 25 76
Japan 1241 9 143
Other Asia 2315 32 73
Hong Kong 2049 25 84
Indonesia 2683 34 79
Malaysia 2683 45 60
Singapore 1563 16 98
Canada 2056 38 54
New Zealand 1100 17 63
UK & Ireland 2174 47 47
Other Europe 2463 41 61
Germany 2587 38 68
Scandinavia 2350 42 56
Other Countries 1697 28 61
Total 1992 1760 25 69

Source: Bureau of Tourism Research (1993a)

Food, drink and accommodation account for 35 per cent of total expenditure by international tourists in Australia; shopping – 30 per cent; organised tours with accommodation – 2 per cent; and organised tours with no accommodation – 2 per cent. On present evidence, it appears that tours arranged within Australia for international visitors do not offer a strong backing for nature-based and ecotourism.

The main market lies in package tours to Australia arranged overseas, which involved a total number of visitors of 857,200 and total expenditure of $2.698 billion in 1992.

Table 4.5 provides details of expenditure by international visitors on pre-paid packages to Australia in 1992. The average expenditure per package was $3,148 but this varied from $5,359 for residents of USA to $981 for New Zealanders. The average length of stay ranged from 6 nights for residents of Japan and Indonesia to 24 for residents of UK and Ireland. Expenditure per night was highest for visitors from Japan who spent an average of $579 per night. Pre-package tour visitors from Japan numbered 529,400 accounting for 62 per cent of the total.

Table 4.5: Pre-paid package tour expenditure
Country of residence Average expenditure ($ Aust) Average stay (No of nights) Average expenditure per night
United States 5359 14 385
Japan 3265 6 579
Other Asia 1969 8 260
Hong Kong 2250 11 205
Indonesia 2572 6 420
Malaysia 1771 8 224
Singapore 1453 8 190
Canada 5571 16 355
New Zealand 981 10 101
UK & Ireland 5426 24 229
Other Europe 5947 21 282
Germany 6766 20 334
Scandinavia 5199 20 258
Other Countries 2612 10 263
Total 1992 3148 8 393

Source: Bureau of Tourism Research (1993a)

The Survey provides valuable data on how or where visitors from different countries obtained information to plan a visit to Australia. Table 4.6 gives key sources. The percentages may add to more than 100 as people may have given more than one answer.

The data in Table 4.6 reveal the importance of travel agents as a source of information, with 30 per cent of all visitors obtaining information from this source. Agents are particularly important in Japan, Canada, Germany and Singapore. Travel and guide books are the next most important source. Friends and relatives also provide information. Relatively unimportant sources identified by the Survey include Australian Embassies, the Australian Tourist Commission, Airlines, newspapers and magazines and tour operators.

Table 4.6: Visitor information sources on Australia (Percentages)
Country of residence Travel agent Travel books, guides Friends, relatives visited Australia Friends, relatives living in Australia
United States 31 22 12 12
Japan 52 42 4 11
Other Asia 23 10 12 10
Hong Kong 25 12 14 7
Indonesia 19 11 17 11
Malaysia 16 6 12 12
Singapore 30 10 9 9
Canada 34 17 15 18
New Zealand 18 4 5 5
UK & Ireland 21 13 21 9
Other Europe 28 33 18 16
Germany 31 41 16 16
Scandinavia 28 30 15 20
Other Countries 12 8 8 7
Total 1992 30 21 10 10

Source: Bureau of Tourism Research (1993a)

Travel agents are especially important as a source of information for visitors taking holidays in Australia. Within this group 41 per cent obtained information from travel agents.

4.7 International visitors and ecotourism

The International Visitor Survey does not identify specifically nature-based tourists or ecotourists. However, the size of the market can be inferred from some of the questions answered in the Survey.

One indication is the level of interest by international tourists in plants, animals and other nature-based attractions. Table 4.7 shows the percentage of visitors from each country of residence that visited botanical gardens, zoos and wildlife sanctuaries in 1992. The percentages may add to more than 100 as people may have visited more than one attraction.

