VISITOR SATISFACTION LEVELS AT SOUTHERN UTAH NATIONAL PARKS AS THE NUMBER OF VISITORS INCREASES.
The five southern Utah national parks--Arches National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park, Canyonlands National Park, Capitol Reef National Park, and Zion National Park--have experienced significant increases in visitation over the past decade. Collectively, visitation increased 84 percent from 2008 to 2017, with the period between 2013 and 2017 exhibiting the largest growth, as individual parks experienced increases of 42 to 96 percent (data from National Park Service, 2018). In Utah, policy makers, tourism officials, and park managers took note, documenting the 14.4 percent increase in visitation from 2013 to 2014 (Utah Economic Council, 2016) and 15.6 percent increase in the year 2015 over the year 2014 (Leaver, 2016). As of May year-to-date (YTD) 2015 versus May YTD 2014, Arches, Bryce Canyon, and Zion were already experiencing a visitation increase of 18.4 percent. For the first time, Arches National Park had to close the entrance gate for a time over the 2015 Memorial Day weekend due to traffic backing up on Highway 191 (Church, 2015).
Such dramatic increases in visitor numbers have the potential to negatively impact the quality of the visitor experience in national parks, resulting in reduced satisfaction. Increased visitor numbers put a strain on park facilities, infrastructure, and services. Many of these resources, including interpretive services and programs (White, Virden, & Cahill, 2005; Stern & Powell, 2013), transportation services and facilities (White et al, 2011), presence of park rangers (Taplin, Rodger, & Moore, 2016), the cleanliness and condition of facilities, general park appearance, and safety and security (Burns, Graefe, & Titre, 1998) have been shown in previous studies to influence visitor satisfaction. In addition, crowding (Moyle & Croy, 2007) and conflict with other visitors (Vaske et. al, 2000) can also lead to lower levels of visitor satisfaction.
This study investigates the visitors' satisfaction levels to find out if satisfaction levels were decreasing due to the increased visitation levels at southern Utah national parks, which had experienced double digit visitation increases the past two years. Three parks were included in this study: Arches National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park, and Zion National Park.
Two days were selected for study: Saturday, September 5, 2015 of Labor Day weekend; and, Saturday, September 19, 2015, two weeks later. It was expected that the holiday weekend would attract more visitors than a non-holiday weekend, which would allow the researchers to compare differences in visitor satisfaction levels of various park features for the two dates. Research permit applications for each park were submitted via the National Park Service (NPS) Integrated Resource Management Applications (IRMA) Research Permit and Reporting System (RPRS). Permits were granted for Arches and Zion National Parks. Researchers were unable to secure a permit to collect surveys in Bryce Canyon National Park prior to the start of data collection. They did, however, receive permission from the general manager at Ruby's Inn, located in Bryce Canyon City, to contact guests in the lobby area who were there to visit Bryce Canyon National Park.
Students from Southern Utah University (SUU) were recruited and trained to assist with contacting park visitors and inviting them to participate in the study. Four students were assigned to Arches and another four to Zion, contacting visitors in two locations at each park. At Arches, students were stationed in pairs at the Visitor Center and at the Devils Garden Trailhead area. In Zion, students working in pairs contacted visitors at the Visitor Center and at the Temple of Sinawava shuttle stop. At Bryce Canyon, two students were stationed at the Ruby's Inn lobby located near the park entrance.
Given that the main purpose of the survey was to measure visitors' satisfaction with their park experience, it made sense to have visitors complete the survey after they had completed their visit. Therefore, they were asked if they would provide an e-mail address that would be used to direct them to the survey website once they had completed their park visit. Within 10 days of receiving the e-mail lists, researchers sent visitors an e-mail that directed them with a hyperlink to the survey website. Three rounds of reminder emails were subsequently sent to those who had not yet completed the surveys.
The survey was administered online by WorldAPP's Key Survey and was available in six languages: English, French, German, Spanish, Korean, and Chinese. Respondents were asked questions regarding previous visits to Utah and to national parks; characteristics of their trip; level of satisfaction with key features of the park they had visited; perceptions of crowding in the park; and demographic information.
Statistical analyses were conducted using SPSS (v. 23, IBM SPSS Inc., Chicago, IL USA). Exploratory factor analysis (EFA) using principal components extraction was conducted on the park feature satisfaction variables in an attempt to understand how various features may group together to explain visitor satisfaction perceptions. A general rule for utilizing EFA is that there should be a five-to-one ratio of observations to variables tested, (Hair et al., 1998; Grimm & Yarnold, 1995). Thus both survey dates for each park were combined to maximize the number of observations and reliability of the FA test. Only factors with Eigenvalues greater than 1.0 were retained. A varimax rotation was used and factor loadings less than 0.4 were suppressed for ease of interpretation. If an interpretable structure emerged, individual factors were named based on the variables loading on each.
OVERALL SUMMARY OF THREE PARKS
The following sections report visitor satisfaction levels, perceptions of crowding, trip characteristics, and visitor demographics. Findings are given for the overall sample of southern Utah national park visitors, as well as for each individual park included in the study. Results of the exploratory factor analysis (EFA) of park feature satisfaction levels for each park are also reported.
