Bruce is program director of the Masters of Sustainable Tourism Management at Central Queensland University, Cairns campus. He undertook his PhD studies at the University of Queensland. He has a wide range of research interests including sustainability issues, climate change, coral reef tourism, protected area tourism, rural tourism, remote area tourism and crisis management. He has authored over 200 journal articles and book chapters on a range tourism related issue. He has also authored or co-edited 11 books and is currently working on a new co-authored book that examines tourism in agricultural areas.
Seizing the Opportunity: Promoting Ecotourism as an Alternative to Overseas Travel
The cessation of international travel as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic has created both hardship and opportunity for Australia’s ecotourism sector. Advice from IATA that international travel may not reach pre2020 levels until at least 2024 is a compounding factor. The loss of international arrivals can be mitigated by refocusing marketing efforts to tap into the unmet holiday demand for the 11.3 million Australians who travel overseas annually. To capitalise on this new domestic market destinations and enterprises will need to re-evaluate their marketing strategies, product delivery styles and pricing. An important part of this process will be developing a detailed understanding of the domestic visitor and reengineering product offerings. This paper reports on the findings of a long-term visitor survey undertaken in Cairns. Key objectives of the study were to understand: the importance that domestic visitors place on access to nature; the importance of visiting national parks in destination selection; the level of enjoyment of environment based activities; and visitor dispersal patterns into surrounding regions where many of the destination’s key ecotourism assets are located. The study found that just over half (55.2%) of domestic respondents indicated the environment was a major consideration in selecting a destination most or all of the time. Surprisingly, only 40% of domestic repeat respondents visited the Great Barrier Reef indicating the need to re-evaluate product offerings to tap into this large market. Results indicate that there is significant potential to promote refreshed ecotourism experiences in the domestic market.