Academic journal article European Journal of Tourism Research

Segmenting Protected Area Visitors by Activities: A Case Study in Paklenica National Park, Croatia

Academic journal article European Journal of Tourism Research

Segmenting Protected Area Visitors by Activities: A Case Study in Paklenica National Park, Croatia

Article excerpt

Introduction

Tourism occurring in a natural setting has been labelled variously, such as "nature tourism", "nature-based tourism" or "natural areas tourism". Regardless of the label employed, nature-based tourism is commonly perceived as an umbrella term that encompasses different tourism subsets (i.e., ecotourism, nature tourism, and adventure tourism) for which the natural outdoor environment, in its wild and undeveloped form, stands as a key setting for tourists' recreational activities (Buckley, 2008; Fennell, 2007; Hall and Boyd, 2005; Newsome, Moore and Dowling, 2002). Because this paper is not aimed at re-opening further definitional debates, the present authors will use the term nature-based tourism and provide a sample of basic characteristics of mentioned subsets to set up the theoretical grounds for the current study.

Ecotourism has often been interpreted interchangeably with nature-based tourism; however, recent reports clearly acknowledge ecotourism as a specific component (Fennell 2007; Newsome, Moore and Dowling, 2002; Weaver 2001a). Nonetheless, the scope and meaning of ecotourism continue to be debated. The majority of provided definitions agree that ecotourism refers to an environmentally responsible type of travel to relatively undisturbed natural and cultural areas that (i) fosters environmental education, learning and appreciation, (ii) contributes to the conservation of the natural environment and its optimal use and (iii) encourages the socio-economic prosperity of the host community (Diamantis, 1999; Fennell, 2007; Weaver, Lawton and Faulkner, 1999; Weaver, 2001b; Wight, 1993). Thus, although ecotourism is in essence nature based, it advocates a more responsible means of travel, emphasising environmental education and socio-ecologically sustainable use of the natural and cultural environment upon which it inherently depends (Orams, 1995; Weaver, 2001a).

Nature tourism refers to the observation or contemplation of flora, fauna or landscape scenery. In other words, it primarily focuses on nature itself, i.e., its attractiveness and individual experiences, without considering socio-cultural aspects or management issues. It is used more by analysts than practitioners (Buckley, 2008). Adventure tourism is perceived as a type of travel to remote or exotic places to receive active exposure to unknown experiences that often involve a certain level of risk and personal challenge. Reassembling Walle (1997), Weber (2001) noted that the definition of adventure tourism need not be viewed entirely through the conceptual prism of "risk theory" because the meaning of adventure itself is more a question of the subjective perception of an individual. Adventure tourism is considered a part of nature-based tourism only when the natural environment is used as a setting for participation in outdoor recreational activities (Swarbrook, Beard, Leckie and Pomfret, 2003). Although the key motive of adventure travel is, at its core, the activity (Sung, Morrison and O'Leary, 1997), if managed in a socio-ecological sustainable fashion, such travel might overlap with the ecotourism that frequently occurs in mountain and alpine regions (W illiams, Singh and Schlüter, 2001).

The significance of nature-based tourism is widely supported in the tourism literature; is often considered the fastest growing segment within the tourism industry, with an increase of between 10% and 30% per year (Balmford, et al., 2009; Marques, Reis and Menezes, 2010; Mehmetoglu 2007; Newsome, Moore and Dowling, 2002; Nyaupane, Morais and Graefe, 2004; Pickering and Weaver, 2003). According to the Centre for Responsible Travel (2015), 10-20% of all global international travels are, directly or indirectly, associated to enjoyment and interaction with nature. On an European level, when considering a return to the same place for a holiday, slightly less than half (46%) of European citizens named nature attractiveness (e.g., landscape) as the key consideration (Eurobarometer, 2014). …

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