Analysis and Segmentation of Visitors in a Natural Protected Area: Marketing Implications

Analysis and Segmentation of Visitors in a Natural Protected Area: Marketing Implications

Sonia Ferrari (University of Calabria, Italy), Monica Gilli (University of Turin, Italy) and Luigi Bollani (University of Turin, Italy)
Copyright: © 2018 |Pages: 24
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-5772-2.ch003


Nature-based tourism is one of the segments of the tourism market that is growing more and faster in last years. For this reason, natural parks have become major tourism destinations and their management should be more focused in terms of marketing, through the adoption of effective strategies targeted to specific market segments. Only by knowing their visitors, through a market segmentation process, will park managers be able to identify different profiles of users and to understand their motivations, expectations, and needs. Sila National Park (Italy) is carrying on every year, since 2009, an inquiry among visitors with the purpose of knowing better their characteristics and identifying different segments of tourists. Last year's survey results show, through a cluster analysis, the existence of five visitor segments with very different characteristics and expectations among them. The chapter proposes a description of these clusters, trying to identify the marketing strategies suitable for each target.
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There is not a unique, universally recognized definition of the concept of nature-based tourism. It is a type of holiday linked to the enjoinment of natural resources, and it is often confused with sustainable tourism and ecotourism (Mehmetoglu, 2005). In the segment of nature tourism the demand is growing much faster than in tourism sector as a whole and will rise more rapidly in the future (Arnegger, Woltering, & Huber, 2010; Fredman & Tyrväinen, 2010, 2011; Hill & Gale, 2009; The International Ecotourism Society, 2009; UNEP, 2011; UNWTO & UNEP, 2012; UNWTO, 2009). Up to 20% of all tourists in the world are interested in natural destinations and protected areas (Buckley, 2009; UNWTO, 2012). In Europe 6.4 million travellers wish to experience natural environment (UNWTO, 2014), while according to the National Park Service in United States of America the 20% of foreign tourists visit national parks, reaching a total of more than 307 million visits in 2015 (Task Force on Travel and Competitiveness, 2012).

According to Newsome, Moore, & Dowling (2013) “because of the vast range of opportunities that the natural environment provides and the complex nature of tourism and the tourism demographic, natural area tourism sits within a range scales and management scenarios” (p.15). Figure 1 describes nature-based tourism demand. As you can see, at the extremities of the axis there is a small group of tourists, with niche’s interests and no need for a great number of services and facilities. On the other hand, there is mass tourism. It is the case of tourists visiting a natural area that is an important destination thanks to marketing investments, richness in services, facilities and infrastructures, and ease access, such as the Grand Canyon National Park. Sometimes the two types of tourists cohabit in the same place but in different areas, visiting diversified kinds of attractions. They have, however, very differentiated preferences and interests.

Figure 1.

Nature-based tourism

Source: adapted from Newsome et al., 2013.

This definition is an important element of reflection, as it shows that nature-based tourism can refer to very different types of visitors, with various motivations, interests, needs and desires. For this reason, as the authors will discuss later, the segmentation of this large sector of the tourist market is a prerequisite for the good management of a natural park.

The first protected natural areas (PNAs) were created mainly to preserve places of particular natural importance, which were seen as sanctuaries of nature. At that time the main aim of parks was to preserve wilderness (Fredman & Tyrväinen, 2011) and governments did not take into account the social aspects of conservation. Today parks have a dual mission: on the one hand the protection and conservation of natural resources and on the other the accessibility to visitors in order to guarantee use and enjoinment of these places and the sustainable development. Of course, this dichotomy can generate conflicts and negative effects (Manning & Anderson, 2012).

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