World Heritage Listing of Australian Natural Sites: Tourism Stimulus and its Economic Value
Australia has 14 areas inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage list, on the basis of their globally outstanding natural and in some cases also cultural values. Many regard listing as prestigious and believe that it acts as a signalling device like a brand name. But to what extent and in what ways does the extra prestige bestowed by this listing translate into increased economic value for listed properties? This article deals with two main aspects of World Heritage listing. First, examines the hypothesis that World Heritage listing increases tourist visitation numbers, and available international visitor time-series data are examined to provide empirical evidence. It is found that although visitor numbers are likely to increase as a result of World Heritage listing, the increase is not as large as is often perceived. Some properties continue to experience low visitation rates despite World Heritage listing, and reasons for this phenomenon are advanced. Likely reasons for the inequalities in growth patterns of visits to different World Heritage properties are highlighted. Secondly, the article considers how the economic value of the tourism stimulus provided by World Heritage listing can be measured in principle and relates this to economic impact analysis and total economic valuation. Important and new limitations to the use of the travel cost method in this context are identified.
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