A Contemporary Overview of Visitor Motivations and Expectations at Naracoorte Caves National Park, South Australia

Author: Rebecca Uphill

Uphill, Rebecca, 2017 A Contemporary Overview of Visitor Motivations and Expectations at Naracoorte Caves National Park, South Australia, Flinders University, College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences

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The aims of this research project were to observe various aspects regarding visitors to Naracoorte Caves National Park (NCNP). These included identifying the demographics of visitors; establishing and analysing their key motivations; determining where background information on the attraction is obtained from prior to visiting; and ascertaining whether social media plays a significant role in the background information collection process.

Utilising a mixed methods approach, both quantitative and qualitative data were collected over the Easter period in April 2017. Respondents were randomly selected to participate in either a structured questionnaire or a semi-structured interview with the primary researcher. Once the data was collected, the qualitative data was analysed through a process of coding. The quantitative data was entered into a database and further interpreted into graphs.

The findings revealed that most visitors to Naracoorte Caves National Park are domestic visitors on a holiday. 94.5% of the respondents were Australian citizens visiting with family or a partner. The average age is 40.21 and 60% of visitors are female. Other major markets include the UK, India, Germany and China which represents the major market profile of international visitors to South Australia.

The most common motivations for visiting Naracoorte Caves National Park are geological aspects; enjoying free time; getting pleasure from adventure; satisfying curiosity; and experiencing cave tourism. The least common motivations are shopping for souvenirs; showing off experience of a cave tour; relief from everyday stress; seeking novelty; and socialising with friends interested in cave tourism. Visitors retrieved information mostly through Internet searches, word of mouth, brochures, social media, past experiences and signs, before visiting NCNP.

Overall, some key observations included the small number of respondents agreeing that stress relief was a major motivator for their visitation, despite previous studies stating this as a common motivator. Whilst a significant number of participants did not state seeking novelty was a main motivator, other motivations related to novelty such as satisfying curiosity were chosen. Studies have shown social media as a key information source for visitors, however, this study yielded conflicting results. Only 2% of respondents stated they used social media to find out more about Naracoorte Caves and almost half of all respondents (49%) agreed that the UNESCO World Heritage Listing was an important aspect in attracting visitors to the site.

The main motivations are consistent with previous literature based on nature-based and cave tourism motivations which focus on natural aspects, experiencing something different and enjoying free time. It is important that marketing of the site is focused on sources such as the Internet to provide potential tourists with important information and to further entice those contemplating visiting NCNP.

Keywords: tourism, cave tourism, nature-based tourism, visitor demographics, visitor motivations, Naracoorte Caves National Park, UNESCO World Heritage

Subject: Tourism thesis

Thesis type: Masters
Completed: 2017
School: College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences
Supervisor: Gareth Butler