The real thing: tourists' attitudes towards tourism development on the Coral Coast, Australia.
This paper reports on part of a research project funded by the CRC for Sustainable Tourism [Australia] which investigated the political processes involved in the emergence of vocal and widespread public opposition to a proposal to develop a resorVmarina complex at Mauds Landing, in the remote Coral Coast region of Western Australia and adjacent to the renowned Ningaloo Reef. This resort complex had been on the development agenda for more than fifteen years but in July 2003 was finally rejected by the Western Australian government. The final refusal of the resorVmarina proposal was at least in part due to the vocal and tenacious opposition to the development. Most protest action occurred in Perth, more than 1000kms south of the site of the planned development, and home to many regular visitors to the Coral Coast region. The scope of opposition to the proposed resort complex suggested that the 'affected community' of a remote tourist destination such as Maud's Landing/Coral Bay is much broader than those that live in the area in question. Given that this type of opposition to development in Australia appears to be strengthening and involves the relatively new concept of tourists against tourism development, an important component of this research project was a series of interviews with international and domestic visitors to the Coral Coast region. The interviews examined a range of issues regarding visitors' opinions about the Maud's Landing resort and marina development proposal in the context of their attitudes towards tourism development in Western Australia generally, and more specifically, in remote regions such as the Coral Coast region. The interviews revealed that respondents were generally positive about the benefits of promoting and developing Western Australia as a tourist destination. The Coral Coast region offered the best of the state with its unique beauty, its isolation, and the Ningaloo Reef - seen as the 'jewel in the crown' for Western Australian tourism. However, this support for tourism development and promotion was tempered by cautious recognition that any future development needed to be appropriate to the area and sustainable in the long term. Respondents expressed concern regarding the potential for inappropriate tourism development to incur irreversible damage to the region's pristine environment and fragile ecosystem. For most respondents, the proposed resort/marina complex had represented an inappropriate form of tourism development. Furthermore, many respondents felt that such a development would damage the area's unsophisticated character, the visitors it attracted, and threaten the survival of a type of holiday no longer available in many tourist destinations. This paper explores these tourists' understanding and articulation of sustainable tourism development issues as it relates to the Coral Coast and discusses the implications of this for remote regions in general.... [Show full abstract]