A total of 1,541 visitor email addresses were collected at the three parks on the two days during which visitors were contacted, and 491 completed surveys were submitted. The study achieved an overall response rate of 31.86%. Sample sizes and response rates for each park are presented in Table 1.
Visitor Satisfaction Levels
Overall, visitors to all three parks appear to be satisfied with their experience, with approximately 95 percent of visitors indicating they were either satisfied or very satisfied on both dates. A summary of overall satisfaction for the three parks on the two survey dates is presented in Table 2.
Table 3 shows very little variation was observed in the satisfaction levels of visitors from different geographic areas.
Perceptions of Crowding
As expected, the parks were busier on the holiday weekend than on the non-holiday weekend as presented in Table 4. Perceived crowding on the two survey dates also varied by park (Figure 1). Between 12 and 23 percent of respondents did not know what kind of conditions to expect, and between 5 and 39 percent experienced conditions that were more crowded than they expected.
Visitor Trip Characteristics
In reviewing the respondents' trip characteristics by age, approximately 41 percent of all respondents had visited southern Utah before. Approximately 50 percent of the 35 to 54 age group had been to southern Utah before. Only about 35 percent of the 25 to 34 and 65 and older age groups had been to southern Utah before. Seventy-one percent of the US Mountain respondents had been to this area of southern Utah before, and 41 percent of US Pacific respondents had been to this area of southern Utah before. Approximately 35 percent of US New England, US Middle Atlantic, and Germany/Austria/Switzerland respondents had been to this area of southern Utah before.
About 25 percent of the age group 18 to 34 had seen the Mighty 5 promotion, whereas about 45 percent of the 45 to 54 and 65 and older age groups had seen the Mighty 5 promotion. Over 45 percent of respondents from the US West North Central, US West South Central, US New England, and US South Atlantic regions had seen the Mighty 5 promotion. Of the respondents who reported having seen a Utah Office of Tourism "Mighty 5" advertisement, over half were visiting the national park at which they were contacted for the first time as shown in Table 5.
Supplemental data to Table 5 shows that approximately 71 percent of respondents 65 or older visited all three parks. Over 60 percent of respondents aged 45 to 64 visited both Arches and Zion. About 41 percent of respondents 25 to 54 visited Bryce, whereas the same age group visited Arches 53 to 60 percent and Zion 61 to 68 percent.
Over 70 percent of respondents from US Pacific, US Mountain, US South Atlantic, Germany/Austria/Switzerland, and Netherlands/Belgium visited a U.S. national park more than once in the past 12 months.
The younger the respondent, the greater was the likelihood of a shorter trip. In the trip category of more than seven nights, there were 61 percent of 55 to 64 age respondents and 73 percent of the 65 and older respondents. Approximately 30 to 35 percent of the 18 to 34 age group were taking a trip more than seven nights, whereas 35 to 40 percent were taking a trip of two to three nights. From 51 to 55 percent of the 18 to 34 age group spent two to three nights of their trip in Utah, whereas approximately 27 percent of the 55 and older age group spent more than seven nights in Utah. Approximately 49 percent of all respondents were on a trip of more than seven nights, whereas about 38 percent of those respondents spent two to three nights in Utah. Sixty-five percent of all respondents had visited a national park more than once in the past 12 months, whereas 76 percent of the 25 to 34 age group had visited a national park more than once in the same time frame.
As would be expected, foreign visitors were more likely to take a longer trip than domestic travelers. All respondents from Canada, Great Britain, Germany/Austria/Switzerland, and Netherlands/Belgium took a trip of more than seven days. The highest percent of domestic visitors taking trips of more than seven days were US East North Central (75 percent), US New England (69 percent), and US Middle Atlantic (65 percent). The least likely respondents to take a trip of more than seven days were from the US Mountain region (13 percent). The respondents from the US Pacific and US South Atlantic regions (18 percent) were the most likely to spend seven or more nights in Utah.
Table 6 indicates that the vast majority of respondents resided in the United States, with European residents accounting for the second largest group of visitors. The overall visitor sample was fairly balanced by gender, with 51.1% male and 48.9% female.
Approximately 40 percent of all respondents 25 and older had earned post graduate degrees. Another 39 percent of respondents had graduated from college. Only one percent of respondents had not completed high school.
ARCHES NATIONAL PARK
Visitor Satisfaction Levels
There was little difference in the combined percent of satisfied and very satisfied respondents between Sept. 5 (Saturday of Labor Day weekend) and Sept. 19 (Saturday two weeks after the Labor Day weekend). It can be seen in Table 7 that the important difference between the two days surveyed was the difference in the number of very satisfied respondents, which was 69.5 percent on the holiday and 80.3 percent on the non-holiday. The Chi-square test comparing the satisfaction levels of respondents for the two dates was non-significant.
An examination of satisfaction levels for individual park features reveals that there were small differences in the combined satisfied and very satisfied ratings between the two days surveyed. Table 8 shows the park features with double digit differences of very satisfied visitors between the two days. Only the percentage point difference is shown because not all guests experienced all park features.
