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Nature-based Tourism or Mass Tourism in Nature? Segmentation of Mountain Protected Area Visitors Using Self-Organizing Maps (SOM)

1
Institute of Landscape Development, Recreation and Conservation Planning, University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences (BOKU), 1190 Vienna, Austria
2
Department of Physical Education and Sport, University of Valencia, 46010 Valencia, Spain
3
Departament de Didàctica de l’Expressió Musical, Plàstica i Corporal, University of Valencia, 46021 Valencia, Spain
4
Tatra National Park, 34-500 Zakopane, Poland
5
Institute for Biophysics, University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences (BOKU), 1180 Vienna, Austria
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Sustainability 2019, 11(5), 1314; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11051314
Received: 18 January 2019 / Revised: 24 February 2019 / Accepted: 25 February 2019 / Published: 2 March 2019
(This article belongs to the Section Sustainable Use of the Environment and Resources)
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Abstract

Mountain protected areas play a fundamental role in the conservation of natural environment and at the same time provide the population with social benefits such as offering space for leisure and recreation. Understanding motivations and behavior of protected area visitors is crucial to effectively manage vulnerable areas. Our objective was to identify the profiles of visitors to a heavily used tourist destination—Kasprowy Wierch within the Tatra National Park (Poland), using the self-organizing maps (SOM) analytical method. In order to explore the socio-demographic and behavioral characteristics of the visitors a total sample of 2488 respondents were interviewed on site. Self-organizing map analysis is based on cerebral processes for managing and storing information in order to classify subjects and/or find relationships among variables. As a result, four heterogeneous tourist profiles were identified. Interestingly, two of these groups (Cluster 1 and Cluster 3), which were found to be the most challenging groups for management purposes, visited the national park for reasons other than its natural attractions. Especially, one sub-segment of Cluster 3 was mainly motivated by the possibility to use a cable car, admiring views and stayed within close proximity of the upper cable car station. Less than a half of visitors to Kasprowy Wierch (42%) were seeking a nature experience during their trip (Cluster 2 and Cluster 4). The results bring a new point of view in the discussion on visitor management within Kasprowy Wierch region, in particular by overlapping presented visitor segmentation with trip types and/or purchased cable car tickets. Within international context, we highlight the SOM technique as a valuable tool in profiling of tourists and underline the problem of the existence of mass tourism destinations within protected areas. View Full-Text
Keywords: sustainable tourism; nature-based tourism; conservation tourism; self-organizing maps (SOM); social marketing; visitor segmentation; Tatra National Park; protected areas; cable car sustainable tourism; nature-based tourism; conservation tourism; self-organizing maps (SOM); social marketing; visitor segmentation; Tatra National Park; protected areas; cable car
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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).

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Taczanowska, K.; González, L.-M.; García-Massó, X.; Zięba, A.; Brandenburg, C.; Muhar, A.; Pellicer-Chenoll, M.; Toca-Herrera, J.-L. Nature-based Tourism or Mass Tourism in Nature? Segmentation of Mountain Protected Area Visitors Using Self-Organizing Maps (SOM). Sustainability 2019, 11, 1314.

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