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Development and application of the Kangaroo Island TOMM (Tourism Optimisation Management Model)

Liz Jack

Principle, Complete Marketing Solutions, tourism consultants ( Project manager TOMM (Tourism Optimisation Management Model) for the community of Kangaroo Island.
PO Box 39, Kingscote, Kangaroo Island, South Australia 5223 Ph. (08) 8553 2381, Fax. (08) 8553 2531, Mobile: 0409 109 161, Email:


The Kangaroo Island Tourism Optimisation Management Model (TOMM), Kangaroo Island, South Australia is a unique example of a ‘community’ driven, visitor management system being practically implemented within Australia.

Whilst the tourism field has seen many models of tourism management, these have tended to be focused on specific sites, with a strong environmental flavour and many have been developed, coordinated and implemented through a range of government or academic institutions.

The Kangaroo Island TOMM embraces a much wider focus than just the environment, rather seeking to develop a range of practical indicators to monitor the growth of tourism across all major aspects of Island life including economic, socio-cultural, environmental, market and experiential conditions.

Rather than being driven by a particular agency, the Kangaroo Island TOMM is fully funded through community, industry and government partnerships and has an appointed coordinator to ensure the outcomes of the project are implemented with full community support.

Given its multiple site and stakeholder approach, the Kangaroo Island TOMM faces some unique obstacles and hurdles to its implementation, which in turn is testing the application of this visitor management system approach for application in other tourism based communities.

Keywords: visitor management, tourism, community, Kangaroo Island

Introduction to Kangaroo Island

Kangaroo Island is the third largest island off the coast of Australia. It is situated approximately 100 km south west of Adelaide (South Australia), is 155 km long, up to 55km wide, and covers an area of 4,500 square km. Visitors can only access Kangaroo Island by air or sea, making it an excellent destination to implement visitor management techniques.

Wildlife is the key motivation for visiting Kangaroo Island - 85% of international, 58% of interstate and 42% of intrastate visitors nominated wildlife as a reason for coming to the Island.1

The tourism system on Kangaroo Island is dominated by one ferry supplier who actively promotes the Island internationally and supplies extensive business to the tourism industry on the Island, particularly amongst the self contained accommodation sector. It is recognised that assistance to the small business sector on the Island is required to reduce the dependency of this relationship and encourage them to develop independent markets through collaborative opportunities.

The Island has an number of successful four wheel drive companies who are actively promoting the Island in the markets of Europe and North America, however they face increasing competition as mainland tour operators use Kangaroo Island to supplement their off-season trade.

The resident population of approximately 4,373 people is largely dependent on agriculture and tourism, with the latter increasing as a result of downturns within the agricultural sector, particularly the sheep market. Whilst diversification of agriculture is taking place, unemployment is relatively high at around 13.8%, with the 15-29 year old age group tending to leave the Island in search of employment. (KIDB, 1998).

The small size of the population limits the rate base of the Island and in some instances, the associated ability of local government to provide services and facilities expected, particularly within the growing visitor service industry of tourism. The Kangaroo Island Council has traditionally been represented strongly by the agricultural and farming sector, however with an increasing number of off island residents relocating to Kangaroo Island, the representation on Council is changing, which has assisted the implementation of the Tourism Optimisation Management Model.

Tourism is increasingly being perceived as a viable alternative to the agricultural industry. A resident survey conducted in 1998 highlighted this point with 89% of respondents indicated that tourism was either ‘very good’ or ‘good’.2

Tourism growth to the Island has been predicted at 10.6% in the short term and 8.8% in the long term.3 Associated with this however, is concern amongst some sectors of the community, regarding the ability of the Island to manage tourism in the long term to ensure economic revitalisation whilst minimising impacts upon the environment and lifestyle.

An understanding and definition of ‘communities’ is proving to be important in the implementation of the TOMM concept, given that the traditional resident community now requires expansion to include the ‘off-island land owner, investor and government communities’ who also have an interest in the future of Kangaroo Island.


Recreation planning and management frameworks have been in existence for over 30 years. Important frameworks include Recreation Carrying Capacity (eg. Lucas 1964, Hendee et al. 1968), Limits of Acceptable Change (LAC) (Stankey et al. 1985) and more recently the Visitor Impact Management Model (VIMM) (Graefe 1989).

