Discussion paper

Australia’s natural beauty is a key attraction for national and international visitors. Nature-based tourism is one of the fastest growing sub-sectors of the tourism sector. Indeed, growth in nature-based travel by international visitors, domestic overnight visitors and day-trippers outpaced the growth rate for overall visitation numbers in all three of these visitor-type categories. But it is important to recognise that nature-based tourism is about more than nice views. There is little point having a stunning natural landscape if no one can get there to see it. It is essential that visitors to these areas have access to facilities so they can stay, eat and play. The need for proper facilities to grow nature-based tourism was best articulated by Stephen T. Mather, first Director of the US National Park Service, in the early 1900s: "Scenery is a hollow enjoyment to the tourist who sets out in the morning after an indigestible breakfast and a fitful night's sleep on an impossible bed." The tourism-potential of Australia’s stunning natural areas cannot be unlocked without appropriate investment that turns inaccessible wilderness into a place where visitors can access, stay and enjoy. The shining light in Australia on how to best unlock the tourism potential of natural assets is Tasmania. The development of new experiences such as the Three Capes Track highlight what can be done with tourism investment that makes an area more accessible but without spoiling the very reason people want to visit in the first place. But, to date, Tasmania is an exception in Australia. Many other areas lag the Apple Isle and the rest of the world in delivering great nature-based experiences. For example, many of the National Landscapes featured in this report are isolated, only accessible by infrequent flights or long car trips and have limited options for people to stay in hotels or do things when they get there. This makes them unattractive places to visit, especially for international visitors. This paper is part of TTF’s contribution to the debate around how to conserve our natural areas while also unlocking the economic benefits that can be delivered by nature-based tourism.  

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