Table 4.7: Visits to attractions in Australia: Percentage of visitors by countries of residence 1992
Country of residence Botanical gardens and public parks Zoos and wildlife sanctuaries
United States 53 53
Japan 32 62
Other Asia 48 43
Hong Kong 46 39
Indonesia 49 42
Malaysia 55 44
Singapore 51 46
Canada 59 54
New Zealand 35 24
UK & Ireland 62 53
Other Europe 59 55
Germany 61 57
Scandinavia 60 58
Other Countries 36 30
Total 1992 45 48

Source: Bureau of Tourism Research (1993a)

Overall 45 per cent of all visitors went to botanical gardens and parks and 48 per cent visited zoos and wildlife sanctuaries. The highest percentage of visitors going to botanical gardens and parks was for the UK and Ireland (62 per cent). For zoos and wildlife sanctuaries the highest percentage applied to Japan (62 per cent). Other data published in the Survey reveal that those visiting relatives or taking holidays accounted for the highest percentages visiting these attractions.

Other indicators of the likely trade in nature-based or ecotourism can be found in the percentages of visitors undertaking activities usually associated with natural areas or biodiversity, shown in Table 4.8.

Table 4.8: Sports and activities (Percentage of international visitors 1992)
Activity Holiday Relatives Business Visit other Total
Bushwalking 11 7 4 9 9
Scuba diving/snorkelling 21 5 4 6 15
Horse riding/trail riding 3 2 2 3 3
Canoeing/kayaking 2 1 - 1 2

Source: Bureau of Tourism Research (1993a)

The data reveal that it is mainly holidaymakers that engage in these activities. More than 20 per cent went scuba diving or snorkelling and 11 per cent went bushwalking. Both of these activities are closely associated with natural attributes and biodiversity.

The Bureau of Tourism Research recently (c.January 1995) appointed a researcher to build a profile of the ecotourism sector in Australia, drawing on existing BTR surveys (International Visitor Survey and the Domestic Tourism Monitor) and research and surveys conducted throughout Australia. In light of this research the BTR will augment the International Visitor Survey and the Domestic Tourism Monitor and conduct discrete surveys of the sector. The research analysis is aimed at yielding valuable information on the current size of the market, the market profile of ecotourists and the economic significance of ecotourism. The results of the analysis should provide better insights into the current importance of ecotourism and better ways to monitor developments in the ecotourism market and to target marketing and policy initiatives. Funds for this research were provided by the Commonwealth Government to the BTR under the 1993-94 National Ecotourism Program (Grant Department of Tourism 1995, pers. comm.).

The Bureau is also improving its questionnaires to obtain more information on this segment of the tourism market. The results of the 1993 Survey includes national parks and other specific natural areas in questions on the list of places visited. Wildflower viewing and outback safari tours have been added to the list of activities undertaken. The Bureau plans to include additional nature-based activities in its forthcoming surveys.

It is recommended that visitor surveys be improved by incorporating questions specifically directed to nature-based and ecotourism. The attributes and preferences of visitors should be identified as part of this information gathering.

4.8 Domestic visits and ecotourism

Data on domestic visits is compiled by the Bureau of Tourism Research and summarised in the Domestic Tourism Monitor. The information is not as rich as for international visitors, and it is difficult to associate visits with particular natural attractions or with activities that might be related to nature-based and ecotourism.

Most States and Territories conduct their own domestic surveys, which are often implemented and managed by private consulting companies. Details on the potential for nature-based and ecotourism usually appear in strategic plans for tourism by the various States and Territories, in strategy documents specifically aimed at ecotourism development or in specialist reports on ecotourism and natural resource management such as the report on tourism in forests prepared by Forestry Tasmania. These broader strategy documents are discussed more fully in this report in Section 6.

It is recommended that the content and coverage of domestic visitor surveys be vastly improved. We know very little about the recreational and tourism habits and preferences of domestic visitors, even though domestic tourism involves much greater total expenditure than international tourism.

4.9 Visits to key regions

Data on visits to States and Territories are available from the Bureau of Tourism Research (1994) for Australian and international visitors, as shown in Table 4.9.

