A needs analysis of adventure activities in South African National Parks
Bosch, Zacharias Johannes
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Adventure tourism is currently regarded as one of the fastest growing forms of nature-based tourism within the alternative tourism industry. Historically, adventure was only considered a by-product on journeys of discovery and exploration as travellers sought new land, wealth and knowledge. As the uncertainty surrounding travel diminished and more people began to travel further in search of new and exciting pursuits, the term adventure tourism began to take shape. Those who travelled further to remote and exotic nature-based settings to participate in unique and adventurous activities become known as adventure tourists. These travellers may be thought of as being the first adventure tourists, although modern-day adventure tourism has its origins in numerous historic themes in travel and ways of thinking, including those of explorers and adventurers, pilgrims, travel writer adventurers, merchants and traders, trekking, Outward Bound and World War periods. Although being a much debated topic amongst scholars, adventure tourism is described as travel to a remote, exotic or nature-based destination with the purpose of participating in adventure activities. Adventure activities are usually associated with risk, challenge and danger and are pursued for their ability to provide the participant with unknown outcomes, constricting emotions, educational opportunities, and novel, thrilling, stimulating, exciting and adrenaline rush experiences. Adventure activities also differ in respect of their requirements to competently overcome different levels of challenge. Challenges posed by adventure activities can range from the routine to the extreme and are therefore divided into two categories, namely soft and hard adventure activities. Soft adventure activities require little to no previous experience or skills as they only contain perceived levels of risk, whereas hard adventure activities are regarded as highly challenging activities that require great mental and physical effort to perform. The bulk of the adventure tourism market consists of soft adventure tourists. This is also true of the visitors who participate in adventure activities in national parks, as most adventure offerings in the parks consist of soft adventure activities, such as safaris, game drives, camping, and trail walking, to name but a few. A great number of these adventure activities are centred on family groups and more mature audiences, as they make up the majority of the market of visitors visiting South African National Parks. In other words, from the over 80% of funding that is self-generated by South African National Parks, these markets are considered primary contributors to park income. Unfortunately, it was estimated that by 2022 operational cost would have exceeded tourism profits due to the constant increase in conservation costs and land management costs. A feasible solution to this problem was identified; connecting a broader South African society with national parks to help support and protect the natural heritage of the parks. This included the development of new adventure activities for current and potentially new markets that will respond to both the adventure and wilderness lore of national parks. Therefore, the primary objective of this study was to determine tourist needs for adventure activities in South African National Parks. A literature analysis of adventure tourism and adventure tourism product development, which provided the background for the empirical study, was conducted. A quantitative research approach was followed by means of an electronic questionnaire that was posted on the SANParks web site under the sub-link 'Media & News', allowing for convenience sampling. Respondents had access to the questionnaire during the months of April and May 2014, from which 387 usable questionnaires were obtained. Data was analysed using descriptive and exploratory statistics for arriving at the empirical results. The socio-demographic profile of the majority of respondents who completed the questionnaire was found to be as follows: almost an equal number of females (51%) and males (49%) spoke English as a home language, married, obtained some kind of diploma or degree, averaged an age of 49 years, and resided in Gauteng or the Western Cape. Thirty-four percent (34%) of respondents included children in their travel party of which the majority were between the ages of nineteen to twenty-five years. It was also identified that respondents visited national parks an average of 8.54 times over a five-year period and stayed an average of two to seven nights, while most respondents were owners of a Wild Card. Most respondents indicated that they participated in adventure activities but felt that current adventure activities in national parks were sufficient. Respondents were also willing to pay for adventure activities in national parks, ranging from R101-R300 for an activity per person. Respondents were offered the opportunity to identify the level of importance between a list of soft and hard adventure activities for national parks, as well as motives for participating in adventure activities. Three factor analyses were conducted on these lists from which eight factors were identified for the soft adventure activities (water-based, interpretive, wildlife interaction, heritage, consumptive, trail/trekking, self-executing and team-based), three factors for the hard adventure activities (adrenaline rush, wilderness training and survival courses, and adventure sports) and two factors for adventure participation motives (internal and external motives). The most important soft adventure factor with the highest mean value was interpretive (safari/game viewing, night drives, bird watching, stargazing, guided walks and hot air ballooning), with self-executing (guided and unguided 4x4 trails and campsite camping) in second place, heritage (archaeological tours, historical tours, geographical tours and botanical tours) in third place and trail/trekking (backpacking, cycling routes, hiking and horseback safaris) in fourth place. Self-executing was also considered the only factor that had a positive small effect correlation with visits over the past five years, meaning that if visitor visits increase so does the importance of self-executing activities. Wilderness training and survival courses (field-guide training, wilderness camping, survival and wilderness training, and survival games) were considered as the most important hard adventure factor. Regarding adventure participation motives, respondents considered external motives, such as getting in touch with nature, spending time with family and friends, educational reasons, escaping routine and exploring a new destination, to be the most important reasons for participating in adventure activities. The profile of visitors who were most likely to participate in adventure activities was below the age of forty years and not a Wild Card member. It was also identified that males generally had a higher preference rate for adventure activities, including respondents that were either single or living together. In conclusion, this study found that there is a need for a variety of adventure activities in national parks and visitors are motivated by the social and environmental aspects of adventure activities, rather than by the performance thereof. The results in this study can assist South African National Parks in the development of appropriate adventure activities as a strategy to combat future increases in operational costs.
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