Visitors' Multi-Dimensional Decision-Making Approach: A Pilot Case Study on a UNESCO Protected Area

Visitors' Multi-Dimensional Decision-Making Approach: A Pilot Case Study on a UNESCO Protected Area

George Fakotakis (CIHEAM - Mediterranean Agronomic Institute of Chania, Chania, Greece; Technical University of Crete, Crete, Greece) and Gert van Dijk (dNyenrode Business Universiteit, Breukelen, Netherlands; Tilburg University, Tilburg, Netherlands)
DOI: 10.4018/IJFBMBM.2018070104

Abstract

The Samaria National Park in Chania, Crete, Greece was established in 1962 and has since been one of the most well-known protected areas of Greece. It attracts thousands of visitors every year and creates a social and economic environment for various local businesses such as hotels and restaurants. Most of those businesses operate seasonally for the same time period as the park and owe a high percentage of their turnover to the park's visitors. Tourists spend a large share of their budget for various goods and services during their visit which has a considerable impact on the economy of the whole region of Chania. However, because of the fact that the Samaria National Park is a natural asset, its value as a touristic multi-attraction is often overlooked or taken for granted. This research attempts to explore the preferences of tourists who have visited the island of Crete and the Samaria National Park, and the overall impact of that activity on the local economy. The approach involves collecting questionnaires during the period that the park operates, from May to October, in order to derive primary data about the preferences, attitudes, socio-demographic profiles and satisfaction criteria of tourists towards the park.
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The Samaria National Park

This study focuses on the Samaria National Park. The park was established in 1962 and covers a specially protected area around the Samaria gorge. The gorge starts at the Omalos plateau in the heart of the White Mountains and ends at the village of Agia Roumeli on the south coast of the island. Over the years it has earned various national and international distinctions. It belongs to the Natura 2000 network, it is a declared place of exceptional natural beauty, a wild life refuge, and an important bird area of Greece and has earned a national diploma for natural protection. It is also protected by the Barcelona convention, it is a recognized biogenetic reserve and it has earned the Diploma of Protected Areas from the Council of Europe in 1979 as well as being a Unesco Biosphere Reserve since 1981. The management and protection of the park is a shared responsibility of a special Management Body which was established in 2003 for that purpose together with the Forestry Service of Chania (Papavasileiou, 2008). In the past, the economic activity of the village of Agia Roumeli and the general area around the gorge was based mainly on the primary sector. During the later years, however, a shift was observed, and the economic activity is based almost exclusively on tourism and the visitation of the Samaria National Park but any efforts to promote it as an autonomous tourism destination have mostly been unsuccessful (Papavasileiou, 2008).

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