In 1996, a Limits of Acceptable Change model was proposed for Kangaroo Island to ensure the retention and integrity of the environment, lifestyle and community of Kangaroo Island for generations to come.

This recommendation flowed from the recently formed Kangaroo Island Tourism Policy (Kangaroo Island Tourism Policy Working Group 1991) and the Kangaroo Island Sustainable Tourism Development Strategy (Kangaroo Island Development Board 1995).

Through these documents, the Island formulated a vision on which the tourism industry has subsequently developed. This is that: Kangaroo Island will be one of the world’s pre-eminent nature –based tourism destinations. With a strong rural industry selling its products to the tourist, mainland and overseas markets, a high quality of life for residents and well managed resources.

Throughout the consultation and development process of the Kangaroo Island LAC model, concerns over the perceived ‘limiting’ of tourism development through a ‘limits of acceptable change’ model were voiced.

Although the application of frameworks such as LAC and VIMM had been aimed at minimising negative ecological impacts, only recently was there a logical extension of their use in identifying and setting optimal uses. On Kangaroo Island, this was first achieved through the development of a Tourism Optimisation Management Model (TOMM) (Manidis Roberts Consultants 1997).

In contrast to management frameworks such as LAC and VIMM, TOMM does not concentrate on impacts or setting limits for use but instead emphasises optimal and sustainable outcomes for tourism and the community, and sets acceptable ranges within which they should occur (Twyford et al. in prep.).

TOMM focuses on an integrated approach to tourism management as can be seen in table one. It overcomes the major impediments with conventional tourism management models and alleviates concern regarding limitation of tourism growth, by:

  • avoiding use of the terms “impact” and “limits” which the tourism industry interpret as discouraging growth and thus business. TOMM has been designed with a constructive and positive focus to help all stakeholders;
  • broadly focussing on the entire tourism environment rather than just its ecological and experiential components;
  • providing for the cooperative involvement of all stakeholders through the establishment of a true partnership approach;
  • deliberately serving a multitude of stakeholders, operating at a regional level over a range of protected area and private land tenures (Twyford et al. in prep.).

The optimal conditions cover the broad spectrum of the economic, market opportunity, ecological, experiential and socio-cultural factors and as such, reflect the entire tourism system, and so contrast to the LAC or VIMM systems, which tend to focus on one specific aspect of a tourism system.

A critical component of the TOMM, is a management response system which alerts key stakeholders to those indicators which are not performing within their acceptable range or to other potential issues which may merit additional monitoring.

With active involvement of all key management agencies on the Island, this cause / effect / response relationship allows for effective and timely management action and the ultimate evolution of the Model in line with the changes occurring in the Island community.

Table One: From McVetty (1997)

Table One: Traditions, Perspectives, and Planning Issues for Tourism4



Strategic Planning Issues and Questions


Tourism is good and should be developed.

How can more tourists be attracted?
How can obstacles to growth be overcome?


Tourism is a business that should provide a financial return to its investors.

How can profits and shareholder value be maximised?


Tourism creates employment and attracts foreign revenue.

How can tourism spur growth in the economy? How can employment and income be maximised?


Tourism has an impact on resources, so should have an ecological basis. Tourism is a spatial phenomenon.

What is the physical carrying capacity of an area?
How can travel patterns are manipulated to reduce environmental impacts?
Should visitor use be concentrated or dispersed?


Tourism is neither good nor bad. Its development should be guided by local wishes

How can the community take control of tourism development?
What are the impacts of tourism on the community?


Tourism is part of a complete system that includes the environment, community, industry, economy and the legislative environment. Its planning should be democratic and integrated with related planning processes. Its planning should help tourism to contribute to a community’s well being.

How does the tourism system work in this area?
What are the reasons for tourism in this area?
How can the system be changed to optimise tourism’s contribution, relative to shared goals?


Implementation of TOMM

In 1997/98, the TOMM Management Committee, comprising representatives from all key tourism management agencies on the Island, successfully accessed funding from the Office of National Tourism to implement and test the Tourism Optimisation Management Model.

With additional funding from Island representatives, a Project Manager was appointed to commence implementation of the TOMM project over a two-year period. The primary objective of this appointment being to establish the processes, relationships and methodologies required for the TOMM to effectively generate long-term results for and support from the broad range of communities and managing agencies with an interest in the Island.

