08 September 2008

Researchers calling for climate change leadership to protect Kakadu tourism

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Researchers from the Charles Darwin University School for Social Policy and Research (SSPR) have said extreme climate change could irreversibly damage Kakadu’s major tourist attractions.

They believe climate change could potentially inundate freshwater wetlands with salt water and flood thousands-of-years old Aboriginal rock art.  As a result, the University is spearheading national research into climate change, and will be funded by the Sustainable Tourism Cooperative Research Centre.  The Top End, the Great Barrier Reef, the Blue Mountains, the Australian Alps and the Barossa Valley will be used as case studies to develop strategies for tourist operators to curb the effects of climate change.

"We can expect more severe cyclones affecting the Top End. If a category five cyclone like Monica were to make a direct hit on Kakadu, it could wipe out an entire tourist season and have considerable impact on the destination’s market share. It could also take tourism businesses years to fully recover," Associate Professor Pascal Tremblay told his University’s news provider.

Dr Tremblay also added that while the Government and park management seem to be aware of the nature and scope of the environmental situation and the possible repercussions of extreme climate change for Kakadu tourism, the local tourist operators are in need of leadership.

"Due to the importance of Kakadu as a tourism driver, the impacts of changes in tourism demand and supply that could be linked to climate change extend considerably beyond the boundaries of the park, to Top End tourism generally," Dr Tremblay said.

In related news, a new plan to engage Aboriginal Australians with tourism ventures in Kakadu National Park are being encouraged by local indigenous leaders and the Federal and Territorial Governments in an attempt to encourage more people to visit Australia, reports ABC News. 

Since Kakadu National Park was opened 30 years ago, Aboriginal Australians have been acknowledged as half-owners of the land, which they lease to the Federal Government.  The tourism ventures, however, have been largely run by the Commonwealth Government and little has been done to seize the opportunities of cultural tourism for "experience seekers".  Tourism Australia recognises that there are tourists who are looking for the overall experience when travelling, and Aboriginal Australians in Kakadu can provide this.

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Article by Jessica Bird, Australian Visa Bureau.

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