Tourist towns on the edge: Conceptualising vulnerability and resilience in a protected area tourism system
The Franz Josef and Fox Glacier townships in New Zealand's "Glacier Country", neighbouring Westland National Park, are remote tourist attractions facing multiple future sustainability challenges. Despite their distance from their markets, they attract 600,000 visitors annually and are fundamental to the district's economy. However, issues of geographic isolation are compounded by major threats of flooding and earthquake, rising fuel prices and climate change scenarios which imply serious glacier melting. Using 24 stakeholder interviews, this study evaluates susceptibility to change at multiple scales which could undermine the economic and social longevity of this iconic destination. Adopting a human-environment systems perspective, it utilises the concepts of vulnerability and resilience to examine dimensions of change and response that have shaped the community, conservation and tourism in this peripheral region. It finds high levels of vulnerability do not necessarily determine low levels of resilience, nor vice versa. Rather than mutually exclusive, vulnerability and resilience are discrete, but highly compatible concepts, offering much to the analysis of protected area tourism facing global change. The paper notes the potential guidance and governance role of the protected area in building resilience, and equally the threat to the protected area's integrity if tourism is compromised by its vulnerabilities.
Journal of Sustainable Tourism