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In recent years there has been a growing realisation that economic development in outback regional Australia needs to be built on the three sustainable core pillars of mining, agriculture and tourism. Geotourism, an emerging global phenomenon, is holistic and is an experiential form of nature (and culture – both indigenous and post European settlement based) tourism. Unlike ecotourism which focuses mainly on flora and fauna in essentially protected areas, geotourism can extend across both designated protected and unprotected areas, including those areas subject of existing agricultural and mining development. By raising awareness of the importance of the area’s geological heritage in history and society today, geotourism provides local communities with a sense of pride in their region and strengthens their identification with the region. Geotourism can be the generator of new jobs and innovative local enterprises as new sources of revenue, as well as the opportunity for existing remote area businesses to diversify into provision of visitor services, while the geological heritage of the region can be better managed and protected.
Embracing through geotourism the Pilbara Georegion’s world-famous North Pole stromatolites, given this geosite’s world class profile as the oldest living community fossils on the planet, has considerable potential in establishing Australia as a ‘must see’ destination for fossil-rich geoheritage visitation. Realisation of this potential, when combined with the parallel development of the truly unique Nilpena Ediacaran fossil assemblage site in South Australia’s Flinders Ranges, as well as the established Age of Dinosaurs museum in Winton in Western Queensland, will deliver for Australia an unparalleled tourism destination. For the emerging, high value, free and independent market in China, the availability of high profile ‘scenic areas’ such as the Pilbara Georegion, with its outstanding natural heritage and cultural values, offers outstanding ‘bucket list’ appeal.