2nd May 2010
Mt Cootha Summit & Planetarium responsible travel assessment
A new trend amoung travellers in the 21st century is to choose holidays that are ecologically friendly and mutually beneficial for the travel destination. Academics refer to this as 'Responsible travel' where businesses and travellers take personal responsiblity for their actions.
Examples of responsible tourism at Mt Cootha and the Planetarium are the economic benefit to the community, the social and educational elements of the site and the impacts the continued operations have on the environment.
At the summit, there is an observation lookout. For visitors there are telescopes, toilets, restaurants and function rooms and souvenir shops. At the planetarium there are nightly shows, observatory access, venue hire and a gift shop.
A variety of tour companies visit throughout the day and night providing the tourism industry with a business opportunity and Brisbane locals a public area to enjoy and a sense of pride when they recommend the area to visitors. Those who are on tours are often rushed and do not stay long. No economic benefit to the Mt Cootha site is achieved from their visit to the lookout area as there is no admission fee and they do not stay long enough to use the restaurant facilities avaialable.
There is public transport infrastructure to the summit and gardens. A responsible tourist can support the local infrastructure and services and use public transport from Brisbane City however buses are infrequent and only runs during the day therefore many may choose to drive or a get a taxi to view the area in the evening at sunset and for the nightly planetarium shows which means more car park facilities are needed having a negative impact on the area.
Furthemore, locals are employed in the restaurant and gift shops. This makes for a more authentic social experience where local knowlege and experiences can be shared.
The existence of these facilities within Mt Cootha also ensures that it remains commercially viable in the future by creating employment and business opportunities so economic leakages from the area are minimal.
Mt Cootha involves the community in the decision making process when events are held in the area. Events such as the ‘Cootha Classic’ ‘ Movember fun run’ and Brisbane Cootha bike challenge are held annually and some of the proceedings go towards local charities. The function room at the summit is also open to public or private events. The various community days held throughout the year ensure community interaction and involvement.
At the summit however I found that education is of little importance. There are two historical billboards with information and a historical timeline however it is not very significant and off to the side. Many visitors did not take notice of this area. The summit is largely treated as a photo opportunity and this is apparent when private tour guides arrive with their groups and head off for a coffee break. The groups were not provided with commentary on the area but were given free time to admire the view. The retainment of local aboriginal culture and heritage has been lost and this is something that would interest visitors in learning. Because of the lack of local knowledge and no local guide to share information at this site there is no understanding or appreciation of the area.
The Planetarium in contrast, is highly educational and entertaining due to nightly shows held in the dome and special school programs that are held during the day. Worksheets and q & a sessions can be arranged for school visits. The planetarium also has observatory rooms and telescopes for hire for locals interested in astronomy.
Mt Cootha is a natural area that has been built into the mountains as a public area for the local community and a tourist site to visit. Responsible tourism in the context of the environment means assessing the personal environmental impacts when developing and visiting tourist sites.
Establishing the lookout would have impacted the environment significantly building the lookout, carpark facilities and restaurant. Continued use of the area means ensuring waste management is carefully managed and visitors stay on walking tracks and use bins provided to reduce further environmental impacts. Environmental awareness is low. The only signs that reminds visitors to consider the environment is very small print so it is unlikely that many visitors will take notice. (in-pictures) The Brisbane City Council maintains the area and gardens beautifully however there are very few bins. The bins located at the summit- (in picture) are open to the elements and on a windy day items could fly around. No recycling bins sighted. The Brisbane City Council has done a good job in maintaining the appearance of the lookout and planetarium areas. This is important as many visitors are frequenting these areas and this will give Brisbane a good reputation. Lastly, there was no road signage regarding caution of wildlife in the area and poor signage regarding walking trails.