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Using photographs to explain visitors' attachment to the southern Ningaloo coast

Tonge, J., Beckley, L.E., Moore, S.A. and Ryan, M. (2011) Using photographs to explain visitors' attachment to the southern Ningaloo coast. In: 48th Annual Conference of the Australian Marine Science Association, 3 - 7 July, Fremantle, Western Australia.

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A recent human-usage survey of the Ningaloo Marine Park identified a significant percentage of repeat usage (55%) among visitors. Given the considerable time and effort required to get to this remote Park, why do these visitors continually return? One theory explored through this study was the concept of place attachment - the forming of bonds with a physical setting. Given the complex nature of this concept, the qualitative research method of photo-elicitation was employed. Visitors across three study sites along the southern section of the Ningaloo coast were asked to take photographs to indicate why they liked to visit the area. In subsequent interviews these were then used as a basis to help explain and explore their attachment. During a four week period, coinciding with peak visitation, 30 participants took greater than 200 photographs and provided over 15 hours of interview recordings. Documentation of photographic content as well as thematic analysis of the interview transcripts identified a number of key factors contributing to visitors’ place attachment. These included enjoyment of the physical environment, especially the unique land and seascapes, the warm climate and that the environment facilitated participation in desired recreational activities. There were also opportunities for social interactions among families, friends and acquaintances specific to the study sites. It was also found to be an emotionally complete experience as the challenges of planning for, and getting to, the remote location rewarded with enjoyable holidays. This study provides information to managers about the relationships visitors have with the Ningaloo environment. Specifically it is not just the biophysical aspects of the Park, but social interactions and rewards are also important to visitors.

Item Type: Conference Item
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Environmental Science
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