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Visitor satisfaction with a beach-based wild dolphin tourism experience and attitudes to feeding wild dolphins

Patroni, Jessica (2018) Visitor satisfaction with a beach-based wild dolphin tourism experience and attitudes to feeding wild dolphins. Honours thesis, Murdoch University.

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This research was conducted to gain insight into visitor’s satisfaction with a beach-based wild dolphin experience operated by the Dolphin Discovery Centre (DDC) on Koombana Beach, Bunbury, Western Australia and to understand visitor attitudes to the feeding of wild dolphins. Understanding visitor satisfaction and attitudes is important to wildlife tourism managers as it highlights areas of potential improvement for their operations with the goal of maintaining visitor satisfaction. To collect this information a pen and paper questionnaire was carried out to sample a cross section of visitors to Koombana Beach. Importance-Performance Analysis (IPA) was incorporated into the questionnaire and used as a measure of visitor satisfaction. This revealed that visitors to the DDC (n= 342) were satisfied with their experience at the DDC. However, there was an apparent barrier to people revisiting the DDC more than three times. The visitor satisfaction information was then examined at a finer scale to present aspects of the operation that have the potential for improvement to better meet visitor expectations. In regards to visitor awareness and attitudes to wild dolphin feeding, it was found that Koombana Beach visitors (n= 569) indicated a high awareness of the potential negative impacts of dolphin feeding and were against unregulated feeding of wild dolphins. There was also evidence to suggest that visitation to the DDC may discourage unregulated feeding and increase visitor knowledge in regard to wild dolphin feeding being illegal. This study reports the benefits of incorporating educational information into such wildlife experiences to assist in the reduction of harmful unregulated interactions. The results of this study reveal the importance of understanding visitor satisfaction and attitudes for wildlife tourism operations in order to foster repeat visitation as well as motivating others to visit. This work contributes to best practice dolphin tourism management by revealing that there is public support for the beach-based dolphin interaction provided and controlled by the DDC. This study also shows that visitors to Koombana Beach are likely to support actions that could reduce illegal dolphin feeding and injury from recreational boating.

Item Type: Thesis (Honours)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Veterinary and Life Sciences
United Nations SDGs: Goal 14: Life Below Water
Supervisor(s): Newsome, David and Simpson, Greg
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