The Ningaloo Destination Model: Combining Scientific and Social Research for Sustainable Tourism Planning

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Achieving sustainable tourism development is elusive and involves interactions between governments, scientists, communities, land use planners, resource managers and developers. The Ningaloo Destination Modelling project seeks to provide a medium to harness these interactions through scenario planning that enables interested parties to gaze into the future of development at one of the world’s most significant fringing coral reefs.The project commenced with three workshops that developed scenarios that addressed issues of concern to stakeholders such as: what if the number of tourists doubles, what if water supplies can only support a limited population of residents and visitors, what if the reef is bleached by global warming or what if a budget airline begins operating in the region. These scenarios are informing the development of a tourism destination model for the region, based on the principles of systems dynamics and participatory research. This paper explores the process of harnessing scientific and social research expertise in a tool that addresses the economic, social and environmental impacts of tourism. Ninagloo Destination modelling is a project of Australia’s Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation’s (CSIRO) Wealth from the Oceans Ningaloo Flagship research collaborative and is funded by CSIRO and the Sustainable Tourism Cooperative Research Centre. Destination Modelling seeks to coalesce three years of research by scientists, social scientists and economists “…to evaluate possible management scenarios for the future planning for our marine ecosystems and the projected impact of human social and economic forces” (CSIRO, September 2006).


Keywords: Scenario Planning, Cross-Disciplinary Collaboration, Sustainable Tourism, Participatory Research
Stream: Sociology, Geography
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: Researching Tourism to the Ningaloo Reef, Western Australia, or how the Social Sciences can Collaborate in Researching Complex Problems


Dr. Tod Jones

Research Associate, Curtin Sustainable Tourism Centre
Faculty of Humanities, Curtin University of Technology

Perth, Western Australia, Australia

Tod has undertaken research in a range of different areas including economic evaluation, wildlife tourism, natural area tourism cultural tourism and cultural policy in Indonesia. Currently, Tod's research involves combining systems dynamics with sustainable tourism planning in participatory approaches to tourism planning. Sustainable tourism and systems thinking share many principles, the most important of which are an acknowledgment of the importance of exploring complex systems, and a commitment to continuous learning. Tod's current research focuses on the Ningaloo Reef, an iconic tourism destination in Western Australia's northwest and has recently become the focus of a world heritage application by state and federal Australian governments.

Prof. David Wood

Pro-Vice Chancellor, Faculty of Humanities, Curtin University of Technology
Perth, Western Australia, Australia

David is Project Leader of the Ningaloo Destination Modelling project, Chair of the State’s Coastal Planning and Coordination Council, Deputy Chair of the Ningaloo Sustainable Development Committee and is a member of the Western Australian Planning Commission. He is a planning practitioner, a supervisor of doctoral students and an active researcher in the areas of coastal tourism, planning and development, and community participation. David’s research focus also includes economic and social valuation of tourism impacts, developed through his research in the Gascoyne area of Western Australia.

Ref: I08P0738