ABOUT THE PROJECT
The aim of the Islander Way project is to co-design the future of tourism with the community using regenerative tourism principles and practices. The project seeks to work with the community to identify, co-design and incubate innovative, place-based, and community-driven projects. The scope of the project is shaped by:
The Brand Story of the same name, which was co-created by the local community with Brand Tasmania.
The scoping and delivery of a visitor economy accelerator program that encourages and supports creative entrepreneurship and community-led tourism initiatives that address the Island’s tipping point.
The desire to deepen the connection and respect between visitors to the Island, the host community and the natural environment. In doing so, it enhances opportunities for transformational visitor experiences.
Acknowledging important shifts that demand action including carbon emissions reduction, purpose-driven business models, the circular economy, conscious visitor behaviour, transformational travel, and digital innovation.
The adoption of co-learning and co-design methods that build community capacity and ownership over the project. This approach enhances the community’s resilience and capacity for complex problem solving over the long term.
We are increasingly realising that tourism does not operate in a silo, nor can it be planned and managed in one. As with all business, for tourism to secure its social and environmental licence, it must address a range of challenges much larger and more complex than simply solving how to bounce back after the pandemic. These challenges include the climate crisis, biodiversity loss, ecosystem decline, secure and adequately paid work, health and well-being of communities, inequality, inclusion, and access to education, housing and health.
Sustainable development is a solution from the last century. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and 'best practice' solutions were born from a scientific mindset where the tourism system could be divided up into parts and tasks. But the 21st century we know that tourism is complex, dynamic and has many moving parts. Dividing it up into parts and working separately and competitively just isn't working. There is a need to evolve our thinking and our mindset, and respond to these complex challenges with emergent adaptive and experimental actions.
Regeneration is one of the biggest and most important mindset shifts we have seen in centuries. It is changing our relationship with nature, with others, and with ourselves. It is a paradigm shift. On Flinders Island, we are leaning in and creating a pathway towards the future by exploring how tourism can regenerative local environments, people, and communities.
The Islander Way is guided by balancing four key elements:
Recognition of the community's identity and sense of belonging to Flinders Island (place).
The community and what they take responsibility and care for (values).
The relationships between people, and between people and nature that give meaning to local lives (relationships).
The balance between the natural, social, cultural and economic capitals of the Island and their capacity to regenerate (caring for capitals).
A COMPLICATED HISTORY
The Island has a complicated historical relationship with tourism. Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, the visitor economy had become an established and important part of the Island’s economy. However, over-tourism started to emerge as a key concern for local residents during the pandemic.
ALIGNMENT BETWEEN COMMUNITY AND TOURISM VALUES
There was also growing concern over a perceived mismatch between what a growing cohort of sophisticated urban visitors were demanding and what the Island could, or was prepared to, realistically offer. In essence there was a growing disparity between the Island’s offer, the visitors that were being attracted to the Island and the values of the local community.
The Covid-19 pandemic brought many challenges to domestic and international tourism in Australia and across the globe. The extent and unpredictability of successive lockdowns, widespread travel restrictions, and the way fear and risk have played into consumer sentiment, have had an enormous effect on Australia’s visitor economy. Rising demand for regional tourism and nature experiences have fuelled overtourism in many parts of Australia, including Flinders Island.
In response to the pandemic, a focus on intrastate travel was a major part of the State's Covid-19 recovery plan. This focus included government-provided vouchers to support Tasmanians in intrastate travel and visitation. The strategy has been very successful and has supported Tasmania in reaching a strong economic position.
Against this background, Flinders Island experienced a significant increase in visitation. The Island received growing attention from visitors precisely because it was isolated and perceived as a safe destination. This increase in visitation only exacerbated concerns about the mismatch between visitors’ demands and what the Island can offer.
TOURISM IS PART OF THE ISLAND’S FUTURE
There is general agreement among the Flinders community that the visitor economy will be part of the Island’s future. The Island boasts an extraordinary natural environment, high scenic quality and opportunities to connect with nature. The Island’s residents care deeply, and have a strong sense of stewardship over the Island’s natural environment. They generally welcome the opportunity to share the Island with the right kinds of visitors.
COLLABORATION IS KEY
Recent feedback from residents, (e.g. surveys, forums, conversations with Councillors), demonstrates that a positive way forward for Flinders Council is to collaborate with a range of stakeholders, e.g. Flinders Island Business Incorporated (FIBI), the Tasmania Parks & Wildlife Service, Visit Northern Tasmania, and Brand Tasmania, to:
Fully listen to the community’s visitor-related issues
Facilitate the exploration of a model for the future of tourism that is guided by community values, and regenerative principles
Identify ways of achieving such a model
Enact the plan, backed by as much community consensus as possible
Monitor, assess, and re-enact the outcomes in a continuous improvement cycle.
HOLISTIC BALANCE AND ALIGNMENT
A whole systems approach seeks to understand complexity, where tourism is part of a more complex, dynamic and ever-evolving system, where the objective is to protect and enhance the capacity of individuals, communities, places and nature to regenerate. The future wellbeing of Flinders Island rests on individuals working collectively to shift the system from one that takes from the island and nature, to one that gives back.
WHAT IS THE REGENERATIVE TOURISM PROCESS?
Imagine if tourism contributed to the community’s vision for the future and protected the natural assets and values of the Island? This win-win would support a vibrant local visitor economy.
The community-led projects will range in size and scope. Some may be small initiatives such as designing a code of conduct for visitors. Others will involve developing new tourism products, services and experiences or pivots on existing offerings. Some of these projects will be developed and tested via a regenerative tourism business development accelerator program.
How can the demands of visitors be met while the Island’s economic and social sustainability hangs in the balance? A healthy and flourishing local community is a prerequisite for tourism.