Implications of a changing alpine environment for geotourism: A case study from Aoraki/Mount Cook, New Zealand

Purdie, H
Hughes Hutton, Jessica,
Stewart, Emma
Espiner, Stephen
Journal Article
Fields of Research
ANZSRC::1506 Tourism , ANZSRC::3508 Tourism
Aoraki Mount Cook National Park in the New Zealand Southern Alps attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors annually. However, this iconic alpine destination is changing due to rapid glacial recession. To explore the implications of environmental change on visitor experience, this study adopted a mixed-methods approach, combining geophysical measurement with visitor surveys (n=400) and semi-structured interviews with key informants (n=12) to explore the implications of environmental change on visitor experience. We found the key drawcard to the park is Aoraki the mountain, with the glaciers playing a secondary role. Visitors had a strong awareness of climate change, but somewhat ironically, one of the key adaptive strategies to maintaining mountain access has been an increase in the use of aircraft. Opportunities exist for a strengthening of geo-interpretation in the park that not only educates but also encourages people towards more sustainable life choices. Management Implications: This study has highlighted some key issues important to future management decisions in alpine regions experiencing climate-related change: • Glacier recession is presenting significant challenges to alpine access for tourists and recreationists. • Increased reliance on aircraft as one strategy to address reduced access to the glaciers in itself requires careful management. • Visitor interpretation that not only explicitly addresses environmental change, but also encourages individuals to reflect on their own lifestyles should be further explored.
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