Critical ecotourism factors applicable to national parks: a visitor perspective
De Witt, Leonie
Van der Merwe, Peet
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South Africa boasts 21 national parks managed by South African National Parks (SANParks), which is the leading conservation organization and also the largest provider of ecotourism experiences in South Africa. Because SANParks depends heavily on tourist spending, it is important to successfully develop and manage its tourism products and services. A key aspect of the successful development and management of ecotourism products is to have an understanding of how tourists perceive ecotourism. An insight to tourists' perceptions will assist in developing ecotourism guidelines, which will minimize negative impacts and at the same time add value to the tourist experience. The aim of this article is to determine critical ecotourism factors (CEFs) applicable to national parks from a visitor's perspective. A web survey was conducted via the SANParks' website. A factor analysis was performed and six factors were extracted. The factors include product development, local community involvement, environmentally friendly practices, food and activities, ethical behavior, and policies. It was the first time research of this nature had been conducted in South Africa. The results adhere to ecotourism characteristics. Key findings include: the high value respondents place on ethics and the importance of educational programs, staff training, visitor management, and environmentally friendly practices.