Challenging tourism theory through integrated models: How multiple model projects strengthen outcomes through a case study of tourism development on the Ningaloo Coast of Western Australia
Jones, T and Fulton, EA and Wood, D, Challenging tourism theory through integrated models: How multiple model projects strengthen outcomes through a case study of tourism development on the Ningaloo Coast of Western Australia, SUSTAINING OUR FUTURE: understanding and living with uncertainty, 12-16 December 2011, Perth, Western Australia, pp. 3112-3120. ISBN 978-098721431-7 (2011) [Refereed Conference Paper]
Copyright 2011 The Modelling and Simulation Society of Australia and New Zealand Inc.
This paper has the dual purpose of challenging tourism planning theory through modelling, and reflecting on the multi-model collaboration that made this possible and extended the reach of a tourism modelling project. As such it provides a practice-oriented reflection on collaboration between modelling projects grounded in a discussion of model outputs and extension activities. The Ningaloo Destination Modelling (NDM) project was one of five research projects within the Ningaloo Collaboration Cluster, a program of research that was funded by the CSIRO's Wealth from Oceans Flagship. The NDM project was also funded by the Sustainable Tourism CRC, and collaborated with a number of organisations including two Shires, state agencies, utility providers, tourism businesses and the Gascoyne Development Commission to gather data and refine model features and dynamics. The Ningaloo Collaboration Cluster focussed on the Ningaloo Coast, encompassing the Shires of Carnarvon and Exmouth, in the northwest of Western Australia. Beginning 900 km north of Perth, the Ningaloo Coast is a remote tourism destination with a resident population of approximately 8000. It attracts between 170 000 and 200 000 tourists a year. The growth of tourism and tourism development opportunities relies on the attraction of the region's remoteness and a delicate ecosystem linked to a fringing coral reef that is over 300 kilometres long. Thus inappropriate tourism development and visitor growth could jeopardise the future of tourism and alienate locals who place a high importance on the natural environment. Tourism is an activity that transforms places and communities. It has a variety of thresholds that have been linked to economic, social and ecological change. The most widely used model of tourism development, Richard Butlers Tourism Area Life Cycle (TALC) model identifies these transformations and thresholds, linking impacts to six stages of development that are determined by the relationship between visitor numbers and time. Using four feedback loops (accommodation capacity, worker availability, social impacts, and visitor response to environmental regulation) together with visitor preferences, the NDM captures the transformative elements of the TALC, and moves away from deterministic assumptions linking impacts to a "stage" of development. Equally important, development strategies that lessen the undesirable impacts of development can be explored, indicating that the TALC stages are not the sole direction that tourism development need follow. This is demonstrated in the paper through a case study of a remote tourism node on Gnaraloo Station, in the middle of the Ningaloo Coast. A thread that runs through this paper is the influence of multiple modelling projects within the Ningaloo Collaboration Cluster. The most important influence from the perspective of this paper was the modelling results, where integration with an ecological model of the region provided a range of ecological indicators that indicate the influence on key environmental attractions.