Advocacy and Visitation Levels in Australian Botanic Gardens: Process and Outcome Benefits
AbstractParks and gardens are important and unique public assets, particularly in urban contexts. They have a range of critical functions in cities, including social, health and environmental functions. However, in terms of why people visit, and what drives their intentions to visit, there is a lack of research, possibly as visitors have traditionally not paid for the experience and so therefore have not been considered as ‘customers’. Nevertheless, given the health benefits of parks (social, physical and psychological), an examination of visitors’ intentions and predictors of intentions is warranted. This paper examines the efficacy of service quality (process) and benefit attainment (outcome) measures as predictors of measures of intentions and advocacy in botanic parks and gardens. A sample of 319 visitors of an Australian botanic garden was used in the study. Employing factor analysis, the study identifies the underlying dimensions of service quality and benefits in a parks and garden setting, resolving as four factors for service quality: staff, site sensory, services and education, and two factors for benefits: productivity and pleasure. The paper then examines which of the dimensions are the best predictors of measures of intentions and level of recommendation through application of discriminant analysis. Findings of the study indicate that although service quality (process) and benefit attainment (outcomes) appear to be linked, and predictive of a visitor’s recommendation of a park, this relationship is not a simple one. Visitation was not found to be significantly linked to either service quality or benefit attainment, but may be a product of a temporal difference in the visitation measure. Findings will provide managers of botanical gardens with an extended level of understanding of the broader psycho-social role such gardens fulfill for people. In addition, the findings clearly demonstrate the need for a more sophisticated appreciation of the value and purpose of gardens beyond their role as merely biological repositories and displays. Limitations and suggestions for further research, particularly in relation to measures of future intentions of visitors, are provided.
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