Showing posts with label tourism. Show all posts
Showing posts with label tourism. Show all posts

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Orana to Christmas, summer and the chance to go bush

Out on the plains the brolgas are dancing
Lifting their feet like war horses prancing
Up to the sun the woodlarks go winging
Faint in the dawn light echoes their singing
Orana! Orana! Orana to Christmas Day

To me one of the nicest bits of Christmas is a chance to sing the Australian carols of the old ABC’s William G. James, including Carol of the Birds. Orana, by the way, means welcome.

I don’t like to boast, but one of my achievements this year was to see a brolga. Several, in fact. Flying rather than dancing but, even so, one to cross off my bucket list. I’ve also seen jabirus, magpie geese, comb-crested jacana, osprey, white-bellied sea eagles, red-tailed black cockatoos and crocodiles, fresh and salty.

I’ve also seen Timorese ponies, Asian buffalo and – more surprising – Indonesian banteng cattle. By now the banteng are endangered in Indonesia, but going strong in northern Australia.

All during a 12-day tour of Arnhem Land, bouncing along unsealed roads in a truck converted to a bus, to visit remote Aboriginal communities (complete with permits) and cave paintings. An unforgettable experience, one moneyed Baby Boomers should consider before they jet off on yet another exploration of other people’s homelands.

Actually, I sometimes wonder whether the day is coming when – because of the damage it does to the atmosphere – we will look back with amazement and envy on the relatively brief golden age when flying for tourism was not only permitted but dirt cheap, so we roamed the globe whenever we could get away.

It’s a terrible thought. Let’s hope it never happens, thanks to some technological advance in aircraft fuel. But while it lasts, let’s not forget what a privileged generation we are.

But what of ecotourism? Is it as virtuous as we wilderness wanderers like to imagine, or will the new age puritans put the kybosh on that, too?

Well, I’ve been checking what the academic experts are saying – courtesy of my second-favourite website, The Conversation – and, though you can find the killjoys if you look, I think ecotourism gets a qualified tick.

It’s true that, in an ideal world, we’d all stay at home admiring nature from afar and insisting the politicians keep the outback – and other continents’ backblocks – locked up and in pristine condition. Where damage had already been done, we’d happily pay high taxes to compensate farmers, miners and tour operators for closing their businesses, and to restore the land to its former state.

No, not going to happen. Those who live in far-flung parts aren’t going to renounce the material ambitions that drive the rest of us. They’ll continue finding ways to make a buck. If so, ecotourism – whatever its downsides – will do a lot less harm than many other ways for bushies to earn a living.

Dr Guy Castley and two other researchers at Griffith University find ecotourism can contribute to conservation or adversely affect wildlife, or both. Attitudes of local communities towards wildlife influence whether they support or oppose poaching. Income from ecotourism may be used for conservation and local community development, but not always.

But for seven of the nine threatened species they studied – the great green macaw in Costa Rica, Egyptian vultures in Spain, hoolock gibbons in India, penguins, wild dogs and cheetahs in Africa, and golden lion tamarins in Brazil – ecotourism provided net conservation gains.

This was achieved through establishing private conservation reserves, restoring habitat or by reducing habitat damage. Removing feral predators, increasing anti-poaching patrols, captive breeding and supplementary feeding also helped.

For orang-utans in Sumatra, however, small-scale ecotourism couldn’t overcome the negative effects of logging. And for New Zealand’s sea lions, ecotourism only compounded the effects of intensive fishing because it increased the number of pups dying as a result of direct disturbance at sites where the sea lions came ashore.

Michele Barnes and Sarah Sutcliffe, of James Cook University, studied the effect of a shark education and conservation tour off the coast of Oahu, Hawaii. Sharks are crucial to our marine ecosystems, yet many shark populations are in decline because of fishing (particularly for shark-fin soup), fisheries bycatch, habitat destruction, and climate change.

Sharks have a PR problem. They are feared by many, demonised by the evil media, treated as human-hunting monsters, and cast as the villains in blockbuster movies. In many places, governments cull sharks in the name of beachgoers’ safety.

The researchers found that the program gave participants significantly more knowledge of the ecological role of sharks and a more favourable attitude towards them. It also had a significantly positive effect on people’s intentions to engage in shark conservation behaviour. This remained true even after allowing for the participants’ greater initial positive attitudes towards sharks than the public generally.

Even when not off somewhere exotic, my family almost always ends up holidaying in or near some national park. But what about all the damage done to parks to accommodate the needs of tourists?

Dr Susan Moore, of Murdoch University, and others from Southern Cross University, argue sensibly that parks need visitors to get vital community and political support.

