Globalization increases the opportunities for heritage tourism across the globe and this comes with increasing economic growth across the globe as a result of its influence on trade and investment and hence a rise in world GDP.
According to Cooper, Dwyer, Edwards, Mistilis, Roman and Scott (2008, p. 1) heritage tourism has many other advantages which like promoting international understanding, diffusion of information technology, environmental awareness among many others.
However, its negative impacts on the regions and the local communities by far outweigh its economic and social benefits. The negative impacts include evicting people from their homes which is a violation of fundamental human rights and environmental degradation.
More money and human resources is used in supporting heritage tourism projects, including campaigns aimed at diluting the effects of criticisms labeled against it; despite their minimal returns. This implies that resources that could have been used to fund meaningful projects which could contribute to more sustainable environmental and social problems are channeled to ecotourism projects.
Besides, ecotourism projects often cause conflicts due to changes in land-use. These projects do not deliver community-level benefits that they promise at the beginning since the money is collected by the county councils or game parks management.
Ecotourism projects occasionally fail to live up to sustainability ideals. Issues of environmental conservation are usually overlooked in heritage tourism projects as it is generally assumed to be consumer-oriented. Those evicted from their original homes create extra pressure in the environments they migrate to leading to development of additional infrastructure and social amenities.
This implies that the already limited resources, including the non-renewable resources are used up. Natural land is converted to tourist infrastructure as forests and wildlife habitats are destroyed. Population pressure created by ecotourism also lead to pollution of the environment associated with western lifestyle since most of them do not understand the ecological consequences of their behaviors.
Heritage tourism in Australia
According to Moore and Tourism Tasmania (2008, p. 7) Tourism Research Australia considers Australia’s cultural and natural resources to be the major attractions for both domestic and international tourists.
Heritage tourists are usually attracted by historical sites, buildings and monuments; aboriginal communities and sites, arts and cultural displays; museums; cultural festivals and events, performing arts and theatres among others (Heritage Council and Tourism Western Australia 2006).
Statistics indicate that cultural and heritage visitors in Australia have increased since 2oo6 (Moore and Tourism Tasmania 2008, p. 7). Tourism Western Australia states that cultural and heritage tourism can help improve the economic vitality of Western Australian communities as well as to improve awareness and conservation and hence broaden the countries tourism base (Moore and Tourism Tasmania 2008, p. 9)
Global Factors Impacting on Sustainability of Heritage tourism in Australia
There are various global drivers and forces that have been identified by the Australia government as likely to shape heritage tourism in Australia (Cooper et al. 2008, p. 13). Global climatic change has a negative impact on the management and preservation of environmentally sensitive tourist resources and regions.
It causes rise in sea level and flooding risks which damage the country’s infrastructure and in particular tourist infrastructure and facilities hence disrupting tourist activities. It also affects the mid-summer tourism sports. Generally, global climatic change discourages tourists from visiting Australia due to health risks that it poses hence lowering the revenue collected from cultural and heritage tourism (Cooper et al. 2008, pp. 32-33).
Global political trends also affect the sustainability of heritage tourism. Conflicts in the Middle East occasionally lead to increases in fuel prices. This negatively impacts the demand for travel, especially travelling for tourism purposes.
Local Factors Impacting on Sustainability of Heritage tourism in Australia
Heritage degradation is affected by local factors such as local pollution, poverty, ideologies, tourism, war, religion, among others (Amo๊da, Lira and Pinheiro 2010, p. v). Although tourists involved in cultural and heritage tourism claim to help educate and create awareness, they do not understand their ecological influences in these areas.
They dump garbage all over the place and this leads to pollution caused by the tourists themselves. It is also affected by the criticisms from those who feel that the resources used in developing cultural and heritage tourism projects could be used in developing another sustainable sector of the economy.
The Phase of Human and Ecological Sustainability
The sustainability of heritage and cultural tourism is in the strategies proactive phase. According to the Australian Tourist Commission (nd, i) the Australian Heritage Commission, the Cooperative Research Centre for Sustainable Tourism and the Department of Industry, Science and Resources have been involved in finding issues that affect the Australian heritage tourism for many years.
There are also heritage managers whose duties are to enable legislation and to protect and conserve heritage places that they manage (Australian tourism commission nd, p. 7). Sustainability efforts also involve indigenous custodians whose management responsibilities are to oversee places based in customary law.
More research is also being done by many other organizations which are also involved promoting heritage tourism activities.
One such corporate organization is the International Hotel Environment Initiative which is an educational charity working to help encourage improvements in environmental performance by raising environmental awareness aimed at encouraging good practices in the hotel industry (Commission on Sustainable Development Seventh Session 1999, p. 4)
Sustainability Plan for cultural Heritage tourism in Australia
The main objective for the sustainability plan for heritage tourism industry in Australia is to involve all stakeholders in the protection and enhancement of the aboriginal culture and heritage. Other objectives include developing and maintaining infrastructure that supports sustainable communities and tourism within the country.
The purpose of the plan is to involve the government and other stakeholders, including the corporate organizations to better understand and contribute in protection and conservation of the cultural and heritage assets within the country. It emphasizes on the need for commitment by stakeholders to help preserve cultural heritage and to assist the indigenous people to achieve their cultural heritage aspirations.
