Nature-Based Recreational Experiences at Coastal Wetlands: An Application of Importance-Performance Analysis at Bundala National Park Sri Lanka
With the rising demand for nature-based tourism in coastal environments in biodiversity rich tropical countries such as Sri Lanka, an understanding on visitor perceptions on nature-based tourism performance is vital to ensure sustainable destination development. Bundala National Park (BNP) is one of the famous tourist destinations which attracts both local and foreign wildlife tourists. However, given the diverse biodiversity features, the wildlife tourism operations at BNP has the potential for sustainable growth. An understanding of the visitor perceptions on current performance of the destination, and visitor expectations is essential in making informed decisions to bridge the performance-expectation gap and develop strategies for sustainable wildlife tourism development based on coastal wetlands in BNP. This study used the Importance-Performance Analysis aided by a self-reporting structured questionnaire to understand visitor motivation, onsite activities and perceptions on the tourism experience. Respondents rated ‘to be in a natural setting’ as their main motivation for visiting this destination (79.6%), followed by ‘to observe ecological landscape’ (60.8%), and ‘to learn more about new things/ nature’ (45.3%). Viewing wildlife (92.8%), enjoying safari rides (88.4%), and bird watching (82.9%) were the most popular activities among visitors. Gap Analysis IPA identified significant negative gaps in attributes such as ‘cost of the safari tour’, ‘feeling safe on the safari ride’, ‘guide’s knowledge about the park and flora and fauna’ as well as ‘behaviour of other visitors at the park’, where the performance was below visitor expectations (i.e. Performance < Importance). Overall result of the study highlights the importance of management/regulation of recreational activities and maintaining the quality of natural environment, to enhance the visitor experience and satisfaction. Management implications and recommendations are further discussed.
Keywords: coastal tourism, importance, satisfaction, motivations, visitor perception, wildlife
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