“We need people in parks because people vote and parks don’t,” they say. “Strong advocacy from park visitors for environmentally friendly experiences, like wildlife viewing, photography, hiking, swimming, canoeing and camping, can counterbalance pressures for environmentally destructive activities such as hunting and grazing.” Amen to that.
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Saturday, May 30, 2015

The economy: old dog shows signs of life

With bad news this week from the March quarter survey of business capital expenditure, we need cheering up. Fortunately, budget statement No. 2 shows Treasury has been looking under every rock to find some good news.

It kicks off its annual assessment of the economic outlook by reminding all us worriers that the economy is entering its 25th consecutive year of growth, which is the second longest continuous period of growth of any advanced economy in the world.

And, we're reminded, though the economy has grown by less than its medium-term average ("trend") rate of 3 per cent-odd for five of the past six financial years, and is now forecast to grow by just 2.5 per cent in the financial year soon to end and 2.75 per cent in the coming year, this still leaves us as "one of the fastest growing economies in the advanced world".

Treasury gives us an update on the story we've become so familiar with in the past few years: the boom in investment in new mines and natural gas facilities is fast subsiding, leaving a big vacuum in economic activity that needs to be filled by faster growth in the rest of the economy.

To encourage such growth, the Reserve Bank has resumed cutting the official interest rate, such that it's now fallen 2.75 percentage points since its peak in late 2011, to a record low of 2 per cent. And, despite all the complaints about spending cuts, Joe Hockey has ensured his budget is only a minor drag on economic activity.

In response, we're now getting quite strong growth in new home building, and consumer spending is stronger than it was.

Fine. But that brings us to the crux of our continuing sub-par performance: business investment spending. Treasury expects mining investment to fall by more than 15 per cent this financial year, then by 25 per cent in the coming year and a further 30 per cent in 2016-17.

Yipes that's precipitous. And Treasury fears non-mining investment will show only modest growth until 2016-17 when it should increase by 7.5 per cent.

Put mining and non-mining together and you see business investment spending is the economy's continuing weak spot. After falling by 5 per cent last financial year, total business investment is expected to fall by another 5 per cent in the year just ending, then by 7 per cent in the coming year and even by a further 3.5 per cent in 2016-17.

Now you see why this week's figures for business "cap-ex" were such a downer. They really confirmed Treasury's dismal outlook. They showed a weak outcome for the March quarter and an unexpected deterioration in how much non-mining businesses expect they'll be spending in the coming financial year.

Moving right along, Treasury reminds us the economy does have a couple of things going for it apart from rock-bottom interest rates: one is lower petrol and oil prices and another is lower electricity prices (with more falls to come in some states).

And then, of course, there's the lower dollar, down mainly because the prices of our mineral exports are down, but perhaps also because our interest rates are lower than they were relative to those of other countries.

Our "real" exchange rate – that is, after adjusting the nominal exchange rate for our inflation rate relative to those of our trading partners – appreciated by about 30 per cent during the mining prices boom, but since September 2011 it has depreciated by about 13 per cent.

That's bad news for businesses and households buying imports, of course, but good news for Australian firms competing against imports in the domestic market. It's also good news for Australian exporters, who now get more Aussie cents for every US dollar they earn.

Treasury is forecasting strong growth of 5 or 6 per cent a year in the volume (quantity) of our exports over the next few years. Most of that is increased exports of minerals and energy as new mines come on line, but some of it comes from faster growth in non-mining exports.

On the other side, Treasury's expecting the volume of our imports to fall by 3 per cent in the year just ending and by a further 1.5 per cent in the coming year, before growing moderately by 2.5 per cent in 2016-17.

Why? Mainly because of fewer imports of heavy mining equipment, but also because the lower dollar will allow local firms to recapture market share from imports.

Such as? A classic exporting and import-competing industry is tourism. Real travel spending by international visitors to Oz has grown by 11 per cent since the start of 2012, whereas real travel spending by Aussies travelling abroad has decreased by 11 per cent.

The combined effect has been to turn our balance of trade in tourism services from a small deficit to a much bigger surplus. The increased inflow of tourists has been shared by all states.

Remember how much our leaders bang on about the big bucks to be made from China's rapidly growing middle class? Tourists from China accounted for more than a quarter of the growth in tourist spending in Oz last financial year.

The more than three-quarters of a million Chinese visitors that year spent an average of $8600 per person with our businesses.

Now get this: the volume of our exports of medium-skilled and technology-intensive manufactures has grown almost continuously over the past 30 years, as have our exports of high-skilled and technology-intensive manufactures, with the latter now bigger than the former.

It's really only the low-skilled and labour-intensive manufactures that have fallen back. The starring industries make goods such as pharmaceuticals, professional and scientific equipment, and machinery and transport equipment.

Strikes me we're not dead yet.
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