Some preliminary tests indicated some high correlations among "overnight" variables, so these were removed. Bartlett's Test of Sphericity yielded a significance value of .00 at the 95 percent confidence level. Table 9 shows the analysis yielded a two-factor solution that accounted for approximately 72% of the variation in the data. Factor loadings for individual features less than 0.4 were eliminated from the results to aid interpretation. The Guest Services, Camping, and Shuttle Bus variables were excluded from the analysis as they either did not apply to all visitors or to the park in question.
There were 11 features in the first factor and six features in the second factor. The variables with the greatest explanation of variance in the first factor were: (1) able to visit desired destination; (2) condition of trails; and, (3) park entrance experience. Factor 1 was named "Convenience" based on the 11 variables loading on this factor. The variables with the greatest explanation of variance in the second factor were: (1) crowd flow within park; (2) private vehicle traffic flow; and, (3) parking within park. Factor 2 was named "Transportation" based on the six variables loading on this factor.
A regression test was then conducted with Factor 1 as the independent variable and overall satisfaction as the dependent variable. The F and t statistics were both significant at the .05 level. The Adjusted [R.sup.2], or the amount of variance explained by Factor 1 was 53.3 percent. Factor 2 only added an additional explanation of variance of 2.9 percent.
Perceptions of Crowding
Park visitors were asked to rate their perceptions of crowding as shown in Figure 2. A simple regression test was then conducted using crowding as the independent variable and overall satisfaction as the dependent variable. For September 5 the F and t statistics were not significant, which means that visitor crowding perceptions had no explanatory value of overall satisfaction. For September 19 the F and t statistics were significant, but the Adjusted R Squared value was only 6.5 percent, which means that crowding perceptions had very little explanatory value for overall satisfaction.
Visitor Trip Characteristics
Trip characteristic information was also collected from visitors on each date. Chi-square tests were thus used to test trip characteristic differences by date. Table 10 highlights the findings. The one significant finding was that, relative to visitors on a holiday visit to the park (Septmber 5), a higher percentage of visitors on a non-holiday visit (Sept. 19) were doing so as part of a trip lasting at least four days.
Demographic information was also collected from the park visitors. Chi-square tests were conducted to determine if there were significant differences between visitors to the park for the two days surveyed. As displayed in Table 11 below, the significant findings were: 1) households with two or fewer people make up a smaller percentage of total visitors on holidays; 2) a larger percentage of the holiday visitors are from the Pacific or Mountain regions relative to non-holiday visitors, and, 3) visitors that are at least 65 make up a larger percentage of total visitors on non-holiday periods.
Figure 2 Perceived Crowding at Arches National Park Level of Perceived Crowding 5-Sep 19-Sep Did not know what to expect 15 20.3 Less crowded than expected 26.1 12.2 About the same as expected 35.3 48.6 More crowded than expected 23.5 18.9 Note: Table made from bar graph.
ZION NATIONAL PARK
Exceeding 2.5 million visitors for the first time in 2002, Zion approached 3.19 million visitors in 2014 and 3.65 million visitors in 2015 (National Park Service, 2017). The percentage increases from 2013 to 2014, and 2014 to 2015 were respectively 13.6 and 14.4. The 30 percent increase over two years highlights the difficult challenges Zion personnel face in maintaining or increasing visitor satisfaction.
Visitor Satisfaction Levels
In our survey, the overall percentage of satisfied guests and very satisfied guests on Sept. 5 totaled 92.1. The percentage of satisfied and very satisfied guests was slightly higher overall on Sept. 19 at 92.4. The major difference in visitor satisfaction for the two days surveyed was that a lesser proportion of guests reported being very satisfied on Sept. 5 (52.6 percent) than on Sept. 19 (70.5 percent).
Table 12 belows indicates the combined percent of satisfied and very satisfied guests for the survey dates. There were only four park features that were significantly different in Chi-Square tests for the two dates surveyed.
The Guest Services and Camping variables were excluded from the analysis as they did not apply to all visitors. Bartlett's Test of Sphericity yielded a significance value of .00. The analysis yielded a three-factor solution that accounted for approximately 84% of the variation in the data as presented in Table 13. Factor loadings for individual features less than 0.4 were eliminated from the results to aid interpretation.
There were 10 park features that grouped together in Factor 1, which was labeled "Information" as many of these features relate to the availability of information in the park. The three variables of Factor 1 with the greatest explanatory value were: (1) visitor center exhibits; (2) staff providing information; and (3) roadside and trailside exhibits. Factor 2 was labeled "Transportation" with its included features clearly relating to transportation issues. The 'facilitating crowd flow within park' variable had the greatest explanatory value, followed by 'visitor center parking', and 'private vehicle traffic flow'. Factor 3 was labeled "Park Staff and Convenience," and the variables 'quantity of restrooms' and 'condition of restrooms' had the greatest explanatory values.