The TOMM is constantly evolving, as it reflects the growth of both tourism and these community groupings. Long-term implementation of the model is reliant upon its ability to identify and monitor tourism-related issues and advise Island management on appropriate responses to ensure their optimum impact.

Given the integrated approach and broad stakeholder involvement, the TOMM will rely heavily upon support – both financial and motivational- from community sectors, be they on or off the Island.

The presence of a project manager to act as an interface between management agencies and the various ‘communities’ which use Kangaroo Island is a critical aspect of its implementation and one that will help to guarantee its long-term sustainability. Without such an individual ‘face’ to represent the project, it potentially loses energy and profile amongst the many issues that affect the future growth of the Island.

The TOMM adopts an ‘organic’ approach. It requires a long lead-time but ensures that all stakeholders have input into the desired tourism future for Kangaroo Island. In recognition of this, implementation phases have been identified, each one reflecting the evolution of the Model and its acceptance within the Kangaroo Island communities. Phase One covering the immediate period till March 2000.

Phase One Re-establishing the TOMM concept

The first phase of implementation has been to re-establish the TOMM concept in the community and increase general awareness of the purpose of the Model, given a two-year delay between the final release of the model and the appointment of the Project Manager.

Whilst initial consultation was undertaken during the development of the model, the TOMM is viewed by some as just another ‘expensive strategy’, which has yet to produce results.

Despite this limited scepticism, there is an acknowledgment that uncontrolled tourism development will not necessarily ensure long term benefits to the island or indeed to the tourism stakeholders.

The Island is still grappling with the type and extent of tourism development they wish to see and whilst the TOMM project identified a set of core values for the Island and provides a tangible means of monitoring this growth, a shared set of values is still to be achieved.

However, with the increasing national and international interest in the use of indicators as a sustainable tourism management tool, the community of Kangaroo Island is beginning to realise that the TOMM concept is another unique icon within the Islands’ tourism product, and has the potential to value-add to the Island’s reputation as a sustainably managed, wildlife destination.

The Process

Enrolling the residents and community groups of Kangaroo Island into considering the long-term future of tourism as well as their short-term needs, has been a core success factor in the reintroduction of the TOMM project in the community.

The TOMM model is a theoretical approach to visitor management and whilst appropriate in many instances, the use of terminology, language and presentation was not ideally suited to ensure understanding amongst sectors of the resident community of Kangaroo Island, despite the fact that the TOMM project and community were communicating the same ‘message regarding the Island’s future.

Through simplifying the concepts, it has been possible to ensure a greater understanding of the need to support the TOMM process as a form of long term ‘island insurance’, by focusing on common concerns and issues voiced within the community and through the development of future ‘scenarios’ based upon documented fact from mass tourism destinations around the world.

The TOMM project is now being seen as an ‘independent’ voice amongst the various agencies and agenda’s on the Island, which can identify issues and raise questions, which otherwise might be overlooked.

Consultation mechanisms have specifically been implemented to complement the natural timing and processes of the community.

Initial face-to-face discussions and presentations were undertaken with key Island agencies, complemented by a range of media releases explaining the TOMM concept and identifying the background and experience of the Project Manager.

Direct mail to all resident community groups asking for an opportunity to address a meeting was sent and followed up by an initial phone call. Acceptance of this invitation has taken time to come to fruition, however as community groups begin to hear about the TOMM project from independent sources, they are now approaching the Project Manager to confirm appointments.

Every community group has its own individual concerns and projects. Through adopting a ‘win-win’ approach and being willing to listen to the issues and where possible assist the projects of community members, it has been possible to highlight the benefit the model can provide to individual sectors, which in turn assists the TOMM project in the long-run.

Whilst the TOMM project can act as a unifying force, providing a long-term, Island-wide theme and purpose which links projects and individual groups into common action, solutions are still required to overcome individual competitiveness, short-term views and vested interest.

Phase Two Updating the TOMM

In the intervening period between completion of the model and implementation, Kangaroo Island has experienced a number of changes and emerging issues, which are likely to impact both upon the development of the tourism industry and the island community as a whole.

These include such factors as the growth within the international day visitor market and the economic value they contribute to the Island, increasing off island home ownership and increasing land prices, and access to finance by Island residents for infrastructure development or refurbishment.

