University Of Tasmania
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Exploring the power of the augmented soft and hard ecotourism spectrum to segment walkers on the Overland Track, Tasmania

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posted on 2023-05-27, 09:14 authored by Yamasaki, M
The focus of the study is the Ecotourist Spectrum devised by Weaver and Lawton in 2001. The Spectrum was the first to suggest that ecotourists display a range of hard to soft characteristics and has become an accepted part of the literature on ecotourism. Yet, a detailed examination of the literature found that this behaviour-based Spectrum produced only a limited distinction between ecotourists, while other studies suggested the potential to incorporate values into the Spectrum to provide a more detailed segmentation of ecotourists (Blamey & Braithwaite, 1997, Zografos & Allcroft, 2007). Weaver and Lawton's original Spectrum was augmented by adding values and the modified range of variables were tested by applying the new spectrum to the ecotourism experience of the Overland Track, a multi-day walk in Tasmania. This study employed Q methodology, which according to Robbins and Kruger (2000) is the scientific study of subjectivity. The data were collected in two phases; phase one comprised of 60 interviews with respondents that had recently completed the Overland Track walk. Their responses shaped the wording of the Q method statements that phase two interviewees were asked to sort. The statements were based on the nine behavioural criteria derived from Weaver and Lawton's Spectrum plus three additional emergent criteria on values generated from phase one data. In phase two, 54 individual respondents that were at the end of their walk (or were on the Track) agreed to sort 36 statements on a distribution scale and be interviewed to explain their choices. The transcribed interviews were correlated and factor analysed using PQ Method. The study identified five distinctive groups of ecotourists with each of the groups containing walkers who displayed a combination of soft and hard ecotourist characteristics. The absence of purely soft or hard ecotourists in this study suggests that Weaver and Lawton's Ecotourist Spectrum lacks the sophistication to effectively segment ecotourists on the Overland Track. In addition, the incorporation of the statements on values proved effective in detecting the five groups of ecotourists. This study proposes a spectrum of ecotourists who participate in multi-day walks that offers a finer grained understanding of ecotourist market segments. The study also recommends that future research is conducted to test the developed spectrum in additional ecotourism contexts.


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