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Structural Relations between Motivations and Site Attribute Preferences of Florida National Scenic Trail Visitors

Ramesh Paudyal, Taylor V. Stein, Marilyn E. Swisher


Setting characteristics and recreation experience opportunities differ among long distance scenic trails in the U.S. Context and location specific information of how users’ motivations relate to site attribute preferences can help managers provide satisfying experiences to diverse visitors. This study examines users’ motivations and site attribute preferences in the context of parks and recreation areas along a long-distance scenic trail in Florida, United States. This research has two major components that distinguish it from past research. First, it focuses on a national scenic trail that is not a classic isolated wilderness-type trail. The Florida National Scenic Trail (FNST) traverses Florida, the third most populous state in the U.S. and the eighth most densely populated according to 2018 U.S. Census Bureau projections. Although visitors do “through hike” the FNST, sections of the Florida Trail attract a potentially diverse audience desiring varied recreation opportunities, including wilderness experiences. Second, this study not only identifies salient dimensions of recreation motivations and site attribute preferences; it also uses structural equation modeling to examine the relationships between different dimensions of motivations and destination attribute preferences.

Multivariate analysis revealed five dimensions of motivations (Nature and Scenery, Solitude, Fitness and Escape, Social Interaction, Skills Development) and four dimensions of site attribute preferences (Quality Nature, Convenience, Arts and Culture, Consumptive). Structural analysis revealed that the Nature and Scenery and Solitude motivations positively affected Quality Nature preference, Fitness and Escape affected Convenience, and Skills Development affected Arts and Culture and Consumptive attributes. The Social Interaction motivation was not related to preference for any of the site attributes considered in this study. The results indicate how setting characteristics affect opportunities for unique experiences. Specifically, infrastructure like maintaining access and parking for users enhances opportunities for new types of users to the FNST. Managers should bear in mind the distinct relationships between motivations and destination preferences when managing and marketing specific recreation areas. For instance, offering opportunities for fitness and escape in natural areas while keeping in mind the value of convenience for visitors could enhance visitors’ experiences. 

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nature-based recreation; experience preference; push-pull; social marketing; outcome focused management; urban parks; Florida Trail; PLS-SEM

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