Ecotourism/wildlife tourism: what are the visitor’s perceptions?

Background

Tourism contributes over $100 billion to the Australian economy and employs 1 million people, with the natural environment the main attraction (Ecotourism Australia 2015).  Ecotourism/wildlife tourism enables tourists to experience natural areas and encounter wildlife.

Ecotourism/wildlife tourism aims to be sustainable, to benefit its community, deliver messages of conservation, and manage negative effects (Kutay, 1993).

Ecotourism/wildlife tourism contributes to conservation by generating revenue to manage protected bushland (Buckley 2009; Steven et al. 2013), raising awareness of conservation issues, supporting research, and  garnering political support by attracting tourists and providing employment (Buckley 2009).

Why study people’s perceptions?

People’s perceptions determine wildlife and nature conservation, and are based on tradition and history, socio-economics, emotions and aesthetics (Navarro & Pereira, 2012).

Hence their perceptions can determine the success or failure of ecotourism/wildlife tourism ventures and as such, changed perspectives can change conservation.  Tourist attitudes determine their nature and wildlife interactions.

By measuring visitor attitudes we can assist tour operators to achieve visitor satisfaction, guide future planning, and raise conservation awareness (Moscardo & Saltzer, 2004).

Methodology

This project will be undertaken through:

  • A review of relevant previous research
  • Surveys of stakeholders including scientific experts, government agencies, business operators and tour operators to find out their perspectives on ecotourism/wildlife tourism and conservation
  • Surveys of tourism operators in Australia and overseas relating to conservation successes and failures
  • A case study the of Hidden Vale project

What about Hidden Vale visitors?

A survey of 100 guests conducted at Hidden Vale in 2015 to measure visitor attitudes found wildlife interactions and the conservation of the environment were highly regarded.

More than 90% of respondents were interested in seeing wildlife in their natural environment (93%), 78% were interested in participating in wildlife activities if they were made available and 61% said they would more likely to participate if they knew it was helping conservation.

References

Buckley, R 2009, 'Parks and Tourism', PLoS Biology, vol. 7, no. 6, p. e1000143.

Ecotourism Australia 2015, ‘Ecotourism Australia Annual Report (2014-15)’, Viewed 3rd March 2017, http://www.ecotourism.org.au/assets/EcotourismAustralia-Annual-Report-14-15-Sml.pdf

Kutay, K 1993, ‘Brave new role: Ecotour operators take centre stage in the era of green travel’. In: Going Green: The Ecotourism Research for Travel Agents. Supplement to Tour and Travel News vol. 25, no. 80.

Moscardo G. & Saltzer R. 2004, Understanding wildlife tourism markets. Wildlife Tourism. Ed. K. Higginbottom, Chapter 9, pp. 167-185, CRC for Sustainable Tourism, Gold Coast, Queensland.

Navarro, LM & Pereira, HM 2012, 'Rewilding Abandoned Landscapes in Europe', Ecosystems, vol. 15, no. 6, pp. 900-12.

Steven R, Castley J, Buckley R (2013) Tourism Revenue as a Conservation Tool for Threatened Birds in Protected Areas. PLoS One, vol. 8, no. 5, p. e62598.

 

Project members

Margie Maccoll

PhD student
School of Agriculture and Food Sciences

Dr Andrew Tribe

Wildlife Manager
The Gainsdale Group

Associate Professor Peter Murray

Associate Professor
School of Agriculture and Food Sciences