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Understanding Resilience in a Vulnerable Industry: the Case of Reef Tourism in Australia

Duan Biggs, ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, James Cook University

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Abstract

Understanding the resilience of vulnerable sectors of social-ecological systems is critical in an era of escalating global change. The coral reef tourism sector is highly vulnerable not only to ecological effects of climate change and other anthropogenic disturbances on reefs, but also to shocks such as economic recession and energy price escalation. Commercial tourism enterprises are key players in reef tourism in Australia and elsewhere. However, the factors that confer resilience to reef-based tourism enterprises, or the reef tourism sector more broadly, in the face of large disturbances have not been investigated to date. This paper empirically examines the perceived resilience of reef tourism enterprises on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef to large disturbances or shocks. Binary logistic regression analysis of two measures of enterprise resilience demonstrates the importance of human capital in strengthening enterprise resilience. Lifestyle identity, measured as the extent to which owners and senior managers are active in reef tourism as a lifestyle choice, is positively related to enterprise resilience. Finally, reef tourism enterprises indicate that financial and marketing support are the most important actions that government can take to support enterprises in the face of a large shock.

Key words

coral reefs; disturbance; global change; resilience; shock; tourism; vulnerability
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Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087