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Local and Visitor Physical Activity through Media Messages: A Specialized Benefits-Based Management Application at Acadia National Park

Jessica Leahy, Michael Shugrue, John Daigle, Harold Daniel

Abstract


The National Parks System’s (NPS) abundance of trails and other outdoor recreation opportunities makes the NPS ideally suited to enable visitors’ attainment of healthy physical activity. Given the physiological and psychological benefits of leisure, their availability in outdoor settings and the efficiencies of market segmentation, media campaigns may be an effective means of influencing visitor physical activity behavior. However, research is first needed to identify visitor market segments based on importance of physical and mental benefits, to evaluate the relationships between visitor demographics and physical activity, and investigate the effects of media campaigns on benefitsbased visitor market segments. We identified the perception of importance Acadia National Park visitors attached to a suite of mental and physical health benefits within the benefits-based management framework. Data were collected through an onsite questionnaire during July (pre-media) and August (postmedia) of 2007. In addition to demographic information, the questionnaire included questions about use history, access transportation, recreation activities, group size, time on the trail, preferable trail attributes, social and personal constraints, and benefit importance. Relying on Driver’s (1983) Recreation Experience Preference (REP) scale, the questionnaire included a total of 20 benefit items: five items measured the perceptions of importance visitors had of physical health benefits, four items measured mental health benefits, four items measured social experience benefits, four items measured escape benefits, two items measured nature experience benefits, and one item measured creative benefits. During the pre-media time period, a total of 158 people were contacted and 131 questionnaires were completed. During the post-media time period, 229 people were contacted and 213 questionnaires were collected. Visitors could be segmented into four primary benefits-based market segments: Fitness Isolates, Trail Moderates, Casual Social Groups, and Trail Enthusiasts. These 60 market segments exhibited several key differences. The effects of the media campaign also had varied impacts on the four visitor market segments. Understanding benefit importance among different visitor segments can assist park planners and managers in providing more desirable experience opportunities. In addition, an evaluation of visitor segments identified potential relationships with physical activity behavior. The results are helpful in identifying how knowledge, attitudes, and behavior can help guide future media campaigns. Park planners and managers can use the results to anticipate how different visitor market segments may respond to other media campaigns. The outcomes of the research can include better communication with visitors, and improved benefit opportunity provision.?

Keywords


benefits-based management, market segmentation, physical activity, national parks, social marketing

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