The Impact of Wildlife Tourism Experiences on Visitors' Environmental Learning at Giant Panda Centres in China

Julia Chen (2011). The Impact of Wildlife Tourism Experiences on Visitors' Environmental Learning at Giant Panda Centres in China PhD Thesis, School of Tourism, The University of Queensland.

       
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Author Julia Chen
Thesis Title The Impact of Wildlife Tourism Experiences on Visitors' Environmental Learning at Giant Panda Centres in China
School, Centre or Institute School of Tourism
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 2011-12
Thesis type PhD Thesis
Supervisor Dr. Jan Packer
Professor Roy Ballantyne
Total pages 230
Total colour pages 7
Total black and white pages 223
Language eng
Subjects 15 Commerce, Management, Tourism and Services
Abstract/Summary Current literature on wildlife tourism is essentially Western centric, and research exploring environmental learning in Chinese wildlife visitors is very limited. Due to the many cultural, historical and political differences between the West and China, research is needed to inform the development and management of wildlife tourism in China on issues sensitive to Chinese cultural values. The aim of this thesis was to contribute to a better understanding of wildlife tourism in China by investigating the impact of wildlife tourism, focussed on viewing giant pandas, on Chinese visitors’ environmental learning, and identifying the aspects of such experiences that are particularly important to Chinese visitors. Specifically, the objectives were to: 1. Understand the entering attributes of Chinese visitors to giant panda viewing sites and their relationships to environmental learning; 2. Investigate the impact of giant panda viewing experiences on Chinese visitors’ environmental attitudes, experiential values, and environmental learning; and 3. Identify ways in which the impact of giant panda viewing experiences on Chinese visitors’ environmental learning can be enhanced. A total of 960 visitors (775 Chinese visitors and 185 Western visitors) participated in this research at Chengdu Giant Panda Breeding Base and Wolong Giant Panda Breeding Centre (Sichuan, China). Although the focus of the present study was on Chinese visitors, a small sample of Western visitors was included in the research to enable comparisons to be made between Chinese and Western visitors to the same sites, using the same measures. This comparison provided a context for the data from Chinese visitors, which allowed their uniquely Chinese perspectives and responses to be identified. In the present study, qualitative data were used to investigate (i) visitors’ perceptions and expectations of giant panda viewing sites; (ii) open-ended accounts of visitors’ environmental learning; (iii) aspects of the experience that had the greatest impact on visitors; and (iv) visitors’ suggestions for ways in which the experience could be enhanced. Quantitative data were used to examine: (i) visitors’ demographic characteristics (age, gender, educational background, occupation, monthly income, region of origin and companion visitors); (ii) visitors’ motivations for visiting the sites; and (iii) the impact of giant panda viewing experiences on visitors’ environmental attitudes and experiential values. The research findings indicated that Chinese visitors place great importance on experiencing ‘harmony between man and nature’ in their wildlife-viewing experiences. Zoos and wildlife parks should therefore use this Chinese cultural perspective better when conveying conservation messages to Chinese visitors. Results from this study suggest that if giant panda viewing experiences are to promote positive conservation attitudes and behaviours in Chinese visitors, zoos and wildlife parks that offer such experiences need to (1) extend interpretation to incorporate spiritual and cultural values; (2) build on the reasons visitors have for protecting and saving the giant panda; (3) present live animal demonstrations; (4) focus on practical environmental actions that visitors can take; (5) provide more interpreters and take-home brochures; and (6) provide pre-visit information and innovative interpretation design. By following these strategies, the visitors will hopefully gain more information about environmental protection, have an increased interest in animal conservation and exhibit pro-conservation behaviour in their daily lives.
Keyword Wildlife tourism
Interpretation
Experiential values
Environmental attitudes
Chinese visitors
Giant panda tourism
Additional Notes Pages in colour: 67, 69-73, 132

 
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