Community engagement in regional development: a case study of a systems approach to tourism in central Australia

Community engagement in regional development: a case study of a systems approach to tourism in central Australia News

The Rangeland Journal

  • Author(s): Friedel, MH, Chewings, VH
  • Published: 2011
  • Publisher: DKCRC
  • Volume: 33

Abstract: We report a case study of community involvement in industry and regional development which took a whole-system approach to growing the tourist industry in central Australia. All stages of the study are presented beginning with the initial creation of a systems model of the industry in collaboration with the tourism industry, government agencies and the wider community in Stage 1. The process of engaging support for Stage 2 is described and attempts to refine the components of the model and develop an information system in the second stage are outlined. Neither a refinement of the tourism simulator model nor a functional information system were achieved, although extensive information was gathered and interpreted as part of the process. The outcomes were constrained by institutional difficulties despite clear goodwill among the participants. Contrary to expectations, data that would help build the sub-models were not found. An events and attractions investment sub-model was developed as fully as possible to explore data constraints. Information provided by interviewees was synthesised as far as possible to develop relationships describing economic impacts, but different ways of estimating outcomes were not compatible, even within a single sub-model. A review of recent literature showed that effective modelling required much more sophisticated data gathering than was possible within this study to indicate sustainable yield from different investment strategies. The study provided a practical demonstration of the challenges involved in genuinely engaging a regional rangeland community in industry and regional development, and the limited benefits of systems dynamics modelling, especially where resources and data are constrained. A useful outcome was the identification of the particular activities which elicited the greatest response from participants – the systems workshops, trialling the demonstration tourism simulator and one-on-one sharing of information. These should form the basis of future community involvement in regional development rather than any attempt to refine modelling tools.

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