Tropical Savannas CRC > Research > CRC Research 2001-2008 > Tourism > Community benefits from tourism

Community benefits from tourism

Status: Complete

Leader: Dr Silva Larsen, CSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems, Townsville (former leader, Dr Romy Greiner)
Dr Tom Vigilante, Land+Sea Management Unit Kimberley Land Council, Broome

Full title: Improving the benefits to savanna communities from tourism
Project 3.1.7 (This project was also part of Multiple Use in Savanna Regions)

Summary | Objectives | Links to CRC objectives | Collaborative links | Outcomes | Outputs | Project team | References |


Tropical savannas hold many attractions for tourists. Tourism is an increasingly important source of economic activity, and employment for regional and remote communities. It therefore provides development options that complement traditional industries such as grazing, mining and fishing.

However tourism can come at a cost to regional communities if visitors spend little money but draw heavily on the region’s natural and human resources, infrastructure and services. Tourism, therefore, has to be well planned and managed to ensure maximum benefits for the regional community.

This project contains a series of coordinated activities that investigate avenues for improving community benefits from tourism across the tropical savannas. The common theme across activities is to help communities, agencies and tourist bodies to promote and manage tourism in a way that (1) provides necessary advantages for the people in savanna regions, (2) promotes sustainable tourism development and (3) complements broader regional development strategies.

The first study is designed to support and guide the Carpentaria Shire in increasing the community's benefit from tourism. Karumba is the focus point for tourism in the Shire. This study elicits the willingness-to-pay of visitors for access to various natural resources, infrastructure and services and develops mechanisms and policies that can be implemented at the local government level and by regional tourism and planning agencies. This activity is supported by the Carpentaria Shire Council and Gulf Savannah Tourism.

A report on the outcome of this study is now available as a free PDF to download — for those with slow connections, the report can also be downloaded chapter by chapter. Just follow the link below to the report in our Publications section.

The second study is designed to rapidly provide information to catalyse and coordinate management actions by government, non-government, commercial and community agencies that will mitigate the adverse impacts, and improve the positive benefits, from tourism attracted by the Gibb River Road (GRR) in the Kimberley. Its scope is intended to include a range of land tenures along the road from Derby to the Wyndham-Kununurra turnoff, including the Mitchell Plateau road and cattle stations, communities, tourist attractors and side roads along the route.

The study was undertaken to coincide with the time of peak tourist activity (July-August) in a year when self-drive tourism is expected to be at record levels.


Find ways to generate prosperity from tourism for the people in the tropical savannas. Specifically:

  • Provide new data and understanding about tourists to the region that demonstrate tourist activities, resource use and values assigned to tourist experience, and willingness-to-pay for access to natural resources (eg. fishing, nature reserves), infrastructure and services;
  • Design and assess strategies and policies to maximise regional benefits from tourism;
  • Work within regional planning frameworks and processes to improve regional development strategies with specific respect to tourism development.
  • In particular, the Gibb River Road project in the Kimberley will support a coordinated response to:
  • manage the multiple uses in the range of tenures (15 Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal owned pastoral leases, several Aboriginal reserves, and numerous outstations and communities) traversed by the Gibb RIver Road;
  • mitigate the impacts of intense tourist and vehicle use on key savanna ecosystems (usually aquatic and riparian, many of high cultural significance) along the road;
  • improve the flow of benefits from tourism to Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal communities along the Gibb River Road.

Links to CRC broader objectives

The project contributes to the CRC Objectives Viable and socially desirable regions and productive and capable people. It does so by (1) enhancing understanding of savanna tourism, how to manage it ecologically sustainably and maximise its benefits for regional communities, and (2) incorporating understanding and policies into broader regional development frameworks and processes. The work is undertaken in close liaison and in collaboration with decision makers at regional and local government level and with tourism promotion and regional development organisations to ensure immediate knowledge transfer into regional structures and planning and management processes. The Kimberley project will also be undertaken with the involvement of pastoral leaseholders and Aboriginal communities traversed by and dependent upon the Gibb River Road.

Collaborative links

Project staff are collaborating and liaising across a wide range of governmental, industry, and community bodies. Specific involvement is with:
Activity A: Queensland Gulf: Carpentaria Shire Council, Gulf Savannah Development (formerly: Gulf Local Authorities Development Association) and the Gulf Savannah Tourism Organisation. Further liaison will be with Tourism Queensland, Qld State Development and other organisations as required.

Activity B: Kimberley GRR: Shire of Derby-West Kimberley, Shire of Wyndham-East Kimberley, Kimberley Development Commission, Kimberley Tourism Association, WA Tourism Commission, Department of Conservation, Water and Rivers Commission, Department of Indigenous Affairs, Agriculture WA, Department of Land Administration, Main Roads, Kimberley Land Council, Pastoralists and Graziers Association, pastoral leaseholders, Aboriginal communities, native title applicants, tourists, tourism enterprise operators

The project complements work undertaken in the initial Tropical Savannas CRC as well as ongoing Theme 3 projects and contributes specifically to inquiry into broader regional-scale sustainable development options for the savannas.