Table 4.9: Visits by Australian and international visitors to States and Territories (1991 and 1992)
Domestic tourism monitor (1991-92) International visitor survey (1992)
State/Territory Total visits ('000) Total nights ('000) Total visits ('000) Total nights ('000)
Queensland 13,756 58,832 1,231 15,196
NSW (excl. ACT) 18,296 64,292 1,578 20,121
Victoria 10,968 36,293 681 11,372
Tasmania 2,071 6,558 63 967
S. Australia 4,808 17,600 227 2,866
W. Australia 6,059 24,627 311 7,070
N. Territory 727 4,416 222 2,108
Australia 57,943 216,259 2,416 61,444

Source: Bureau of Tourism Research (1994)

The Bureau of Tourism Research has also compiled data on visits to key regions within each State and Territory. The classification system for regions is based on ABS statistical areas. It is difficult to link these regions with natural areas and ecosystems.

A common feature of the regional data is that the highest visitation rates occur in capital cities. Visitors to other regions, particularly international visitors, undoubtedly use the capital cities as a base for trips elsewhere. This has important implications for, among other things, infrastructure development such as airports, transportation systems, accommodation and service facilities.

BTR visitor data for Queensland covers 15 different regions. The highest visitation rates occur in the Brisbane and Gold Coast regions. The classification includes the North Reef Islands and Whitsunday Islands, which could be linked with nature-based tourism, but the other regions contain such a wide range of attributes that it is not possible to make any inferences about their current appeal to tourists on the basis of natural features or biodiversity.

For New South Wales (including ACT) there are 18 regions of which only the Snowy Mountains region could be judged to depend predominantly on natural features to support the tourism trade. Sydney accounts by far for the greatest numbers, with 4.376 million domestic visits and 16,480 visitor nights in 1991-92 and 1.535 million international visits and 16.391 million visitor nights in 1992.

For Victoria the BTR recently introduced a new classification system, with 12 regions, which provides a better descriptor of the kinds of environments that tourists may seek. Details of visits by Australian and international visitors are given in Table 4.10. The majority of visits were made to the Melbourne region, although the number was high for the Great Ocean Road, Goldfields and Lower Murray.

For Tasmania 7 regions are distinguished. The Hobart region had the highest visitation rates with 448,000 domestic visits and 2,207,000 visitor nights in 1990-91 and 54,000 international visits and 625,000 visitor nights in 1991.

South Australia is covered by 12 regions. Adelaide attracts the highest visitation rates with 1,744,000 domestic visits and 7,275,000 visitor nights in 1991-92 and 210,000 international visits and 2,270,000 visitor nights in 1992. Some of the regions in South Australia can be identified as areas rich in natural features such as the Flinders Ranges, Eyre Peninsula, Yorke Peninsula, Kangaroo Island and Riverland. Regions outside Adelaide account for about 60 per cent of total domestic visits and visitor nights, but only a small fraction of the international tourist trade occurs in these regions.

For Western Australia there are 12 BTR regions. Perth accounted for 1,759,000 domestic visits and 9,070,000 visitor nights in 1991-92 and 305,000 international visits and 5,304,000 visitor nights in 1992. Regions such as the South-West which are rich in natural features and biodiversity attract large numbers of tourists. Most visits outside the Perth region, however, are made by domestic rather than international tourists.

The Northern Territory has 7 BTR regions. Darwin had 377,000 domestic visits and 1,6848 visitor nights in 1991-92 and 106,000 international visits and 921,000 visitor nights in 1992. Visitation rates for both domestic and international visitors are high for regions outside Darwin such as Kakadu/Arnhem/Daly, Katherine, Petermann and Alice Springs. The visits to central Australia reflect the interest in desert ecosystems and rock formations such as Ayers Rock and the Olgas.

In section 3.3 we have made recommendations for data collection and analysis of visits specifically to national parks and other protected areas.

4.10 Measuring the economic benefits of NBE

The economic benefits of nature based and ecotourism can be measured in terms of the total economic value that they yield to the community. Economic benefits are customarily measured using the techniques of benefit-cost analysis, and are distinct from financial values which are associated with market transactions and cash flows of governments and private enterprises.

