Academic journal article Journal of Leisure Research

Commitment to Public Leisure Service Providers: A Conceptual and Psychometric Analysis

Academic journal article Journal of Leisure Research

Commitment to Public Leisure Service Providers: A Conceptual and Psychometric Analysis

Article excerpt

Introduction

While several authors have discussed the value of committed recreationists for both public and commercial service providers (Gahwiler & Havitz, 1998; Iwasaki & Havitz, 1998, 2004; Kirn, Scott, & Crompton, 1997; KyIe, Graefe, Manning, & Bacon, 2004), consensus on how best to conceptualize and measure the commitment construct remains elusive. For example, Havitz and Dimanche (1997) noted that there has been some disagreement concerning the distinction between leisure involvement and commitment. Researchers who have adapted conceptualizations of commitment from consumer theory have considered commitment in terms of recreationists' sentiment toward service providers and their service offerings (e.g., Gahwiler & Havitz, 1998; Iwasaki & Havitz, 2004; Pritchard, Havitz, & Howard, 1999). For these researchers, the relationship between involvement and commitment is reflective of a developmental process where recreationists' become involved with leisure activities and then develop distinct service preferences. Consequently, these researchers have indicated that the distinction between involvement and commitment lies in the specificity of the attitude object: involvement is measured at the product level (i.e., activities), whereas commitment is measured at the brand level (i.e., service providers and service offerings). Alternately, other researchers who have drawn from theories grounded in sociology have tended to use involvement and commitment interchangeably (Buchanan, 1985; Kirn et al., 1997; Moore & Scott, 2003; Scott, Baker, & Kirn, 1999). For these researchers, a committed recreationist could be an individual deeply involved with a specific activity. While recent conceptual and empirical evidence has offered most support for the former conceptualization (Havitz & Dimanche, 1997; Iwasaki & Havitz, 1998, 2004; KyIe, Graefe, Manning, & Bacon, 2003; Park, 1996), we suggest that elements of both approaches have the potential to contribute to our understanding of the commitment construct.

Another issue confounding our understanding of commitment concerns whether or not the properties underlying commitment are consistent for both public and commercial contexts. For example, in commercial contexts, the cultivation of recreationists' commitment to the agency is seen as an important indicator of agency success as determined by profit margins. Committed recreationists purchase the service more frequently and are more inclined to purchase premium products (Reichheld & Sasser, 1990). In these contexts, great importance is placed on elements related to the immediate transaction context that stress consumer satisfaction, quality, and value. Alternately, Borrie, Christensen, Watson, Miller, and McCollum (2002) suggested that, in the context of public leisure services and public land management, in particular, it is more appropriate for public agencies to focus their efforts on fostering trust, given their mandate to consider the variety of stakeholders' perspectives and the public purpose of the places and resources they manage. Borrie et al. warned against focusing too narrowly on transactions alone and adopting commercially-derived practices that support these transactions. They indicated that these practices have the potential to lead to the commodification of public goods and the exclusion of segments within the community. Borrie et al. noted that the shift in focus from transactions to trust is more consistent with fostering the development of long-term relationships with stakeholders.

Thus, to address these issues, we systematically tested a scale designed to measure respondents' commitment to public leisure service providers and their product offerings. In so doing, we build upon previous work suggesting that commitment is an attitudinal construct best measured at the brand level. In our study contexts-a National Forest and a urban park agency-respondents' attachment to the agency could best be understood in terms of the meanings they associated with the settings and facilities managed by the agency along with their trust in the agency's ability to manage these settings in a manner consistent with these meanings. …

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