An investigation of visitor behaviour in recreation and tourism settings: a case study of natural hazard management at the Glaciers, Westland National Park, New Zealand.
Visitor non-compliance with protective recommendations is a major problem faced by recreational managers within natural environments. Although many studies have been conducted on noncompliant visitor behaviour within natural resource areas, few attempts have been made to gain an understanding of the behaviour, or to understand the decision making process. This dissertation seeks to address this gap by exploring salient motivations behind noncompliant behaviour within a natural recreation setting. The study was conducted over the summer of 2007-2008 within the popular tourist attractions of Fox and Franz Josef glaciers, Westland National park, New Zealand. The Department of Conservation has a legal and increasingly a moral obligation to provide a level of service and ensure a high standard of visitor safety within lands it administers. However, despite its efforts, management actions are criticised as being ‘over cautious’, and consequently a large number of visitors choose to ignore hazard warnings communicated by management and cross safety barriers, placing themselves and others at considerable risk. Previous studies at the glaciers have identified a number of causes for visitor non-compliance, including situational factors and the adequacy of current visitor management procedures. Through a quantitative measure, and qualitative interview responses, study findings show that visitor compliance with protective recommendations was strongly influenced by a number of situational factors including the proximity of track end points from the glacier terminus; the visibility of other visitors beyond the roped barriers; modest hazard perceptions of visitors; estimated visitor age; time of day and weather conditions. Based on visitor interview responses, motives of non-compliance were further explored by classifying behaviour according to Gramann and Vander Stoep’s (1987) typologies of normative violations. It is identified, using Ajzen’s (1985; 1991) theory of planned behaviour, that non-compliance with protective recommendations at the glaciers is motivated by, (1) a ‘belief’ that the situation or resource encouraged it; (2), through a release of ‘social pressure’, because everyone else was going over; and (3), a ‘perceived facilitation of the behaviour’, in that there were no obvious consequences to self or others. Implications for management to control noncompliant behaviour are discussed in detail.... [Show full abstract]