A Report to the ANZECC Working Group on National Park and Protected Area Management
Department of Natural Resources and Environment, Victoria 1996
About this document
Many protected areas, already popular with local communities, have become a focus of visits by interstate and international tourists. Estimates in increases in visitor numbers lie in the range of 4% per annum in remote protected areas, 16% to 17% in near urban parks and up to 20% in high profile World Heritage Areas (McIntyre, 1995). These increases in numbers are driven by many factors not least of all major promotion of the Australian natural environment by State and Commonwealth tourist agencies.
Management of protected areas suffers because of a lack of reliable data on visitors:
- to guide the provision and location of services;
- to provide estimations of carrying capacities;
- to assess performance and
- to enable the analysis of the contribution of protected areas to local, regional and national economies.
When data on visitors is collected, it is usually limited to visitor numbers (car counts, spot counts at popular localities etc.) and neglects to provide information on visitor characteristics and attitudes. Data on visitor characteristics and attitudes often suffer from issues related to sampling (population, season, time), lack of comparability in terms of measures (instrument design, definition) and transferability (within a State and between States).
The collection of reliable visitor data in protected areas is not an easy task given that many of them are remote, have multiple entry and exit points, enclose communities of various sizes and depend on self-registration for permits and fee payment etc. Most of the States and many other countries share these same problems and a search for 'best practice' within the Australian context can provide a first step towards the continuous process of improvement in visitor monitoring and management.