Between the Flags: An Assessment of Domestic and International University Students' Knowledge of Beach Safety in Australia

By Roy Ballantyne, Neil Carr and Karen Hughes, published in Tourism Man 2005, 26(4): 617-22.

The paper assesses the behavior of international and domestic students on beaches in Queensland, Australia and their knowledge of beach safety practices.

Safe Coastal Tourism refers to this article as it quotes interesting articles on tourists' behavior on the beach, on how to change risky behavior to safe behavior, on the protectiveness by tourism industry of beach images as ideal holiday destinations....

Kind of warnings/educational materials to be effective?

The writers of the article refer to the Protection Motivation Theory which recommends an approach which would be particularly suitable for designing and disseminating surf safety information. The theory suggests that education and safety warnings must highlight the personal threat individuals are under if they behave irresponsibly. It is based on the assumption that warnings/educational materials will only change behavior if they build on a person's beliefs about potential threats and danger. Thus, educational materials such as signs should be available where risky behavior is likely to occur (i.e., at entrances to popular beaches) and should clearly state possible risks...

Note that, like the writers conclude, this research was not intended to provide recommendations of how safety information would be best disseminated. Which modes of information and dissemination are more effective with some sub-populations than others, need to be researched.

The writers of this article acknowledge that a specific sup-population (students) was sampled, and thus findings may not mirror the knowledge, attitudes, and/or behavior of the general populations that visits Australia's beaches. However, as a result of the heterogeneous nature of the student population and the overlaps that exist between it and other populations, it may be hypothesized that the results of this study could be expanded to the general population. The writers suggest to expand the research to encompass all segments of the international end domestic populations visiting Australia's beaches.

Tourism industry fears travelers stay away when providing safety information about specific areas such as the marine environment

Another difficult issue to improving safety education and practices amongst beach users, to be faced, according to the writers, is related to the tourism industry and beach oriented holiday destinations marketing of the beach as a place for fun and relaxation. Although the industry and destinations may have a moral obligation to ensure the safety of beach users they may also be protective of beach images as ideal holiday locations. As a result, they may be averse to potentially damaging these images with the distribution of details and/or graphical representations of the dangers associated with beaches in Australia... According to Peach and Bath (1999) "possible reasons for the tourism industry not always providing health and safety information, particularly about specific areas such as the marine environment, are the tourism industry considering it bad marketing to acknowledge that some travelers may experience a problem."