This evolution has meant that indicators identified as being appropriate in 1996/97 have required review. Similarly, recent work undertaken by the World Tourism Organisation, has shed new light on the development and use of tourism indicators, focusing on the collection and coordination of information based upon what managers need to know for effective tourism planning. (Ted Manning, 1999)

Core indicators are being used to monitor optimum conditions in line with key values of the community, whilst supplementary and site indicators are developed to track specific information at particular locations and in response to individual community / industry needs.

Through this process of constant review and evolution, key stakeholders are reassured that both the TOMM and its monitoring methods are pertinent to them and their businesses and data will be made available to them for their own planning purposes.

Key areas that require indicators and associated monitoring programs include:

  • Visitor expectation regarding access to wildlife experiences;
  • Determination of the total number of visitors to the Island;
  • Determination of the number and impact of off-island home owners who visit the Island but who are not accounted for in industry statistics;
  • The attitude of residents to the growing tourism industry through incidences of trespass, increasing land prices and access to employment;
  • The potential relationship and impact of visitors on key wildlife species such as the hooded plover;
  • The economic benefit or cost of tourism – particularly day trip tourism – to the Island community.

Within the review of the indicators, it has also been recognised that two new indicator categories are required to reflect growing issues, which have the potential to impact upon the quality of life and tourism experience on the Island. Categories relating to infrastructure development and industry operator development are currently being developed and will be presented for consultation with core groups in the community.

Phase Three Reliable Monitoring Processes ~ Identifying, Establishing and Reporting.

For the TOMM process to identify and respond to the needs emerging within the community, the development of ongoing monitoring and data collection systems to track the impact and changes brought about by these issues is critical.

The third stage of Phase One involves the identification, co-ordination and in some instances, development of appropriate data collection systems.

Kangaroo Island has been the focal point of research for many years and a considerable amount of data has been collected, some of which is anticipated to have direct relevance to the TOMM project. However, gaps in appropriate monitoring systems do exist, as does the financial and human resources required to carry them out.

An ongoing issue for a management project such as TOMM is firstly, the availability of funding and human resources to initiate research methodologies and drive the project, secondly, access to data sources which are critical to the knowledge base and thirdly, effective reporting mechanisms to ensure the research is communicated.

Funding to the two core data collection processes – the exit and resident surveys – has recently experienced a reduction in allocation and as such, alternative short and long-term funding arrangements are be researched. These range from a renewable resource levy on passenger arrivals to the Island, contributions by ratepayers through an increase in the rate-base, annual budget allocations amongst Island management agencies, as well as industry and corporate donations.

The issue of a sustainable funding source for tourism research will become a key issue of the TOMM project throughout 2000, with an anticipated decision in 2001.

Accessing data from the private sector transport operator’s in order to provide a true picture of total visitation to the Island is also generating a number of hurdles and questions for the TOMM project.

The confidentiality of business information and how it is publicised within the wider, competitive environment is of concern to some elements of the private sector and requires sensitive management. The development of an agreed policy and shared understanding between the private sector and the TOMM project will be required, if access to commercially confidential market information is made available in the interests of long-term, sustainable future of the Island.

Reporting and community feedback similarly requires careful management. Since funding agencies require immediate ‘return on their investment’ through the provision of research and data to assist in their planning processes, a core role of the TOMM Project Manager will be to ensure ongoing communication through a variety of mechanisms.

Specific reporting mechanisms to achieve this include:

  • the development of a business plan outlining the anticipated costs to run the TOMM project;
  • distribution of a TOMM data sheet reporting on the performance of project indicators;
  • ongoing presentations to funding partners, community groups and individuals;
  • the development of a web site to link on and off island agencies interested in the TOMM concept;
  • information exchange and feedback through the media and conferences.

Outcomes and Issues

The TOMM project is in its formative stages of implementation. This period not only requires a considerable change in attitude and approach amongst the management agencies and communities involved in the growth of the tourism industry on the Island, but also the establishment of consistent data collection systems to ensure ongoing monitoring against the desired indicators.

Immediate results of the project include:

  • The establishment of core data collection and monitoring programs against the TOMM indicators;
  • Commitment by key Island agencies to identify and consider a sustainable funding source to ensure the ongoing implementation of the TOMM project;
  • An acknowledged need to articulate a set of Island values which will guide the integrated development of Kangaroo Island;
  • The cross connection of agencies and their associated projects through sharing of information- such as the potential use and interpretation of data from Council traffic counters in association with National Parks and Wildlife officers;
  • Increasing feedback on issues and trends within the tourism industry which may be of value to the TOMM project and the wider community;
  • A increasing willingness of sectors within the tourism industry to assist and promote the TOMM concept both in the provision of data and through their own communication channels – such as the development of an accommodation booking proforma by a local accommodation operator for use by other operators;
  • A growing network of individuals and destinations also involved in sustainable tourism management, who are taking an interest in the Kangaroo Island TOMM project.