Total economic value has several components:

Table 4.10: Visitations to new regions of Victoria by Australian and international visitors
Domestic tourism monitor (1991-92) International visitor survey (1992)
Region Total visits ('000) Total nights< ('000) Total visits ('000) Total nights ('000)
Melbourne 3,426 12,541 650 9,809
Upper Murray 864 2,578 24 124
Desert Wilderness 122 316 5 20
Great Ocean Road 1,396 4,349 54 577
Grampians 414 1,153 12 118
Goldfields 1,006 3,003 28 217
Mornington Peninsula 601 1,883 6 56
Phillip Island 234 744 13 30
Lower Murray 990 3,259 19 155
High Country 643 2,019 12 101
Lakes 742 2,449 22 99
Wildlife Coast 523 1,767 11 65

Source: Bureau of Tourism Research (1994)

An excellent discussion of these concepts in the context of protected areas appears in the study by Driml (1994). Techniques for measurement of such values are well documented in texts on environmental economics (Sinden and Worrell 1979; Haufschmidt et al. 1983; James 1994).

Many economic values find direct expression through market transactions, particularly for direct uses. A good example is the willingness to pay for ecotours or accommodation in natural areas.

Other values may not be measurable in market data. Many people may travel long distances for a nature-based experience, without necessarily paying for use of the area. Techniques are available to measure the value of the natural implicitly, such as the travel cost method (TCM). TCM provides information on use values; it is relevant to the valuation of biodiversity only inasmuch as biodiversity or ecosystem attributes are the main factor attracting people to particular sites.

Non-use values are more difficult to measure, because markets often do note exist through which people may express their values or preferences. A celebrated study by Krutilla and Fisher (1975) introduced an interesting method (the threshold value approach) of valuing natural areas when there is only limited information on the direct value of preservation options.

A commonly used technique for the valuation of natural areas is the contingent valuation method (CVM). Under this technique a hypothetical market for some natural good or service is described to a sample of subjects, who are then asked about their willingness to pay for it (Mitchell and Carson 1989, Wilks 1990). The mechanism through which values are expressed is known as a "payment vehicle".

Application of CVM is one way of determining whether people are prepared to pay for the protection of biodiversity, and if so, how much. A typical application would be to determine the willingness to pay for the preservation of biodiversity in designated natural areas, by means of an entry fee, user permit or special management fund.

CVM was used by the Resource Assessment Commission in its Kakadu Conservation Zone Inquiry and its Forest and Timber Inquiry. Other applications to the valuation of natural areas in Australia are discussed by DeLacy and Lockwood (1992) among others.

A common misconception is that CVM is necessarily restricted to non-market or existence values; in fact it can be used to estimate the willingness to pay for direct use values.

In some contexts, hypothetical markets for natural attributes could be transformed into actual markets, even for existence values. Proposals to introduce new funding mechanisms designed to protect biodiversity could be pre-tested by means of CVM and the payment vehicle could then become a reality. Such funding mechanisms are discussed in Section 8 of this report. They include user fees, permits, special management funds, charges collected by tourism operators and direct purchase of areas of ecological significance.

From an industry perspective, financial rather than economic values are what count: that is, net returns on their operations. Net returns are an important part of the total economic benefits accruing to the community: in a benefit-cost analysis, they are described as 'producers' surplus'.

An economic evaluation of ecotourism should include an assessment of public sector investments and other costs required to support ecotourism activity, such as roads, airports, water and sewerage and costs of managing natural areas, including information systems, site supervision and monitoring activities.

Other indirect effects of ecotourism may also be included in an economic evaluation. For example, if there is significant unemployment in a particular region, ecotourism may create new job opportunities. The value of such employment would be an important element in a benefit-cost analysis.

Input-output models may be used to predict the possible role of ecotourism in alleviating regional unemployment. Care should be taken, however, in interpreting the economic significance of indirect employment effects; they may not all comprise economic benefits in the benefit-cost sense, even though their incidence may be important for particular industries or segments of the work force (James 1994).

4.11 Empirical evidence of the value of natural areas

The most comprehensive survey undertaken on financial and economic values of protected natural areas in Australia is the study by Driml (1994). The main focus of the study is the Great Barrier Reef but other areas are also included. Driml has compiled a comprehensive data set with details of the size of the area, the primary purpose of management, direct uses, the number of visitors per year, annual expenditure by tourists and financial values of other commercial activities. The study provides estimates that when combined show that every year the Great Barrier Reef, the wet tropics of Queensland, Kakadu, Uluru Kata Tjuta and Kosciusko National Parks and the Tasmanian wilderness alone generate in excess of $2 billion from tourism as set out in Table 4.11. The main results of the survey by Driml are summarised below.

