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The impact of national park and UNESCO world heritage site designations on visit intentions: evidence from a randomised experiment

Published: 14 November 2022

Abstract: Existing research finds inconclusive evidence of tourism benefits of designating new National Parks (NP) and UNESCO World Heritage sites (WHS). This research advances this ongoing discussion by using a randomised experiment to test causal effects of these common protected area designations on future visit intention among domestic tourists in Australia. It also tests for moderating effects exerted by tourist beliefs and advertising strategy. The study finds that NP and WHS declarations significantly increase the likelihood of visitation, but the added value of declaring a WHS above NP is insignificant on a domestic tourism market. Tourists’ attitudes towards protected areas significantly moderate these effects, whereas effects related to advertising strategy are negligible. The paper makes significant contributions because it is the first in this area to: (a) use randomisation in the design to produce robust causal conclusions; (b) compare NP and WHS designations; and (c) scrutinise the role of advertising strategy.
Keywords: World heritage site / national parks / protected areas / tourism development / tourism impacts

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