Tourism, leisure and recreation in national parks offer a wide variety of benefits to visitors, surrounding communities, and society in general. As such the benefits of parks to visitors and communities has emerged as a prominent research topic. The current body of literature has concentrated primarily at two key levels: the benefits that individuals gain from visiting parks, and the community and societal benefits of both visiting parks and having parks. At both these levels, the focus has been directed towards perceptions of visitors and communities. A better understanding of the benefits that park managers desire to project and the benefits actually projected via marketing and other forms of communication is important for two reasons. Firstly, there may be incongruence between the benefits managers desire to communicate and what they actually communicate to the public. Secondly, there may be incongruence between the benefits park agencies project and the benefits the public is seeking when visiting parks. Consequently, the aim of this paper is to examine park managers’ perceptions of the benefits they seek to project to visitors and the community.
To meet this objective, a series of semi-structured interviews were conducted with 18 senior park managers from two agencies in Australia responsible for managing national parks and other protected areas. Results reveal some similarities and differences between the benefits park managers desire to project and what previous studies have identified as the benefits sought by park visitors and the broader community. Managers from Parks Victoria tend to focus on benefits relating to improved mental and physical health of visitors and how these benefits translate into economic benefits such as lower healthcare costs to the Victorian community. Conversely, managers from the Department of Environment and Conservation in Western Australia are more focused on projecting benefits associated with the preservation of biodiversity, and how this translates into broader community benefits such as clean air and water supply. The finding may contribute to improving pre-visit and on-site communication with visitors and enhancing the benefits actually provided to visitors, in order to close any gaps between desired, projected and received benefits.
Weiler, B & Moyle, BD 2012, 'Managers’ perceptions of the benefits projected by Australian parks agencies', paper presented to 18th International Symposium on Society and Resource Management: linking the north and the south: responding to environmental change, Edmonton, Canada, 17-22 June.