Segmenting Forest Recreationists Using Their Commitment Profiles
AbstractIn this investigation, we explored the utility of an agency commitment scale designed to measure recreationists’ attachment to public leisure service providers and their service offerings. The conceptualization of commitment that we adopted suggests that in the context of public leisure service provision, and public land management in particular, attention should be given to examining the meanings recreationists associate with the settings and facilities managed by the service provider along with their confidence in the agency’s ability to manage these settings and facilities in a manner consistent with these meanings. For public agencies, the identity of the agency is often embedded in the identity of the settings and facilities managed by the agency. Consequently, the most salient element of recreationists’ relationship with public agencies can be understood by examining the nature of their attachment to the settings and facilities managed by the agency. An important component of this relationship, however, lies within recreationists’ trust in the agency to manage these settings and facilities in a manner consistent with their own preferences and perspectives. Fostering trust among constituents is integral for enacting management plans that impact recreationists’ use of the resource.Data were collected from visitors to a southeastern national forest (N = 562). Agency commitment was measured using 16 items reflecting five dimensions: place identity, place dependence, affective attachment, social bonding, and value congruence. Respondents were segmented into three homogenous groups based on their scores on the dimensions of agency commitment: Indifferents (n = 170), Moderates (n = 266), and Loyalists (n = 103). The groups’ scores on the dimensions of commitment varied in a linear fashion from low to high.We considered each group a distinct market segment. We then tested for variation across the segments with regard to respondents’ sociodemographic, behavioral, and service preference indicators. Particular emphasis was also directed toward understanding variations among segments in terms of their attitudes toward various issues related to use and entrance fees.Overall, these findings provided evidence in support of the agency commitment scale’s ability to identify distinct market segments. Meaningful differences were observed across a number of relevant criteria. In addition to being the most committed segment to both the setting and service provider, Loyalists also reported living closest to the forest. They visited more often, stayed longer, and had the longest history of association with the forest compared to the Indifferents and Moderates. Loyalists and Moderates were also more inclined than Indifferents to consider service offerings more important for their experience. Last, with regard to fees, Loyalists were more supportive of the fee program than the other two segments and had stronger preferences for the spending of fee revenue. Based on the nature of the differences observed within these data, we suggested that it would be most efficient to focus agency resources on understanding the needs and preferences of the Loyalist segment given their strong bond with both the agency and setting. An understanding of this segment’s needs and preferences has the potential to provide insight into other less attached segments’ preferences. Also, given the level of commitment expressed by the Loyalist segment, they are more likely to be responsive to efforts directed at engaging them within decision processes.
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