Table 4.11: Annual expenditure by tourists to six protected areas, 1991-92
Protected area Annual expenditure from tourism and recreation ($m)
Great Barrier Reef 776
Wet Tropics 377
Kakadu National Park 122
Uluru Kata Tjuta National Park 38
Tasmanian Wilderness 59
Kosciusko National Park 640
Total 2012

Source: Driml (1994,; Driml and Common (1995, p27)

Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area

The Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area, located along the north-east coast of Australia, is approximately 2,000 km in length and has a total area of 348,000 km². Its primary uses are conservation of the natural environment, conservation of cultural features and Aboriginal contemporary use. An undoubted attraction is its biodiversity, which is among the richest in the world.

The number of tourists visiting the area was estimated at 2.2 million with direct expenditure of $682 million, $776 million if recreational fishing and boating are included, $1,080 million including travel and $1,159 million including indirect expenditures. Commercial fishing occurs in the area, with a direct annual value of $128 million and a total value of $256 million taking indirect expenditures into account.

Management costs for the Great Barrier Marine Park Authority amounted to $18 million in 1991-92. The contribution by the Queensland Government was $3 million, with the remainder coming from the Commonwealth Government and revenue from other sources of $2.3 million. Annual expenditure on research by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority and the Australian Institute of Marine Research is $19.4 million.

Tour operators paid $0.075 million in contributions to monitoring programs and permit assessment fees. A visitor fee of $1 is paid by passengers on commercial vessels, which is expected to raise approximately $1 million per year.

Wet Tropics World Heritage Area

The Wet Tropics World Heritage Area is located in north-east Queensland with an area of 9,000 km². Nature conservation is a primary use. The area consists mainly of tropical rainforest, with an extremely diverse biota including many rare or threatened species of plants and animals. Other primary uses include conservation of cultural features and Aboriginal contemporary use.

Approximately 1.8 million tourists visit the area each year, with a direct expenditure of $377 million. The area supports various other commercial uses, which are currently under review. They include grazing, Aboriginal hunting and gathering, defence training, mining, quarrying, maintenance tree felling, commercial fishing, scientific collecting and harvesting plant products. Commercial timber harvesting is not permitted.

Funding for management of the area amounted to $12.05 million in 1991-92. The Commonwealth Government contributed $6.13 million to capital works and recurrent cost and the Queensland Government $2.23 million. A further $3.69 million was spent by other Queensland Government agencies on management of the area. No details were available of expenditure on research.

There is no entry fee to the area, but some revenue is earned from tourism operations and camping.

Kakadu National Park

Kakadu National Park is located in the Northern Territory east of Darwin with an area of 19,408 km². It is noted for its biodiversity and natural landscapes. The primary uses of Kakadu are nature conservation, Aboriginal contemporary use and conservation of cultural features.

Driml noted the number of tourists visiting the area in 1990 as 240,000 with direct expenditure of $122 million. A study by Knapman et al. (1991) was quoted to quantify expenditures within the Park and indirect impacts on the Northern Territory economy.

Revenue collected in 1992-93 amounted to $1.28 million, primarily from park use fees. The per capita entry fee was $10 per person or $40 per family. Camping fees at developed sites were $7 per site.

Funding for management is obtained mainly from the Commonwealth Government. In 1991-92 the allocation was $10.8 million. Driml did not document expenditure on research.

Uluru Kata Tjuta National Park

Uluru Kata Tjuta National Park is located in central Australia with an area of 1,325 km². The primary uses of Kakadu/Uluru Kata Tjuta are nature and cultural heritage conservation, traditional and contemporary Aboriginal use, tourism and promotion of park values. The main attraction is Uluru itself (Ayers Rock) and Kata Tjuta (the Olgas) which are surrounded by an arid landscape supporting desert ecosystems.

In 1991-92 the number of visitors to the park was 370,000. The projected number by Year 2000 is more than 800,000. Tourism expenditure in 1991-92 was estimated to be $155 million for the Centre Region. Of this, Uluru/Yulara was estimated to account for $38 million, based on survey data covering park use fees, returns to retail facilities within the park, commercial tours, accommodation and travel costs to the region.

Funding of $2.9 million was provided to the park in 1991-92 to cover management costs. No details were provided by Driml on research expenditure. The park entry fee is $10 per person. Revenue from all sources was $2.05 million in 1992-93.

Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area

The Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area is located in the central, west and south-west of Tasmania covering an area of 13,800 km². The main attractions of the area are undisturbed forests, a rich variety of plants and animals (some that are endemic and rare or endangered) and spectacular natural landscapes. The primary uses of the area are nature conservation, wilderness experience and conservation of cultural features. A wide range of recreational and ecologically based activities take place.

The total number of visitors to the area in 1990-91 was 597,000 with an estimated expenditure of $59 million. This represents a significant proportion of total tourism expenditure for all parks in Tasmania which has been estimated at $143 million per year. Driml quoted an expenditure multiplier of 2.27 for visits to national parks in Tasmania based on a study undertaken by the Centre for Regional Economic Analysis. Beekeeping is an important commercial activity with an annual value of output exceeding $200,000.

Commonwealth funding for capital works was $3.2 million with an additional $4.8 million contributed by the Tasmanian Government in 1991-92. Revenue of $175,000 was earned in 1991-92 from park use fees, leases and concessions. Park use fees were $5 per adult per day and $40 for a one-year permit.

Kosciusko National Park

Kosciusko National Park is located in south-east New South Wales covering an area of 6,900 km². The area contains much of Australia's alpine and sub-alpine environment with a diverse range of plant and animal species. The primary uses of the park are nature conservation and conservation of cultural features. The area is used extensively for nature-based tourism and recreation, including skiing during the winter and bushwalking in other seasons.

In 1991-92 the estimated number of tourists to the park was approximately 3 million. Direct expenditure was $640 million or $700 million including travel costs.

In 1992-93 a total of $11.45 million was spent on management of the park, including 43.85 million from Special Purpose Accounts, $5 million on capital works and $2.6 million in salaries and general operating costs.

Revenue earned by the park in 1992-93 amounted to $10.85 million comprising $7 million from park use fees and $3.85 million from service charges.

Ningaloo Marine Park

Ningaloo Marine Park is located 1200 km north of Perth on the coastline of Western Australia. It covers an area of 4,300 km². The park contains the largest fringing barrier reef in Australia and includes deep oceanic waters. The primary use of the park is nature conservation.

Tourism and recreation are the main direct uses. Commercial accommodation is available in areas near the park and more than 15 commercial tour operators offer trips for scuba diving, snorkelling, sightseeing to observe whale sharks and coral viewing.

The estimated number of visitors in 1989 was 110,000 but the number is probably much larger at the present time. The level of tourism expenditure directly associated with the park is not known. For the Gascoyne Region, which includes the park, there were 228,000 visitors in 1990-91, with expenditure of $57.6 million, excluding travel to the region.

Solitary Islands Marine Reserve

The Solitary Islands Marine Reserve is located on the north coast of New South Wales near Coffs Harbour. It is 70 km in length and covers an area of 1,000 km². It includes marine waters from the coast out to 50 m depth and adjoining rivers to the limit of tidal influence. The Reserve includes 85 000 km² of waters under New South Wales jurisdiction and 15000 km² of Commonwealth waters, the latter being completely offshore. The reserve contains a wide range of estuarine and near-shore marine ecosystems, including coral communities, and provides an important habitat for nesting seabirds.

The primary use of the area is nature conservation. It supports tourism and recreation, including six commercial operators providing scuba diving and sightseeing trips. The number of visitors and level of expenditure are unknown.

Commercial fishing also takes place in the reserve but the quantities caught and their value are not known. In 1991-92 the catch of fish and shellfish landed at the ports of Coffs Harbour, Wooli, Arrawarra, Woolgoolga and Brooms Head was 862,150 kg with and estimated value of $6 million, but information was not available on the proportion attributable to the marine reserve.

Funding for management of the area is provided mainly by the NSW Department of Fisheries, but Driml did not document management costs. A data collection program has been established to monitor the ecosystem.

Summary recommendation

Available empirical studies provide convincing evidence of the economic benefits of natural areas. It is recommended that such information is widely disseminated to representatives of the tourism industry and to government policy makers to demonstrate the need for ongoing and improved environmental management of these special areas. Economic benefits can support the case for biodiversity conservation. Additional economic studies should be undertaken to strengthen the understanding of the nexus between the two.