Regression tests were conducted to see how much overall satisfaction was explained by each factor. In each test, overall satisfaction was the dependent variable. When the "Information" factor was included as the independent variable, the F statistic and the t statistics were both significant at the .05 level and 65.4 percent of the visitor satisfaction for the combined dates was explained. When the "Transportation" and "Park Staff and Convenience" Factors were individually included in regression tests, the F and t statistics were both significant in each. The "Transportation" factor explained nine percent of the variance of overall satisfaction, and the "Park Staff and Convenience" factor explained 10 percent of the variance of overall satisfaction.
Perceptions of Crowding
Park visitors were asked to rate their perceptions of crowding as presented in Figure 3. Very little difference in crowding perceptions was observed between the two study dates, with most visitors experiencing crowding levels about the same or more crowded than expected.
A simple regression test was then conducted using crowding as the independent variable and overall satisfaction as the dependent variable. The F statistics for Sept. 5, Sept. 19 and Sept. 5 and Sept. 19 combined were not significant, which indicates that crowding perceptions did not explain overall visitor satisfaction.
Visitor Trip Characteristics
Trip characteristic information was also collected from visitors. Chi-square tests were conducted to test trip characteristic differences by date. Chi-square tests indicate whether the differences between Sept. 5 and Sept. 19 visitors were significant or not. Table 14 highlights the findings. As indicated, a significantly higher percentage of visitors on September 19 had never been to southern Utah before, spent at least four nights away from home on their trip, and spent at least four nights in Utah. Understanding how these characteristics of visitors differ between holiday and non-holiday weekends should help Zion in catering to their differing needs.
Demographic information was also collected from the park visitors. Chi-square tests were conducted to see if there were significant differences between visitors to the park for the two days surveyed. The highlights of the data collected and the Chi-square tests conducted are found in Table 15 below according to the demographic characteristic. As shown, a greater percentage of visitors on Sept. 19 were made up of groups of four or less, a higher percentage were retired, and a smaller percentage were from the Pacific or Mountain region. Again, understanding the demographic make-up of visitors on holidays vs. non-holidays should help Zion in understanding and catering to different needs accordingly.
Figure 3 Perceived Crowding at Zion National Park Perceived Crowding Level 5-Sep 19-Sep Did not know what to expect 12.8 17.6 Less crowded than expected 7.7 7.5 About the same as expected 41 35.8 More crowded than expected 38.5 39 Note: Table made from bar graph.
Some additional highlights of the demographic information include the following: (1) 54.1 percent of the September 19 visitors were in travel groups of two versus 31.7 percent of the visitors on Sept. 5; (2) 51.6 percent of visitors on Sept. 19 had two persons in the household versus 41.5 percent of the visitors on Sept. 5; (3) 22.5 percent of the visitors on Sept. 5 enjoyed household incomes of at least $200,000 versus 8.1 percent of visitors on Sept. 19; and, (4) 59.5 percent of visitors on Sept. 5 were in the managerial/executive or professional/technical occupations versus 41.1 percent of visitors on September 19.
BRYCE CANYON NATIONAL PARK
The number of visitors that were contacted at Bryce Canyon National Park were much fewer than the number of visitors contacted at Arches and Zion. Students obtained e-mail addresses in the lobby of Ruby's Inn, which is at the entrance of Bryce Canyon National Park. Due to only one point of contact and one team of students, fewer visitor e-mail addresses were obtained, resulting in fewer responses from Bryce. There were 32 responses for Sept. 5 and 24 responses for Sept. 19. Due to the small sample sizes, some statistical tests are not reliable. Those instances are not reported. It should also be noted that due to the location at which visitor contacts occurred, the results reported here may not be representative of the overall population of visitors to Bryce Canyon National Park.
Visitor Satisfaction Levels
Table 16 shows there were no dissatisfied visitors at Bryce on either Sept. 5 or September 19. There were more visitors that were very satisfied at Bryce on September 5 than on September 19 (67.7 percent versus 50.0 percent) but the Chi-Square test was non-significant. Once again, the small number of responses in one category or another could skew the percent of satisfied visitors.
An examination of satisfaction levels for individual park features reveals that there were small differences in the combined satisfied and very satisfied ratings between the two days surveyed. Park features with Chi-Square significant differences are presented in Table 17. Only the percentage point difference is shown because not all guests experienced all park features.
Table 18 shows the analysis yielded a two-factor solution that accounted for approximately 73% of the variation in the data. Factor loadings for individual features less than 0.4 were eliminated from the results to aid interpretation. We have named the two factors "Orientation and Convenience" and "Private Vehicle Experience". The most important park features in explaining the Orientation and Convenience Factor were: (1) Park orientation movie (.918); (2) Ability to visit desired park destinations (.813); and, (3) Roadside and trailside exhibits (.789). The most explanatory variable in the Private Vehicle Factor was Parking within park (.833).
Regression tests were then conducted to see the explanatory value of the two factors. The F statistic and the t statistics for the Orientation and Convenience factor were significant, and the Adjusted R Squared, or explanatory value was 58.6 percent. The F statistic for the Private Vehicle Experience factor was not significant. Therefore, the second EFA factor had no explanatory value for visitor satisfaction.
