A sustainable management framework for marine adventure tourism products
Marine adventure tourism is a relatively new topic of research, and one which has not received much attention over the past years. Recently, this industry has experienced a significant increase in interest amongst tourists, which urges the need for research in various areas of this topic. Sustainability of the marine adventure industry is the central focus of this research. Sustainability is described as the long-term survival of any tourism offering where the focus is placed on specific resources. In order for any tourism product to be sustainable, three types of resources need to be taken into account, namely economic efficiency, social equity and environmental conservation. These three resources form the basis of sustainability and share a particular interrelationship. This relationship explains sustainability as not being viable if one of these areas are not accounted for. Sustainability is a universal concept and does not take into account the level of development of a country. It does, however, have the ability to ensure economic, environmental and social development of a destination if implemented correctly. Underlying aspects which can ensure the correct implementation of sustainability in any tourism industry includes tourist satisfaction, participation of the local community in planning and development and conservation and promotion of the natural environment. The literature has placed much focus on sustainability of wildlife- and land-based adventure tourism. However, a lack of a framework for sustainability of marine adventure tourism products have been identified. Therefore, the primary goal of this thesis was to develop a sustainable management framework for marine adventure tourism products. Specific focus is placed on two marine adventure activities, namely boat-based whale watching and shark cage diving. In order to achieve this goal, five objectives were set and reached during various stages of this thesis. Firstly, a critical analysis of marine tourism was conducted, which forms Chapter 2 of this thesis. The second objective was to conduct a critical analysis on adventure tourism (Chapter 3). The third objective involved a review about the sustainability of tourism products (Chapter 4). The fourth objective was to analyse the empirical results obtained from the data collection by means of statistical analyses (Chapter 5). And lastly, the sixth objective was to draw conclusions and make recommendations and to establish the framework for sustainable management of marine adventure products (Chapter 6). The data was collected by means of both qualitative and quantitative methods in order to encapsulate all necessary information. The qualitative data collection focussed on the opinion and attitudes of operators in marine adventure tourism, while quantitative methods were implemented for the collection of information regarding the social community of Hermanus and participants of shark cage diving and whale watching. Two separate questionnaires were therefore used. Non-probability sampling, with convenience sampling methods were implemented for the quantitative surveys. The surveys took place in Hermanus and Gansbaai, Western Cape. The sample included the community of Hermanus (n=250), participants of shark cage diving and whale watching (n=350) and whale and shark cage operators (n=4). The first phase of the research was qualitative in nature and involved conducting personal interviews with available and willing operators of marine adventure products. The second phase was exploratory in nature, which included the use of descriptive statistics, and two-way frequency tables to determine the socio-demographic profiles of both the residents of Hermanus and participants of marine adventure tourism. Three separate exploratory factor analyses were conducted to identify the community impacts of whale watching and shark cage diving operations, motives to participate and experiences of marine adventure participants. A frequency table was also used to identify the aspects influencing the satisfaction of participants. Other statistical analyses conducted include a cluster analysis and cross-tabulations. These analyses were used to develop a comprehensive profile of the market segments for marine adventure tourism. The most important aspects identified from the qualitative interviews with operators include the fact that online marketing is seen as a more efficient means of marketing, operators are aware of the concept of sustainability, and there is a need for contributions to conservation of both whales and sharks. In terms of the quantitative surveys, three impacts (awareness, negative aspects and community benefits) of shark cage diving and whale watching on the Hermanus community were identified, of which negative aspects was identified as the most important factor and community benefits as the least important factor. The most important motive for participation for marine adventure participants was identified to be marine species, while personal achievement was identified as the least important factor. Proximity to marine nature was identified as the factor with the most influence on participants' experiences, while sea conditions was identified as the least important influencing factor. A six-cluster taxonomy for the market for marine adventure tourism was identified, namely T2RACE (thalassophiles, thrill seekers, risk takers, adrenaline junkies, consorts and experience seekers). The contributions of this research was highlighted, and it was found that this research contributes to multiple areas of marine tourism, within both a literature and practical contribution. Firstly, this research contributes to the literature of marine tourism management because a model was established which highlights the important marine tourism management concepts, a model for describing sustainability as part of ecotourism was established, the community impacts of shark cage diving and whale watching was identified and the market for marine adventure tourism was established by identifying the profile, the motives to participate, the market taxonomy and aspects influencing participants' satisfaction and experience. Secondly, the practical contribution of the research is the development of the framework which could be implemented by operators for sustainable management of the sector.