Building Better Collaborative Management between Protected Area Managers and the Tourism Industry

By Wegner, Agathe; Moore, Susan A. et al. | Journal of Hospitality and Tourism Management, August 2004 | Go to article overview

Building Better Collaborative Management between Protected Area Managers and the Tourism Industry


Wegner, Agathe, Moore, Susan A., Macbeth, Jim, Journal of Hospitality and Tourism Management


Australia-wide, the tourism sector is valued at over $60 billion per annum, with at least a third being in the nature, eco and adventure tourism sector. With increasing tourist numbers, the problem becomes one of managing tourism in protected areas, to protect and maintain the values that attracted tourists in the first place. However, because of their training and other factors, many protected area managers often find it easier to manage natural resources rather than visitors. This often results in misunderstandings through to animosity between protected area managers and the tourism industry. Improving their relationship has the potential to ensure that protected areas are used sustainably by the industry as well as reducing management costs through more efficient practices and cost sharing. Collaboration can lead to better decisions that are more likely to be implemented by participating parties. Collaborative management also relies on knowing which tools help or hinder such collaboration. As part of this study, qualitative research methods, such as ethnography, interpretivism and action research are used to determine current efforts that foster or hinder collaboration. In using action research, this research will explore, through working with protected area managers and the tourism industry, which tools are most likely to build successful collaboration.

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Tourism is one of the world's leading and fastest-growing industries. Protected areas have always attracted people and natural-area tourism is one of the fastest-growing snbsectors of tourism worldwide (Newsome, Moore, & Dowling, 2002). Australia-wide, the tourism sector is valued at over $60 billion per annum, with at least one third falling in the nature, eco and adventure tourism sector (Buckley & Sommer, 2001).

With increasing tourist numbers, the problem becomes one of managing tourism in protected areas, to protect and maintain the values that attracted tourists in the first place. However, because of their training and other factors, many protected area managers often find it easier to manage natural resources rather than visitors. They regularly place the natural environment and its management ahead of visitor management (McArthur, 1994). Managers' perceptions form the basis for their actions and strategies; they purposively rely on their perceptions (Starbuck & Mezias, 1996). Misunderstandings through to animosity between protected-area managers and the tourism industry area are a recognised concern. Improving these relationships has the potential to ensure that protected areas are used sustainably by the industry as well as reducing management costs through more efficient practices and cost sharing.

In many ways, providing tourism products in protected areas is a partnership between several parties. Two parties crucial to the success and sustainability of such tourism are the tourism industry and protected-area managers (Worboys, Lockwood, & De Lacy, 2001). Little is known about the perceptions they have of each other, the industry and protected areas. How well managers and this industry are able to work together strongly influences the quality of the tourism product, the satisfaction of visitors, and the protection of the natural resource base on which the industry depends. An important associated issue is how well the diversity of staff within protected area agencies engage with and support tourism priorities.

Buckley (2000) noted that protected-area managers are facing the dilemma of allocation of financial resources and the question of priorities and perspective, as well as conservation versus recreation. Protected area managers are concerned that an increase in tourism within protected areas might threaten conservation aspects of the area. However, as Buckley (2000) stated, park managers are seeking funds from tourism to contribute to operating costs. An associated concern is that financial imperatives may reduce the ability of managers to manage for conservation if tourism becomes a higher priority than conservation. …

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