The Action Plan
All cultural heritage sites and conservation areas will be fenced to ensure that the area is undisturbed. Secondly, all the personnel working in the cultural heritage industry must have completed a heritage management course or an induction on cultural and heritage awareness.
Hazard analysis and environmental impact assessment will be carried out on all the existing cultural and heritage projects as well as new projects awaiting implementation so that any activity that poses environmental risk to the region or community to be relocated to the most suitable area.
Monitoring of the heritage sites will be done by both the environmental and the indigenous groups’ representatives. Management of heritage sites will be done by heritage experts who fully understand the logistics involved in cultural heritage management and conservation.
All heritage activities have to be authorized by the Department of Tourism in collaboration with the Department of Environment who must carry out an environmental impact assessment before allowing the activity.
Relocation of heritage sites must also follow recommendations from the Department of Indigenous Affairs Standards. Appropriate protection measures on any new heritage project to be located around already existing heritage site’s conservation zone will be taken in order to ensure that the older heritage sites remain undisturbed.
Involvement of corporate Organizations
The government agencies to be involved in the management and conservation project include the Australian Cultural Heritage Management, the Department of Environment and Conservation, the Department of Indigenous Affairs and the Environmental Protection Authority. It will also involve the Traditional Custodian groups across all the regions in the country (Canning, Draper and Molt 2007, p. 10).
Partnerships will also be established with other corporate and international organizations, mainly the International Hotel Environment Initiative, the US government, the UK government and the Cooperative Research Centre for Sustainable Tourism.
The management will involve all the stakeholders at different levels. There will be the national coordinating office in Sydney and other regional offices in each region as well as district coordinating offices in each district. All the government agencies and corporate organizations will perform specific duties and responsibilities and will also be involved in collaborative work (Heritage Council and Tourism Western Australia 2006, p. 21).
Decisions will be made by all the stakeholders or specific group whenever necessary.
Avoiding environment and Social Impacts during the period
During the period, there should a continued monitoring of all aboriginal heritage sites and consultations with the indigenous groups of each region in order to achieve sustainable development of the projects and to make them relevant to the indigenous communities. New benchmarks for every cultural heritage site should be set after phase of the project implementation so as to realize sustainability.
Heritage activities involving archaeological activities will involve archeological and ethnographic heritage surveys and also encompass all representative groups, including the Traditional Custodian groups (Government of Western Australia 2003).
This will enable the project managers and organizers receive constructive feedback on the heritage activity and review the requirements for the projects. All the heritage sites will be zoned to ensure effective monitoring and protection measures are implemented in each zone.
Phases of the Sustainability Plan for the project
The first phase planned to take one year will involve carrying an environmental impact assessment and situational analysis of the existing government heritage assets and others which are privately managed or are left carefree. It will involve a baseline analysis on the contributions of heritage tourist activities on the specific areas and communities.
The second phase will take the next two years and will involve sensitizing the general public as well institutions on the need to protect and conserve cultural and heritage materials and sites. This will be done by non-governmental organizations under the coordination of the Department of Indigenous Affairs. However, this is expected o be continuous throughout the ten year period.
This period also involves identification of each site’s or heritage material’s unique requirements and developing appropriate protection and conservation approach. It will also involve acquiring land and space for developing the identified projects and needs in each area.
The research would be done by the Department of Environment and Conservation in collaboration with the Cooperative Research Centre for Sustainable Tourism. This phase also involve developing strategies and policies for implementing and governing the project operations.
The third phase, which will also take the next three years will involve implementations of the recommendations from the first and the second phase. It will also involve monitoring of the progress of each heritage site and activity and evaluating the outcome.
At the end of the end of the first phase, auditing and evaluation is done on each project and the report is presented to all the stakeholders who then sit down to review the implementation process and the benchmarks for each project.
The project is then given another two-year term to monitor the progress and review the bench in accordance with the outcome and make appropriate adjustments.
The final two years will be to review the goals and strategies for protection and conservation and to try and implement long term goals.
After the ten year plan, reviewing of the success of the project would require certain sectoral changes to make the projects in each region be more sustainable and beneficial to the people. It is therefore important to make decisions and planning which involve the local government.
According to Amery, Hiscox-Price, Leong and Thompson (2010, p. 7) inclusion of the council in heritage activities helps in creating favorable tourism condition and effective environmental management. This also helps in enabling the local communities to realize the multiplier effects of the projects within their communities (Canning, Draper and Molt 2007).
Heritage tourism has both negative and positive impacts on all sectors of the economy. This document studies the negative impacts of tourism and how best to counter its negative impacts on the ecological environment. It analyzes the possible negative impacts on the heritage industry in Australia and the possible management strategies to help combat the negative impacts of heritage tourism.
Effective heritage tourism management involves evaluating the impacts of the tourism activity the environment and the area which it occurs.
Heritage tourism management should not be left to Department of Indigenous Affairs and the Department of Tourism alone; it should involve all stakeholders, including communities. Better management and conservation strategy need to be developed and implemented to help protect the ecological environment.
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