A stakeholder approach to ecologically sustainable tourism : the case of the Twelve Apostles, Port Campbell National Park, Victoria

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Munro, Angela (2001) A stakeholder approach to ecologically sustainable tourism : the case of the Twelve Apostles, Port Campbell National Park, Victoria. Research Master thesis, Victoria University.


There has been widespread support for formal treaties and declarations to ensure ecologically sustainable development (ESD) internationally and in Australia, at national and state levels, for almost 30 years. Despite this, the momentum of ESD appears to be waning (Low et al 2000). It is the author’s view that such loss of momentum calls for examination of planning process as it affects land use, including tourism. Indeed, the social and environmental impacts of tourism in Australasia have tended to be ignored in policy development (Hall et al 1997). Sub-optimal outcomes and the uncertainty engendered by costly and high profile conflicts over competing land use, in Australia and internationally in the past decade, highlight the need for such an examination. In addressing this hiatus between ESD policy development and implementation, the aims of this research are fourfold. First, it seeks to clarify the meaning of ecologically sustainable tourism, given the reliance of the rapidly growing Australian tourism industry on natural resource conservation. In so doing it addresses the inherent conflict between alternative visions for land use as they relate to tourism development in and around protected areas Second, contemporary applications of stakeholder theory are examined in order to analyse and learn from such tourism related land use conflicts. Stakeholders are defined as individuals or groups with multiple stakes or interests in an organisation or decision. Several epistemological perspectives are noted, with the present research fitting broadly within those of the political economy or political ecology of tourism, to which power relations are central. The third aim is to analyse the decision-making process in 1996-9 for the development of visitor facilities near The Twelve Apostles, an 'icon' coastal attraction of national significance at Port Campbell National Park, in south western Victoria. The case study method is chosen to enable an in-depth application of stakeholder theory to that process as it relates to ecologically sustainable outcomes. The framework used for this empirical analysis is derived from an approach to stakeholder management known as Shared Decision-making (SDM). It was applied in a recent design and evaluation of planning process in British Columbia, Canada, where a comparable governmental framework and experience of natural resource conflict made it a useful model for a Victorian case study (Williams, Penrose and Hawkes 1998). The Williams et al framework of evaluative criteria informs the schedule of semistructured interviews. This was administered to 17 respondents representing the 12 key decision makers and stakeholders involved in the decision-making process for the Twelve Apostles tourism development. The framework also underpins the author’s approach to analysis of material drawn from the project files of five stakeholder organisations and from contemporary media coverage. Finally, the research seeks to identify the implications of this decision-making process for tourism planning which is conducive to ecological sustainability. It is the author’s contention that a government commitment to collaborative planning, involving meaningful public participation is a key determinant of EST. Whereas community involvement has long been advocated for many reasons, philosophical and expedient, this research identifies the primary role of the community in promoting sustainable tourism as that of active citizens. Collaborative planning is judged essential but insufficient to achieve equitable and sustainable outcomes. Meaningful participation and environmental protection must also be enforceable through institutional reform, including provision for open standing and third party appeal rights, largely unavailable under Victorian environmental law. Collaborative planning and stakeholder management, it is argued, operates in a political context, insufficiently acknowledged. Research involving multiple cases and multiple jurisdictions would enable the validity of the study’s conclusions regarding the pivotal role of citizens (and non government organizations) in the implementation of ecologically sustainable tourism to be tested. Further research, it is argued, should promote an interdisciplinary approach drawing on political science, law, ecology, urban and regional geography and environmental planning. In particular, the application of political ecology to tourism offers a promising framework for the analysis and design of stakeholder management conducive to ecologically sustainable tourism.

Additional Information

Master of Business in Tourism Management

Item type Thesis (Research Master thesis)
URI https://vuir.vu.edu.au/id/eprint/532
Subjects Historical > RFCD Classification > 350000 Commerce, Management, Tourism and Services
Historical > Faculty/School/Research Centre/Department > School of Hospitality Tourism and Marketing
Keywords sustainable tourism; twelve apostles
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