The role of kangaroos in Australian tourism
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Generally absent from the debate on the management of kangaroos (Macropodoidea) is discussion of their role in tourism. This paper examines the role that kangaroos play in Australian tourism, synthesising the findings of four related projects undertaken recently by the Cooperative Research Centre for Sustainable Tourism. It investigates the role of kangaroos in tourism marketing imagery, international tourist demand and existing tourism enterprises, and examines opportunities for future development of tourism involving kangaroos. In order to assess these aspects, experimental studies, interviews, visitor surveys, content analysis of advertising material, postal surveys of wildlife professionals and site visits were conducted. The kangaroo was found to be one of the world's best-recognised tourism icons and to generate positive responses among Americans; yet it is apparently under-utilised in overseas travel brochures designed to attract international tourists to Australia. The use of kangaroos in tourism is already widespread, with over 190 tourism enterprises including kangaroo viewing, and with the kangaroo featuring in organised wildlife tourism more frequently than any other type of animal. However kangaroos are generally just one component of a broader tourism experience. While 18.4% of international visitors are motivated to visit Australia partly because of its native animals, there are very few who would not come otherwise. Kangaroos and koalas (Phascolarctos cinereus) are by far the most popular animals with international visitors. Most visitors who wished to do so, succeeded in seeing kangaroos during their visit, and most expressed high levels of satisfaction with their wildlife experiences. The most satisfying kangaroo viewing experiences are likely to involve the relatively large, social species of open habitats. However areas where these species are most likely to be abundant mostly score poorly in terms of feasibility of tourism. Tourism is one significant management option for Australia's kangaroos, and its potential deserves further investigation.