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Pre-Visit Communication

Pre-visit communication has become an essential part of visitor demand management and managing visitor expectations of national parks and protected areas.Read more

Pre-visit communication has become an essential part of visitor demand management and managing visitor expectations of national parks and protected areas.

 

Managers need to consider how tourism and recreation opportunities in national parks should be communicated to people. This requires managers to consider changing recreation demands and visitor expectations upfront and integrating marketing strategies into communication and interpretation to promote parks effectively and to achieve more realistic expectations of what visitors can expect.

Marketing, as visitor and stakeholder communication, especially pre-visit communication, can be influential in a visitor’s decision regarding where to go and what to do. Strategic and tactical communication can also influence how visitors behave by providing information in a manner that reinforces desired onsite behaviours.


Establishing experience and behavioural expectations prior to visiting a protected area is central to ultimate visitor satisfaction as well as environmental protection. In designing pre-visit communication that promotes park and protected area visitation, as well as shapes behavioural expectations, managers must have a framework with which to both plan and implement effective pre-visit communication strategies. A visitor communication framework should be based on the Recreation Opportunity Spectrum (ROS) so that interpretation and communication material is relevant to the management settings and experiences being sought by the visitor.

Recent research by the STCRC highlights the importance of using a robust segmentation strategy in order to understand visitors and potential visitors and the experiences they seek. Visitor segmentation using a ROS based approach enables managers to better manage demand for parks and better manage visitor expectations about the experiences they can have. It is suggested that protected area managers would benefit from the development of a more robust approach to segmentation and to adopt a ROS based approach to understanding the interaction between visitor segments and available parks and park related experiences.

This research provides a number of recommendations for integrated pre-visit communication management (IPCM) including:

  • Institute a regular IPCM audit;
  • Refine pre-visit communication roles and responsibilities within the organisation and refine and clarify the roles and responsibilities of individuals and departmental groups within protected area agencies with regard to planning and implementing a pre-visit communication strategy and activities;
  • Strengthen relationships with state and regional tourism organisations and develop a clear brand vision and brand identity;
  • Improve the integration of visitor data into strategy development and campaign planning;
  • Improve the clarity of objectives regarding which visitor segments to target and products (parks and protected areas) to market;
  • Institute a more systematic and data driven pre-visit communication planning process;
  • Improve the resourcing of pre-visit communication management and activities.
  • Utilise the supply and demand visitor experience segment matrix to develop a product/segment portfolio matrix based on experiences sought by visitors.
  • Undertake specific visitor segment level pre-visit decision-making research.
  • Include information source and experience sought questions in visitor surveys.
  • Determine the usefulness and effectiveness of park websites in facilitating visitor decision-making.

Source: Mike Reid, Stephen Wearing and Glen Croy 2008 Marketing of Protected Areas as a Tool to Influence Visitors' Pre-Visit Decisions, Sustainable Tourism Cooperative Research Centre

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