Perceptions of Crowding
Park visitors were asked to rate their perceptions of crowding as presented in Figure 4. The largest differences observed between dates were among the percentage of visitors who experienced lower or higher levels of crowding than they had expected. A simple regression test was then conducted using crowding as the independent variable and overall satisfaction as the dependent variable. The F statistics for September 5, September 19, and the two dates combined were not significant, which indicates that crowding perceptions did not explain overall visitor satisfaction.
Visitor Trip Characteristics
Trip characteristic information was also collected from visitors. Chi-square tests were also conducted to test trip characteristic differences by date as shown in Table 19. Many more visitors were first time visitors to southern Utah on the non-holiday than on the holiday. Also, more visitors were likely to spend more time in Utah on the non-holiday.
Figure 4 Perceived Crowding at Bryce Canyon National Park Level of Perceived Crowding 5-Sep 19-Sep Did not know what to expect 18.8 22.7 Less crowded than expected 34.4 9.1 About the same as expected 34.4 36.4 More crowded than expected 12.5 31.8 Note: Table made from bar graph.
Table 20 presents the demographic information that was collected from the park visitors. Visitors on the non-holiday were more likely to have two or less people in the household and were more likely to have more education. Overall there were many demographic similarities among visitors to Bryce Canyon on both dates.
Visitor Satisfaction Levels
Visitors to national parks are often very satisfied with their experience. As mentioned prior, visitors on both days to all three parks were approximately 95 percent satisfied and very satisfied with their national park experience. While these results appear encouraging, it must be pointed out that most studies of outdoor recreation and national park visitors have found very high levels of satisfaction (Manning, 2011). For instance, an NPS-wide study of visitors found that of over 32,000 visitors sampled at 313 NPS units in 2008, 97 percent were satisfied or very satisfied with their experience (National Park Service Visitor Services Project, 2009).
Such high levels of satisfaction could be due, at least in part, to the high level of investment (e.g. time, money, effort, travel distance, etc.) many visitors put into visiting national parks. It is widely hypothesized that national park visitors and other outdoor recreationists employ coping strategies that essentially mitigate unsatisfactory conditions. The three primary coping mechanisms that have been studied in outdoor recreation are displacement, rationalization, and product shift. Displacement is a behavioral coping mechanism, whereas rationalization and product shift are cognitive coping mechanisms. Displacement occurs when an individual alters the timing and/or location of his or her recreation activities in order to experience more desirable (i.e. satisfactory) conditions. Rationalization is related to the concept of cognitive dissonance, in which people tend to order their thoughts in ways that reduce inconsistencies and associated stress (Festinger, 1957). As such, since recreational activities are voluntarily selected and often require a high level of investment, participants may rationalize their experience and report high levels of satisfaction regardless of the conditions encountered. Product shift, the third coping mechanism, involves the visitor experiencing conditions different from those expected or preferred may alter his or her definition of the recreation opportunity to conform to the conditions experienced (Manning, 2011).
Despite these caveats, visitor satisfaction is a valid concern and priority for park managers. Specifically, data related to visitors' satisfaction of significant park resources, services, and facilities can help managers identify opportunities for improvement. In all three southern Utah national parks included in this study, large and--in some cases--statistically significant differences in the proportion of visitors who were satisfied or very satisfied with specific park features were observed between a busy holiday weekend and a less busy non-holiday weekend as indicated in Tables 8, 12, and 17. In Arches and Zion National Parks, for instance, satisfaction with private vehicle traffic flow was lower on the Labor Day Weekend than the non-holiday weekend. This could indicate congestion and traffic difficulties that occur with higher numbers of visitors entering the park that detract from the quality of the visitor experience. While the results were not always statistically significant, the double-digit drop in the percentage of visitors who were very satisfied during a non-holiday to a holiday weekend suggests that when the number of visitors increases (such as on holiday weekends), satisfaction levels for certain park characteristics are impacted and should be carefully managed.
Table 17 shows the results from Bryce Canyon indicated higher levels of satisfaction with certain park features on Labor Day Weekend. Given the increased number of visitors overall on a holiday weekend, one would think that visitors' satisfaction levels would be lower. Bryce Canyon may consider how the specific features listed in Table 17 are handled during peak and non-peak days to see if they can be more consistently managed. Our results should be considered with caution, however, given the limited number of respondents to our survey and the fact that the surveys were all solicited at only one location outside the park.
An exploratory factor analysis (EFA) was conducted on the park feature variables for each park in order to determine how these features might group together and explain visitor satisfaction. Two-factor solutions were obtained for the Arches and Bryce Canyon National Parks samples, and a three-factor solution was obtained for Zion National Park. Overall, the factor solutions explained a combined 72%, 88%, and 84% of the variation in the data, respectively as shown in Tables 9, 18, and 13.