The vision of the TOMM project is to achieve World’s Best Practice in the management of Kangaroo Island as a tourism destination for the benefit of both residents and visitors within an ecologically sustainable framework.

Achievement of this vision requires a commitment at the individual level and as such, requires longer time frames, a local source of funding to guarantee reliable monitoring and communication systems and ongoing involvement of the tourism industry.

Whilst these elements are initial obstacles to the project implementation, once achieved, they ensure the long-term success of the concept through the development of a set of articulated community values, a common and agreed upon vision, active participation and ownership by the community concerned.

When local ownership is supplemented with management action and technological advancements through data collection, interpretation and simulator models, the TOMM project offers local communities one possible solution to sustainable tourism management.


Getz, D. (1987) “Tourism Planning and Research: Traditions, models and futures.” In Proceedings of the Australian Travel Research Workshop, hosted by the Western Australian Tourism Commission, November 5-6, 1987, Bunbury, Western Australia.

Graefe, A. (1989) Visitor Impact Management. In: Proceedings of a North American Workshop on Visitor Management in Parks and Protected Areas. Tourism Research and Education Centre, University of Waterloo and Environment Canada, Parks Service.

Hendee, J.C., Catton, W.R., Marlow, L.D. and Brockman, C.F. (1968) Wilderness users in the Pacific Northwest: their characteristics, values and management preferences. USDA Forests Department Research Paper PNW-61, Portland, Oregon.

Kangaroo Island Development Board, (1998) A Regional Profile of Kangaroo Island South Australia.

Lucas, R.C. (1964) Wilderness use and users: the example of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area. Natural Resources Journal 3(3): 394-411.

Manidis Roberts Consultants (1997) Developing a Tourism Optimisation Management Model (TOMM): a model to monitor and manage tourism on Kangaroo Island, South Australia. Final Report, South Australian Tourism Commission, Adelaide.

Moncrieff, D. (1997) A Tourism Optimisation Management Model for Dryandra Woodland. Department of Conservation and Land Management, Narrogin, Western Australia.

McVetty, D. (1997) Segmenting Heritage Tourism Party – Visits on Dunedin’s Otago Peninsula: A Strategic Approach, Thesis submitted for degree of Master of Tourism at the University of Otago, Dunlin, New Zealand.

Stankey, G.H., Cole, D.N., Lucas, R.C., Petersen, M.E. and Frissell, S.S. (1985) The Limits of Acceptable Change (LAC) system for wilderness planning. USDA Forest Service General Technical Report INT-176, Ogden, Utah.

Tan Research (1998a) Kangaroo Island Tourism Commission Survey. Report prepared for SATC. Tan Research Pty. Ltd., Kent Town, SA.

Tan Research (1998b) Kangaroo Island Visitor Survey. Report prepared for Kangaroo Island Development Board. Tan Research Pty. Ltd., Kent Town, SA.

Tourism South Australia (1988) Kangaroo Island Visitor Survey 1987/88. Tourism South Australia and Tourism Kangaroo Island, Adelaide.

Twyford, K.L, Vickery, F.J. and Moncrieff, D. (in prep.) Development and application of Tourism Optimisation Management Models (TOMM) at Kangaroo Island and the Dryandra Woodland. In: Worboys, G., De Lacy, T. & Lockwood, M. eds. Protected Area Management (Principles and Practices). NSW NPWS, Sydney.

1 Kangaroo Island Visitor Survey:Final Report, 1998, Tan Research for the KI Development Board

2 Kangaroo Island Resident Survey, Tan Research for the KI Development Board,1998.

3 Developing a Tourism Optimisation Management Model (TOMM): a model to monitor and manage tourism on Kangaroo Island, South Australia. , Manidis Roberts Consultants, 1997, Final Report, South Australian Tourism Commission, Adelaide.

4 Segmenting Heritage Tourism Party – Visits on Dunedin’s Otago Peninsula: A Strategic Approach, D.McVetty, 1997

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