What are some of the aspects of a complex operating environment for tourism in rural Australia? Why is the notion of ‘place’ important for such discussions?
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With the decline in forestry, most tourism is based on experiences directly linked to nature. Wildlife, nature retreats and adventure are the cornerstones of modern tourism. However, in Australia, traditional industries such as logging are deeply related to the socio-economic situation of rural areas. Planners of nature-based tourism must, therefore, find a way of giving the indigenous community a say on the management of tourism. This complicates the environment in which tourism operates in rural Australia.
The complexity of managing and planning tourism in Eden is brought about by a number of competing opinions. These notions must be resolved if nature-based tourism is to be developed in a sustainable manner. Policymakers have to reconcile traditions with modernity and economic growth with safeguarding the environment. An especially difficult issue is that Australia’s rural communities are heterogeneous in regard to land use. Consequently, various communities react to tourism in different ways. In view of that, promoters of nature- based tourism must find a way of allowing all indigenous community to have a say on the tourism planning process. This is the key ingredient to sustainable tourism development in any area.
Sociocultural and ecological factors make the notion of ‘place’ an important aspect of sustainable tourism. A physical space associated with a certain meaning is referred to as a ‘place’. Although tourism brings with it goodies to the local community, it is a destroyer of local culture, norms and economy. For instance, the South East Fiber Exports (SAFE) woodchip group, in the township of Eden, generates 83,000 full-time jobs. With this in mind, it is highly unlikely that residents will let go of their source of income. Accordingly, tourism must be developed in a way that puts economic, ecological and social-cultural issues into consideration. In other words, sustainable nature-based tourism is anchored on the careful reorganization of local community’s way of life.
How may the use of psychology-based research methods help us to understand the impact of tourism development on communities?
Psychology based research methods are a useful tool in understanding the impact of tourism development on communities. Psychological variables help a researcher in balancing local opinion with new development. In addition, ways through which affected communities are to cope with the conditions in which the development occurs are devised. Failure to acknowledge the assumptions embedded in the local population is one of the causes of poor perception of tourism programs. A given tourist destination is defined by the psychological picture residents have for it. Ignoring this insight is a recipe for chaos.
Psychological research deals with ways through which people can be instrumentally manipulated in the pursuit of certain goals. In other words, community members are carefully lured into adopting development projects. In this case, diplomacy is not an option, but a way of life. Tourism planners are, hence, urged to dwell mostly on the ecological conceptualization of a destination than the environmental impact assessment. Environmental impact assessment is economically-oriented. On the other hand, ecological conceptualization gives a holistic picture of a place. This is the best link between economic development and the social wellbeing of a group of people. Additionally, it is a form of social impact assessment. In this regard, the local community is given a chance to coexist with nature and accrue some of the benefits gained from exploiting it. What keeps nature-based tourism going is the perception that the locals are receiving something in exchange for their way of life.