The results of the EFA analyses suggest that the park characteristics included in Factor 1 are the ones most likely to cause changes in visitors' overall satisfaction levels, with features with the highest factor loading having the highest impact. Park features included in subsequent factors as indicated in Factor 2 and Factor 3 would have a smaller effect on visitors' satisfaction. Overall, the first factor explained 53% to 65% of the variation in overall satisfaction. It is easy to understand how additional visitors may impact satisfaction with those key park characteristics. Steps should be taken to carefully manage these characteristics loading on the first factor when higher numbers of visitors are expected in order to minimize their potential negative impact on park satisfaction.
Perceptions of Crowding
Figures 1-4 presented visitors' perceived levels of crowding varied among parks and between the two dates on which visitors were contacted. Crowding is a subjective negative evaluation of use levels encountered in an outdoor recreation or national park setting, and can be dependent on a number of different factors (Manning, 2011). One way in which parks can help reduce visitors' feelings of crowding is to communicate to visitors the kinds of conditions they can expect while visiting the park. For example, Zion National Park has taken to social media to reach visitors, telling visitors about the conditions they should expect during a visit to the park and including tips and information to facilitate a more satisfying experience.
Regression analyses were conducted to determine whether perceived crowding had an impact on visitors' overall satisfaction. Crowding perceptions did not influence overall satisfaction for either date at Bryce Canyon National Park and Zion National Park. Crowding did have a slight effect on overall satisfaction for visitors at Arches National Park on September 19. While nearly half of respondents indicated that they had expected to encounter conditions similar to those they experienced, nearly 20% felt the park was more crowded than they had expected, and another 20% reported that they did not know what to expect (see Figure 2). All parks should continue efforts to communicate with potential visitors and provide information about the nature of conditions they are likely to encounter in the park. Helping visitors develop realistic expectations about their park experience may not only maintain high levels of visitor satisfaction, but also minimize potential frustrations, perceptions of crowding, and negative interactions with park staff, volunteers, and other visitors.
The authors of this study thank Wes Curtis of the Regional Services Center at Southern Utah University for funding this study, and the management of Ruby's Inn for allowing students to set up a table and chairs to secure visitor participation in the visitor experience study.
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About the Authors:
Emmett Steed., is professor of hospitality management at Southern Utah University. He has conducted three studies about southern Utah national parks, launched the Hotel, Resort, and Hospitality Management program at SUU, and has 25 years of executive experience in the hotel industry.
Michael Kroff, is associate professor of marketing at Southern Utah University. He grew up around Zion National Park, earned his Ph.D. at Texas A&M University, and has research interest and expertise in consumer behavior.
Kelly Goonan,. is Assistant Professor and Program Director of Outdoor Recreation in Parks and Tourism at Southern Utah University. She specializes in park and recreation management, recreation ecology, recreation social science, and outdoor education.
Table 1 Summary of Survey Response Rates by Park and Date Park Date No. Addresses Survey Responses Response Rate Collected (%) Arches 5-Sept. 463 154 33.26 Arches 19-Sept. 205 75 36.59 Bryce Canyon 5-Sept. 93 32 34.41 Bryce Canyon 19-Sept. 80 24 30.00 Zion 5-Sept. 153 43 28.10 Zion 19-Sept. 547 163 29.80 Total 1541 491 31.86 Difference between number of emails collected and number of responses is due to rejected emails and non-response. Table 2 Summary of Visitor Satisfaction by Park by Date Park Date Satisfied (%) Very Satisfied (%) Arches 5-Sept. 23.8 69.5 Arches 19-Sept. 15.5 80.3 Bryce Canyon 5-Sept. 32.3 67.7 Bryce Canyon 19-Sept. 37.5 50.0 Zion 5-Sept. 36.6 48.8 Zion 19-Sept. 21.1 68.4 Total--Labor Day 27.4 65.4 Total--Other Saturday 21.1 70.0 Park Combined Satisfied and Very Satisfied (%) Arches 93.3 Arches 95.8 Bryce Canyon 100.0 Bryce Canyon 87.5 Zion 85.4 Zion 89.5 Total--Labor Day 92.8 Total--Other Saturday 91.1 Table 3 Combined Visitor Satisfaction by Geographic Area with at least 20 Respondents Geographic Region Percent Satisfied or Very Satisfied US Pacific 93.8 US Mountain 95.7 US West North Central 96.0 US East North Central 88.2 US South Atlantic 97.4 Germany, Austria, Switzerland 95.0 Table 4 Summary of Total Park Visitation