An Assessment of Activity and Trail Type as Indicators of Trail User Diversity


  • Andrew J. Mowen
  • Alan R. Graefe
  • Daniel R. Williams


Market segmentation, rail-trails, recreation activities, recreation settings, user diversity.


Given the diversity among today's outdoor recreation user, there is a need to identify robust segmentation strategies. To date, recreation research suggests that trail user diversity can be understood according activity and trail type. This paper examines, within the context of a single recreation area, whether trail user diversity is best explained by activity type (hikers, bicyclists, horse users), trail type (rail-trail, non-railtrail), or an interaction of activity type and trail type. Findings should help managers select effectively conceived segmentation strategies and marketing activities.

Results indicate that differences in socio-demographic characteristics, visit patterns, and visitor attitudes were best explained by activity type. Activity type may then be applied as a first-order segmentation variable. Since segmentation strategies are a base from which to create a tailored application of the marketing mix, several activity variations are relevant. First, hikers traveled from longer distances and spent more time in their activity. As a result, managers may want to consider positioning their promotional efforts at more distant locations whiCh serve this activity type. Given the investment of long distance travel, managers may also offer a variety of substitutable trail alternatives in order to maintain hiker satisfaction. Second, horse users and bicyclists traveled shorter distances, hence promotional efforts could be placed within local media sources and atlocal places. Finally, the content of on-site brochures and guides could be organized around the activity user type (e.g., bicyclists) as opposed to sources geared toward specific settings (e.g., rail-trails, backcountty trails, nature trails).

Horse users spent more time in their activity than bicyclists and held the highest levels of activity involvement and place attachment. Managers could continue to offer opportunities for the time spent in an activity by developing spur trails. They may also provide additional accommodations such as increased trail access points and restroom facilities. High levels of attachment to the recreation area suggests that managers should make special efforts to involve horse users with agency planning and decision making initiatives. Generalizations in activity variations found in the present study require further examination across other trail contexts. Activity-based segmentation strategies may also be further enhanced by following a two-stage or multiple-stage segmentation process. This process could use more detailed activity variables such as depth and type of activity involvement and recreation specialization.





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