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Playing Lotto with Rotto? Tourism, the environment and gambling with the ethos of a Western Australian island

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Rottnest Island is a popular holiday destination offshore from Perth, the capital city of Western Australia. Rottnest (or Rotto) attracts approximately 500 000 visitors annually. The island is managed by a statutory government authority, the Rottnest Island Authority (RIA), for the purposes of providing recreation and holiday facilities and services, and protecting its natural and cultural values. While there are advantages in management by one body, there appears to be a conflict in managing both the tourism business and the environment, largely as a result of funding issues. While further tourism development would boost the RIA's self-funded operating budget, increased pressures may compromise the island environment and the Rottnest ethos, which revolves around a relaxed and casual social ambiance. The RIA aims to develop Rottnest as a model for sustainability, but are dilemmas surrounding economic sustainability potentially risking the island's environmental and social sustainability? This paper concludes that in the pursuit of economic returns from tourism, Rottnest Island's environmental and social values face an uncertain future.

Keywords: Island; environmental management; ethos; governance; sustainability; tourism

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: University of Tasmania, Australia

Publication date: December 1, 2008

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