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Sustainable Tourism
A South Australian Design Guide for Sustainable Development

by the South Australian Tourism Commission

Place, people, materials: a hierarchy of needs Interpretive, educational & recreational aims

"From the outset, when planning the ecotourism site, clearly establish how the hierarchy of needs will be achieved.

  • Protect the place first ... then ...
  • Consider the visitors and their needs in direct relationship to the place and what it can provide.
  • Finally choose appropriate materials and technology only when the needs of the place and people are clearly defined."


"Imagine a dry, desert site. You enter a simple shelter with an attached shower area. You turn on the taps and have a 15 minute shower.

During the 15 minute shower you will have used between 100 and 250 litres of water. Just to obtain the water, probably from an underground source, pumps, energy obtained from the sun or fossil fuels, piping and storage is required. The high volume needed increases all of these parts of the system. This water, once used, is then placed onto a normally dry landscape, and gardens are formed.

In time, provided the water salinity did not increase too greatly, the gardens could become quite lush, attracting exotic bird and animal life.

Over a period of time the original place is lost and to sustain this new environment requires a relatively high input of physical (fuel, water, etc.) And management (maintenance) resources.

    If to the showers are added similar standard "suburban" amenities such as:
  • flush toilets
  • high energy cooking and foods
  • lighting
  • mechanical heating and cooling
... even before the building design of shelters and common areas is discussed the place is under further threat and the goal of a sustainable development is quickly diminishing."


"Ecotourism developments must be determined on the basis of what the ecosystem of a proposed site can sustain. This provides the framework for planning, design development and detailing of the ecocamp. All aspects of the development ---- access, population, activities, design of accommodation and services, management and monitoring of the ecocamp ---- depend on this factor. If this initial assessment of the ecotourism site is not properly conducted the development could seriously threaten the environment and degrade the very attraction and experience desired by ecotourists."


"Siting to preserve the place

Within the chosen ecotourism site ensure that the best places are retained.

The best places are appreciated because of their healthy environmental state, their particular character and their delicate ecological balance. This includes features such as:

  • spectacular views;
  • solitude and serenity;
  • unique ecological balances
  • unique cultural associations.
These are features which attract tourists, so care should be taken to preserve and maintain them when considering the siting of the ecocamp. However, no matter how carefully designed, the ecocamp will alter the relationships between parts and details of a site, and could threaten the ecological balance.

    Site damage could result from the following:
  • vehicular and pedestrian traffic;
  • processes of construction, site works or clearing;
  • structures and buildings if these interfere with water flow and wind patterns in exposed areas;
  • on-site waste water and hard waste disposal;
  • visitor activities and noise;
  • habitat damage;
  • obstruction of views."


"Visitor expectations and facilities offered

The expectations of visitors should be fulfilled ---- and preferably exceeded ---- by the activities and facilities offered.

Management of the ecocamp should monitor and respond to the expectations of visitors. It should identify where these expectations were not met, and why.

    The following aspects should be considered:
  • access to and from the site including arrival, departure, and access to and from tours and destinations during the ecocamp;
  • general circulation and site access within the ecocamp;
  • organization of the ecocamp including communal and private time, timing of activities,
  • meals and tours;
  • quality of activities proposed including educational and recreational value of guided tours and excursions;
  • character of the ecocamp site;
  • quality and levels of service;
  • quality of facilities offered including buildings, circulation and services;
  • breadth and depth of interpretive information, quality of printed material, etc."


South Australia Tourism Commission
7th and 8th floors, Terrace Towers
178 North Terrace
Adelaide, South Australia, 5000

(GPO Box 1972, Adelaide, 5001)
Phone: (08) 303 2222; Fax: (08) 303 2339

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