Holidaymakers can play a major role in minimising the impact of tourism on some of Australia’s iconic islands, according to research from Southern Cross University.
Dr Brent Moyle, a postdoctoral research fellow from the School of Tourism and Hospitality Management, has investigated visitor perceptions of tourism impacts on Bruny and Magnetic islands. His research was recently published in the Journal of Travel Research.
‘Basically we set out to understand if our islands are in danger of being loved to death and our research suggests that some just might be,’ Dr Moyle said.
‘Essentially this is because tourism on islands, like elsewhere, has economic, environmental, social and even cultural impacts.
‘However, on islands there is the potential for these impacts to be amplified. For example, islands need to import goods for tourists; they typically have endangered wildlife; often have larger indigenous populations; generally have limited freshwater supplies; generally have limited space for landfill; and tourism can increase prices on islands.
‘The idea behind our research was that island management authorities could better manage tourism impacts if they had an understanding of the visitor perspective.
‘Overall, visitors recognised that tourism activity increases impacts and evaluated these as mostly positive for the island communities. While visitors were aware of a range of positive and negative impacts, they judged their own impact to be more positive than that of tourism collectively.’
With that in mind, Dr Moyle then focused on the question of how islands could best manage tourism impacts to ensure they were kept in a pristine condition for future generations to enjoy. Visitor perceptions were measured by surveys of visitors to Magnetic and Bruny islands.
‘We found that visitors have a key role to play when it comes to managing impacts on islands,’ he said.
‘Tourists can use less water, select a tourist option with a sustainable energy option, take their waste off the island, pick up litter, be mindful of local wildlife, be respectful of locals in shared recreation spaces, avoid excess alcohol consumption, spend money at local businesses and join community groups focused on the preservation of key natural, cultural and historic assets.
‘The engagement of visitors in the management of tourism impacts is often overlooked by authorities on islands. By gaining a greater understanding of tourism development-related change, visitors could be motivated and empowered to reflect on and adjust their own impact-inducing behaviours.
‘The Smart Lifestyle Centre in Horseshoe Bay, Magnetic Island, is a step in the right direction. At the Lifestyle Centre visitors are educated about sustainable energy use with the hope that they will not only engage in environmentally responsible behaviour while on the island, but will take some of the key lessons learned about sustainable energy consumption home to integrate into their everyday lives.’