Picking up litter: an application of theory-based communication to influence tourist behaviour in protected areas.
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Tourism to protected areas worldwide has increased rapidly, prompting management agencies to seek enhanced visitor management including communication aimed at influencing tourists' behaviour to reduce impacts and strengthen conservation viability. Research has shown that the greatest success in influencing visitors' actions comes from understanding what they think about a particular behaviour. This notion was investigated in this study in Mt Field National Park, Tasmania, using the theory of planned behaviour and the elaboration likelihood model of persuasion in a three-stage research process to design specific persuasive messages that were then evaluated for their impact on visitors' beliefs, attitude and behaviour. Of four salient beliefs found through survey, one offered much promise. Two experimental treatments based on that belief resulted in a 15%-20% increase in litter pickup compared with a control condition, and were also found to positively affect targeted beliefs and attitudes relating to this pro-environmental behaviour. Potential benefits include cost savings on litter collection for the park, fewer detrimental impacts on wildlife and less aesthetic degradation. Conclusions are drawn about the efficacy of a theory-based approach to influencing problem visitor behaviours in protected areas and the nature of the cognitive process which might be involved.
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