A troubled paradise: Stakeholder perceptions of tourism in the Daintree region of Far North Queensland, Australia

Hardy, Anne (2002). A troubled paradise: Stakeholder perceptions of tourism in the Daintree region of Far North Queensland, Australia PhD Thesis, School of Natural and Rural Systems Management, The University of Queensland.

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Author Hardy, Anne
Thesis Title A troubled paradise: Stakeholder perceptions of tourism in the Daintree region of Far North Queensland, Australia
School, Centre or Institute School of Natural and Rural Systems Management
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 2002
Thesis type PhD Thesis
Open Access Status File (Publisher version)
Supervisor Bob Beeton
Total pages 317
Subjects 350502 Tourism Resource Appraisal
150603 Tourism Management
350599 Tourism not elsewhere classified
Formatted abstract
In the 1990s, both the academic community and the tourism industry gave significant attention to the notion of sustainable tourism. It is a concept that recognises tourism as being reliant upon environmental, economic and socio-cultural resources. In doing so, it recognises that tourism must deal with issues that arise from stakeholders who may value resources differently and therefore have interests that may potentially conflict. This dissertation explores sustainable tourism on the premise that stakeholder management is an integral component, which involves the identification and incorporation of stakeholder perceptions into the management of tourism. With this in mind, the aim of this dissertation was to build theoretical propositions about stakeholder perceptions of tourism in the Daintree region of Far North Queensland, Australia. This required inquiry into the nature of stakeholder perceptions, the extent of overlap in their perceptions, and an assessment of whether the management of the area accounted for differing stakeholder perceptions. Instrumentally, the study sought to determine if an objective understanding of stakeholder perceptions could improve the management of tourism in the region.

The literature review identified that sustainable tourism is a concept that is contextual and relies on the notion of meeting subjective needs. Therefore, sustainable tourism depends on recognising stakeholder groups and their relative power and influence within given regions. The importance of feedback to monitor stakeholder perceptions was highlighted, along with the heterogeneous nature of stakeholder groups and subgroups, and the multidimensional interactions that occur between groups. It proposed that individual stakeholder perceptions of sustainable tourism have gained little disciplined consideration and no studies have addressed stakeholder group perceptions concurrently. The literature review proposed that an ideal state for sustainable tourism, from a stakeholder perspective, occurs at the junction of all stakeholder groups' interests. This assumes that stakeholder group perceptions are, and can be, understood by regulators and incorporated into the management of discrete regions.

A grounded theory approach was used to explore this proposition using an iterative, inductive design and multiple, mostly qualitative methods. These included observation, content analysis, focus groups and in-depth face-to-face, email and telephone interviews.

From analysis of observations, content analysis and interviews, a model of the tourism stakeholder system in the Daintree was developed, illustrating the non- homogeneity of stakeholder groups, who were identified as locals, tourists, operators and regulators. In addition, four different behavioural subgroups of tourists were identified: Free Independent Travellers (FITs); bus trippers; eco-lodgers; and backpackers. These subgroups were further classified according to their motivational preference, using segments re-developed by Horneman (1999). This classification was significant as it illustrated that the current management of tourism in the Daintree did not cater for the heterogeneous sub groups of visitors to the region.

Based on their perceptions, local people were also found to be divisible into two subgroups. One subgroup expressed a strong sense of disempowerment and dissatisfaction with the current management of tourism. During the course of this study, this sub group protested against the bus tour sector operating in the region who were supported by regulators on environmental grounds. Furthermore, interviews of regulators revealed that some regulators, who gave preference to locals with a more pronounced conservation ethic, disliked the sub group of protesting locals. This finding illustrated a tension that existed between regulators and some stakeholder groups within the Daintree tourism system, whereby management was incorporating only selected groups' perceptions.

Across all stakeholder groups, convergent and divergent opinions were clearly apparent, as well as an internal-external dichotomy between those stakeholders at a local level (operators, locals and tourist) and those at anon-local or external level (regulators).

An outcome of this study was the development of a General Model for Sustainable
Tourism (based on the Daintree Tourism Stakeholder System Model) which could be applied at any scale to enhance an area's progress towards sustainable tourism. This model included the theoretical propositions that:

•  sustainable tourism requires recognition of stakeholders as without this subjective needs will not be able to be met;
•  stakeholder groups are heterogeneous;
•  context and boundaries influence perceptions;
•  conflict and disempowerment indicate non-sustainability;
•  feedback is an inherent component of sustainability;
•  stakeholders must determine whether sustainable tourism involves trade-offs or balances;
•  stakeholder perceptions of tourism are characterised by convergence and divergence;
•  interaction allows convergent and divergent opinions to be managed;
•  sustainable tourism occurs when outputs are predominantly convergent;
•  prioritisation and labelling of stakeholders must be recognized, in order to minimise misunderstandings, biases or preferential treatment between groups; and
•  external actions of regulation such as policy and politics produce internal reactions such as satisfaction or opposition.

The study concluded that changes were desirable to the current management of tourism in the Daintree if it was to achieve the ideal state of sustainable tourism.
Keyword Tourism -- Queensland -- Daintree
Additional Notes The author has given permission for this thesis to be made open access.

Document type: Thesis
Collections: Queensland Past Online (QPO)
UQ Theses (RHD) - Open Access
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Created: Fri, 27 Nov 2009, 11:08:20 EST by Ms Christine Heslehurst on behalf of Social Sciences and Humanities Library Service