  • Tourism planning, promotion and management in the tropical savannas is based on better understanding of tourism demand.
  • Regional agencies and local government devise and implement policies that increase the benefits to the regional community from tourism.
  • Regional-scale decision makers possess better data to support diversified and sustainable economic development of natural resources.
  • Regional capacity to monitor changes in tourism demand and respond adequately.
  • Improved capacity to manage the environmental impacts of tourism.


  • Data that show tourist movements, expectations, satisfaction and willingness-to-pay of different tourist segments for access to natural resources, regional infrastructure and services.
  • Policy options for discussion and implementation by regional agencies and local government to maximise benefits of regional community from tourism.
  • Recommendations for tourism agencies to target tourism promotion and management to maximise benefits of regional community from tourism.
  • Regular stakeholder briefings, in person and in writing, on progress.
  • Activity reports summarising process, findings and review of implementation to date.
  • Conference and/or journal paper(s)
  • Need identified for investigation in other savanna regions
  • In particular, the Kimberley GRR project will produce:
  • a report to catalyse coordinated action
  • a proposed plan suggesting actions that each group/agency could take in order to achieve a coordinated response to the savanna management issues of the GRR
  • an assessment of resources and other needs required to implement management actions
  • a report in plain English that can be photocopied and posted on the web, that includes photos, quotes, graphs, maps, information, and recommendations
  • extensive distribution of report to GRR communities, and decision-making, management and funding bodies in the Kimberley and elsewhere

Project team

Activity A: Karumba/Normanton
Romy Greiner, CSIRO
Sue Unsworth, Carpentaria Shire Council
Matthew McGoldrick, Carpentaria Shire Council
Riki Gunn, Gulf Savannah Tourism/Karumba Tourism

Activity B: Gibb River Road, Kimberley
Mark Horstman, Land+Sea Unit, Kimberley Land Council
Peter Yu, Consultant
Sarah Yu, Consultant


Australian Rural Adjustment Unit (1984) Needs of the west: recommendations from the conference on North-Western Queensland. Conference Proceedings. Australian Rural Adjustment Unit: Armidale NSW.

Beasley, R.G. (2000) Regional outlook for the Gulf Region of Queensland. Thesis. James Cook University: Townsville Qld.

Bell, J. and Clark, A. (1996) A critical evaluation of tourism in the gulf savannah: a study of the gulf trains, savannah guides and tourism operators of the region. Thesis. James Cook University: Townsville Qld.

Black, N. and Clark, A. (1998) Tourism in North West Queensland 1996: travel flows and characteristics and numbers of tourists. Tropical Savannas CRC: Darwin NT.

Garside, J. (1994) Tourism strategy (Stage one) for the Western Gulf Savnnah. Burke Shire Council: Burketown Qld.

Garside, J. (1995) Review of potential development projects and socio-economic profile of the Western Gulf Savannah Region. Burke Shire Council: Burketown Qld.

Gerry Collins (1996) Tourism in the tropical savannas. In, Ash, A. (ed) The Future of Tropical Savannas: An Australian Perspective. CSIRO: Collingwood Vic. P.62-67.

GLADA - see Gulf Local Authorities Development Association

Gulf Local Authorities Development Association (1997) Gulf Savannah fact finder and business directory. GLADA: Cairns Qld.

Holmes, J.H. (1996) Regional restructuring of the Tropical Savannas: impacts on lands, peoples and human settlements. In, Ash, A. (ed) The Future of Tropical Savannas – An Australian Perspective. CSIRO: Collingwood VIC, p5-19.

Kinhill Cameron McNamara and Carpentaria Council (1995) Normanton and Karumba: strategic development study; Final report. Kinhill Cameron McNamara: Brisbane Qld.

Mason, G. (1995a) Carpentaria Shire economic profile. GLADA: Cairns Qld.

Mason, G. (1995b) Burke Shire: economic profile. GLADA: Cairns Qld.

Mason, G. (1995b) Etheridge Shire: economic profile. GLADA: Cairns Qld.

Mason, G. (1995c) Croydon Shire: economic profile. GLADA: Cairns Qld.

Northern Gulf Resource Management Group (2001) Northern Gulf Regional Strategy. NGRMG Inc: Georgetown Qld.

Stafford Group and Scribbly Gums Partnership (2000) Draft interpretive centre management plan prepared for the Gulf Barramundi Restocking Association. The Stafford Group: Woollahra NSW.

This project has produced four reports on research carried out in these regions. You can download them below as free PDFs.

Benefits and costs for tourism: Carpentaria Shire, Gulf of Carpentaria
[pdf 2.0 Mb]

Gibb River Road Report
The impact of tourism on the Gibb River Road - a community perspective. 28pp. [pdf 970.7 kb]

Independent Travellers in the North Kimberley
Benefits, Impacts and Management Challenges [pdf 1.9 Mb]

The relationship between landowners and tour operators in the Kimberley
[pdf 907.2 kb]


Ms Silva Larson
CSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems
Tel: 07 4753 8589

Davies Laboratory, Private Mail Bag