for Sept. 5 and Sept. 19, 2015 Park Sept. 5, 2015 Sept. 19, 2015 Arches (1) 2,144 2,107 Bryce Canyon (2) 2,969 2,637 Zion (3) 21,662 15,105 (1) Number of vehicles (excluding busses) entering the park (Source: Arches National Park) (2) Number of vehicles entering the park (Source: Bryce Canyon National Park) (3) Total number of visitors entering the park (Source: Zion National Park) Table 5 Summary of Previous Visits for Respondents Who Reported seeing Utah Office of Tourism "Mighty 5" promotion Percent of Respondents Saw "Mighty 5" Promotion 34.6 Previous Park Visits First-time visitor 57.1 1-3 previous visits 25.5 4-6 previous visits 5.5 7-9 previous visits 2.6 10 or more previous visits 9.3 Table 6 Geographic Origin of Study Respondents Geographic Region of Residence Percent of Respondents United States 84.15 Europe 12.63 Canada 1.07 Australia/New Zealand 0.43 Other 1.71 Table 7 Comparison of Overall Satisfaction by Date, Arches National Park Level of Satisfaction Sept. 5 (n = 151) Sept. 19 (n = 71) Frequency Percent Frequency Percent Very Satisfied 105 69.5 57 80.3 Satisfied 36 23.8 11 15.5 Neutral 0 0.0 0 0.0 Dissatisfied 1 0.7 1 1.4 Very Dissatisfied 3 2.0 1 1.4 Table 8 Percent Difference in Satisfaction Rates of Key Park Features by Date, Arches National Park Park Feature Percent Difference of Sept. 19 over Sept. 5 Among Very Satisfied Visitors Park entrance 10.7 Private vehicle traffic flow 16.4 Facilitating crowd flow in park 13.6 Condition of park resources 12.4 Overall satisfaction 10.8 Table 9 Factor Analysis of Key Park Feature Satisfaction Levels, Arches National Park Park Feature (1) Rotated Factor Loadings Factor 1 Factor 2 Able to visit desired destination .873 Condition of trails .850 Park entrance .809 Quality of trails .777 Condition of park resources .770 Quantity of restrooms .754 Condition of restrooms .750 Visitor Center exhibits .744 Park Orientation movie .717 Staff providing information .662 Ranger-led programs .542 Crowd flow within park .928 Private vehicle traffic flow .925 Parking within park .849 Roadside/trailside exhibits .668 Visitor Center activities .650 Visitor Center parking .542 Rotated Eignevalue 7.256 4.977 Cum. Variation Explained 42.680 71.959 Table 10 Trip Characteristics by Date, Arches National Park Trip Characteristic Percent of Sept. 5 Respondents Had never been to Southern Utah before 62.5 Visited a national park at least once in the last 12 79.9 months Had seen "Mighty Five" advertisement 38.3 Took 11 or more overnight trips in the last 3 20.7 months Spent 4 or more nights away from home on this 60.5 (*) trip Spent 4 or more nights in Utah on this trip 48.0 Trip Characteristic Percent of Sept. 19 Respondents Had never been to Southern Utah before 65.8 Visited a national park at least once in the last 12 79.8 months Had seen "Mighty Five" advertisement 28.0 Took 11 or more overnight trips in the last 3 32.1 months Spent 4 or more nights away from home on this 80.0 (*) trip Spent 4 or more nights in Utah on this trip 64.9 (*) Values are significant at p = 0.05 according to Pearson's Chi-Square test Table 11 Respondent Demographic Information by Date, Arches National Park Percent of Sept. 5 Demographic Characteristic Respondents 4 or less persons in travel group 77.2 2 or less persons in household 66.0 2 or less children under 17 in household 95.3 $100,000 or more in annual household income 50.0 Retired 18.8 At least graduated college 74.5 Married 67.1 Pacific or Mountain Region resident 53.3 Age 65 or older 13.2 Percent of Sept. 19 Demographic Characteristic Respondents 4 or less persons in travel group 75.3 2 or less persons in household 89.2 (*) 2 or less children under 17 in household 98.7 $100,000 or more in annual household income 37.0 Retired 35.6 At least graduated college 82.2 Married 53.4 Pacific or Mountain Region resident 41.9 (*) Age 65 or older 25.7 (*) (*) Values are significant at p = 0.05 according to Pearson's Chi-Square test Table 12 Combined "Satisfied" and "Very Satisfied" for Key Park Features by Date Zion National Park Percent of Sept. 5 Percent of Sept. 19 Park Feature Respondents Respondents Shuttle bus inside park 70.0 86.8 Private vehicle traffic flow 32.5 58.9 Ranger-led programs 24.4 39.0 Quantity of restrooms 70.7 75.6 Park Feature p-value Shuttle bus inside park .015 Private vehicle traffic flow .039 Ranger-led programs .027 Quantity of restrooms .045 Table 13 Factor Analysis of Key Park Feature Satisfaction Levels, Zion National Park Park Feature (1) Rotated Factor Loadings Factor 1 Factor 2 Factor 3 Visitor Center exhibits .864 Staff providing information .855 Roadside/trailside exhibits .830 Shuttle bus inside park .779 Hours of shuttle bus operation .727 Park entrance experience .727 Quantity of trails .711 Opportunity to visit desired park destinations .695 Park Orientation movie .669 Visitor Center activities .665 Facilitating crowd flow within park .861 Visitor Center parking .825 Private vehicle traffic flow .803 Parking within park .713 Shuttle bus outside park .617 Quantity of restrooms .863 Condition of restrooms .861 Condition of trails .717 Condition of park resources .711 Ranger-led programs .532 Rotated Eignevalue 7.372 4.902 4.550 Cum. Variation Explained 36.859 61.371 84.122 Table 14 Trip Characteristics by Date, Zion National Park Trip Characteristic Percent of Sept. Percent of 5 Respondents Sept. 19 Respondents Had never been to Southern Utah before 37.2 62.3 (*) Visited a national park at least once in the last 12 months 88.1 88.9 Had seen "Mighty Five" advertisement 38.1 34.2 Took 11 or more overnight trips in the last 3 14.4 23.3 months Spent 4 or more nights away from home on this trip 35.8 79.8 (*) Spent 4 or more nights in Utah on this trip 23.9 52.2 (*) (*) Values are significant at p = 0.05 according to Pearson's Chi-Square test Table 15 Respondent Demographic Information by Date, Zion National Park Demographic Characteristic Percent of Sept. 5 Respondents 4 or less persons in travel group 56.0 2 or less persons in household 63.5 2 or less children under 17 in household 97.6 $100,000 or more in annual household income 45.0 Retired 4.8 At least graduated college 76.2 Married 59.5 Pacific or Mountain Region resident 85.7 Age 65 or older 2.4 Demographic Characteristic Percent of Sept. 19 Respondents 4 or less persons in travel group 80.9 (*) 2 or less persons in household 66.2 2 or less children under 17 in household 95.5 $100,000 or more in annual household income 45.2 Retired 26.3 (*) At least graduated college 77.5 Married 57.6 Pacific or Mountain Region resident 46.1 (*) Age 65 or older 17.5 (*) Values are significant at p = 0.05 according to Pearson's Chi-Square test Table 16 Comparison by Date, of Overall Satisfaction Bryce Canyon National Park Level of Satisfaction Sept. 5 (n = 31) Sept. 19 (n = 24) Frequency Percent Frequency Percent Very Satisfied 21 67.7 12 50.0 Satisfied 10 32.3 9 37.5 Neutral 0 0.0 3 12.5 Dissatisfied 0 0.0 0 0.0 Very Dissatisfied 0 0.0 0 0.0 Table 17 Percent Difference in Satisfaction Rates of Key Park Features by Date, Bryce Canyon National Park Park Feature Percent Difference of Sept. 19 over Sept. 5 Among Very Satisfied and Satisfied Visitors Visitor Center exhibits 23.4 Orientation movie 7.10 Visitor Center parking 2.10 Roadside & trailside exhibits 0.20 Ranger-led programs -3.10 Visitor Center activities -7.10 Quantity of trails -8.80 Guest Services--food -35.40 Table 18 Factor Analysis of Key Park Feature Satisfaction Levels, Bryce Canyon National Park Park Feature (1) Rotated Factor Loadings Factor 1 Factor2 Park Orientation movie .918 Opportunity to visit desired destinations .813 Roadside/trailside exhibits .789 Condition of trails .766 Staff providing information .741 Park entrance experience .696 Facilitating crowd flow within park .659 Quantity of restrooms .596 Parking within park .833 Condition of park resources .693 Private vehicle traffic flow .685 Rotated Eignevalue 5.147 2.846 Cum. Variation Explained 46.792 72.664 Table 19 Trip Characteristics by Date, Bryce Canyon National Park Trip Characteristic Percent of Sept. 5 Respondents Had never been to Southern Utah before 37.5 Visited a national park at least once in the 78.2 last 12 months Had seen "Mighty Five" advertisement 34.4 Took 11 or more overnight trips in the last 28.2 3 months Spent 4 or more nights away from home 81.3 on this trip Spent 4 or more nights in Utah on this trip 43.8 Trip Characteristic Percent of Sept. 19 Respondents Had never been to Southern Utah before 62.5 Visited a national park at least once in the 79.1 last 12 months Had seen "Mighty Five" advertisement 34.8 Took 11 or more overnight trips in the last 25.0 3 months Spent 4 or more nights away from home 87.6 on this trip Spent 4 or more nights in Utah on this trip 62.5 (*) Values are significant at p = 0.05 according to Pearson's Chi-Square test Table 20 Respondent Demographic Information by Date, Bryce Canyon National Park Demographic Characteristic Percent of Sept. 5 Respondents 4 or less persons in travel group 68.8 2 or less persons in household 59.5 2 or less children under 17 in household 97.0 $100,000 or more in annual household income 36.5 Retired 38.7 At least graduated college 62.6 Married 58.1 Pacific or Mountain Region resident 37.9 Age 65 or older 31.3 Demographic Characteristic Percent of Sept. 19 Respondents 4 or less persons in travel group 79.2 2 or less persons in household 91.7 2 or less children under 17 in household 95.9 $100,000 or more in annual household income 33.4 Retired 33.3 At least graduated college 82.6 Married 58.3 Pacific or Mountain Region resident 36.4 Age 65 or older 8.7 (*) Values are significant at p = 0.05 according to Pearson's Chi-Square test
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|Author:||Steed, Emmett; Kroff, Michael; Goonan, Kelly|
|Publication:||International Journal of Business, Marketing, and Decision Sciences (IJBMDS)|
|Date:||Dec 22, 2018|
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