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Exploring tourism attraction clusters and the linkages and contribution of tourism and wine industries to the regional economy in the Granite Belt

Background and issue:

‘Regional agri-tourism and food tourism’ refers to the act of going to a region to visit a working farm or other, farm or food-related business (including restaurants, markets, produce outlets and natural attractions) for enjoyment, education, or active participation in activities and events’ (Ecker, S., Clarke., R., Cartwright, S., et al. 2010). Research into agri-tourism in Australia has found that it is more likely to be successful where clusters of attractions are established (Ecker, S. et al. 2010).

 

Tourism to national parks and wineries are also important components of rural tourism. Research currently being completed by the research team for the Queensland Government has established the regional and state economic value of tourism to national parks in terms of both the economic contribution of spending by tourists and the consumer surplus enjoyed by park visitors.

 

The Southern Downs Region, of which the Granite Belt is a significant part, hosts over 800 thousand visitors per year who visit national park and wine and food attractions. Considerable background on the tourism industry in the region has been provided in the report Southern Downs Tourism Market Research Program (EarthCheck, 2018). However that report does not explore the interactions between tourism attractions, linkages to the agricultural industry in the region or opportunities for and barriers to the tourism industry in the region. The Granite Belt is the larger of Queensland’s two wine production regions and significant expansion has occurred over recent years.

 

The aim of this project is to provide a better understanding of regional tourism attraction clusters by exploring the economic benefits from national park and wine tourism and the interactions between those attractions in providing a ‘critical mass’ of attractions for tourists. Central to this understanding is exploring the opportunities and barriers to wine producers offering farm-based tourism, accommodation and cellar-door wine sales in providing farm income and in stabilising returns across years. A secondary aim is to develop and pilot a data collection methodology for wine producers that will provide sufficient data for our study but also provide a format for future data collection and analysis on an ongoing basis.

 

Economic methodologies to be applied will include market and non-market valuation, economic impact assessment and potentially cost-benefit analysis of policy options to address any issues identified.

 

This research will develop a general approach that can be applied in analysing and developing agri-tourism in other rural regions/destinations. Policy recommendations applicable to rural regions will also be provided.

 

Proposed methodology:

Phase 1: In this phase, we will scope out the research problem and identify key participants within the tourism, national parks and wine sectors. We will also undertake a stock-take and investigation of current secondary data availability on tourism and the wine industry in the region and identify gaps. Initial consultation with key tourism, national park and wine industry stakeholders will commence, building on existing contacts and networks in the region. Research questions and approaches will be refined. Application for UQ ethics clearance for the visitor survey will commence.

 

Phase 2:

In this phase we will convene initial focus group and individual consultation with key tourism, national park and wine industry stakeholders to identify the main challenges and constraints faced and to identify the data that would be required from them to analyse the key economic relationships in this sector. We will assess the willingness and capacity of wine producers to provide the necessary data from their businesses. At the end of this stage a decision will be made as how best to proceed with the exploration of alternative data collection procedures and processes. We will also seek the assistance of already established networks in the wine sector to assist with contacts and distributing questionnaires for the visitor survey.

 

 

Phase 3: This phase will include final design and testing of the visitor survey based on feedback. Regarding collection of data from wine producers, in this phase various data collecting methodologies, procedures and instruments will be assessed including: focus group structured discussions around the design and administration of the surveys; individual interviews through which alternative formats and design of the main survey instruments will be tested, including face-to-face versus telephonic and/or on-line surveys, individual vs collective or group-based survey procedures, etc. (As a UQ research project ethical clearance for the survey of wine producers will be sought during this stage.)

 

 

Phase 4: This phase will focus on data collection and analysis from the visitor survey and from a sample of wine producers. As the tourist season runs over the cooler seasons of the year, the data collection will be divided into two main stages for targeted effort: September to November 2019 and March to June 2020. Data can also be collected year round from visitors to participating wine tourism businesses. For the survey of wine producers, a second focus group meeting will be convened at which participants will be presented with and invited to review the proposed ‘preferred’ method(s) of data collection and forms of economic analysis these would permit on an on-going basis. On completion of this focus group consultation, any refinements to the survey instruments and procedures will be undertaken. The pilot survey will then be conducted among a sample of growers using the preferred instrument and procedures. Data analysis and synthesis around the research questions will be conducted.

 

 

Phase 5: The final report prepared in this phase will include results of the visitor survey on economic values of national parks and wine tourism and the economic study on wine production and wine tourism production. An assessment will be made of linkages between the Granite Belt national park and wine tourism attractions and importance of the tourism attractions as a ‘cluster’ to the regional economy. Opportunities and barriers will be identified and recommendations for any more detailed research and analysis identified. Observations on the application of the findings and research approach to other rural tourism regions will be included. Policy recommendations will be formulated based on the research.

 

Team members:

 

Dr. Sally Driml (Lead Investigator) is a Lecturer in tourism management, Business School, UQ. Her research draws on a background in economics and environmental economics and experience in government in developing environmental policy and managing natural environments that are also tourism destinations. Dr Driml is currently co-leading and completing (with Associate Professor Brown) a major project assessing the economic values of tourism to national parks in Queensland. In government, Dr Driml led a project that developed the Queensland Government’s Environmental Offsets Policy. She has recently researched airline Voluntary Carbon Offset programs. .

 

Assoc. Prof Richard Brown, School of Economics UQ, has substantial experience as an applied economist with a strong domestic and international reputation in applied cost-benefit analysis (CBA) and in the design and administration of surveys for the collection of primary data for statistical analysis. He is co-author of a leading textbook on CBA and has extensive consulting and advisory experience applying CBA to project and policy analysis for a wide range of organisations and sectors. Associate Professor Brown is currently co-leading and completing (with Dr Driml) a major project assessing the economic values of tourism to national parks in Queensland. Associate Professor Brown will coordinate all aspects of the design and application an appropriate conceptual framework for the application of CBA to be considered under this project, to support the development of clear and consistent policy recommendations.

 

Dr. Ian MacKenzie (Lead Investigator) is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Economics, University of Queensland. His research interests include environmental economics, environmental policy, and public economics. In particular, he has a focus designing and evaluating environmental auctions and offset programs that help increase biodiversity and carbon storage.