Distinguished researcher presents free lecture on national parks

April 22, 2013

A leading world researcher in environmental, recreation and tourism planning will present a free public lecture – National Parks in the 21st Century: Visitor Research and Opportunities – at Murdoch University on Tuesday, April 30.

Murdoch University Adjunct Professor Paul Eagles believes national parks and nature-based tourism precincts across Australia and around the world can benefit greatly from research attention and a global management approach.

“A major shift in the management of, and collaboration between, national parks and places of nature-based tourism is needed for them to remain viable, dynamic and competitive throughout the 21st Century,” Professor Eagles said.

Visiting Perth during April from the University of Waterloo in Canada, Professor Eagles said there were 10 essential issues impacting the future of national parks that required research.

Three of the areas are visitor motives, visitor monitoring and economic impact management.

“Visitor motive is a powerful area that is often overlooked,” Professor Eagles said.

“When people are planning activities for their weekends, national parks come into competition with a slew of potential activities, including shopping, movies, restaurants, beaches and zoos.

“For this reason, everyone involved in the area of tourism and recreation should be keen to find out what consumers look for when they visit a national park, what they feel they get from visiting, and if they leave with a sense of satisfaction.

“This information is vital for park managers, tourism operators and government agencies to improve planning and funding, and address levels of public support and interest.”

Professor Eagles said many national park management agencies did not keep accurate visitor number records and they did not have ongoing economic impact estimates.

He called for the establishment and adoption of globally viable visitor monitoring and economic impact estimate systems.

Professor Eagles said park management agencies and tourism scholars had significant roles to play in researching and developing management models that were accurate and financially efficient, and that could be applied throughout the world.

“If we know, for example, that a national park is visited by one million people each year, and we know that each visitor spends $80, we are dealing with an $80 million business,” he said.

“Studies show that national parks receive up to a $9 return for every $1 spent on them.

“When we know visitor numbers and factor in the economic impact, we are working with some powerful data.”

Following Professor Eagles’ lecture, the second edition of the book Natural Area Tourism, Ecology, Impacts and Management by Murdoch University Associate Professors David Newsome and Susan Moore, and Professor Ross Dowling of Edith Cowan University will be launched.

The lecture will be held at the Kim Beazley Lecture Theatre from 6pm to 8pm. Booking is essential on rsvp@murdoch.edu.au or 9360 6176.

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