The influence of the 2008/2009 economic recession on travel behaviour of visitors to the Kruger National Park
During the recession period of 2008/2009, global tourism declined by 8%. This was also evident is South Africa with the domestic travel market shrinking by 8% as well. However, this did not apply to the Kruger National Park (KNP) which experienced a sustained Accommodation Unit Occupancy growth of 1.6% during the same period. Visitors to the KNP thus see it as an attractive holiday destination irrespective of tough economic conditions characterised by less disposable income. To sustain this growth, it is important to be aware of the reasons visitors still visit the KNP during a recession. The aim of this study was to determine the reasons why visitors still travelled to the KNP during the 2008/2009 recession. This can be done by analysing the visitors’ behaviour and the motivational factors (internal feelings of the visitors) and determinants of the demand (income and exchange rates for instance) that influenced visitors’ choice to visit the KNP. To achieve this aim, a survey was conducted at the KNP between 15 and 20 December 2009 (high season). A total of 355 questionnaires were completed, after which a number of analyses were done to determine the effects of the recession on travel behaviour. For the purpose of this study, two articles were written. Article 1 is titled: “Motivations of visitors to the Kruger National Park during the 2008/2009 recession period”. The aim of this article was to determine the motivations of visitors to the KNP during the recession. A factor analysis on the motivations to visit the park was conducted, of which the following factors obtained the highest mean values: Escape, Wildlife experience and Family benefits. Push factors to the KNP were important to such an extent that visitors regarded visiting the park as a primary need or lifestyle. The results furthermore showed that visitors might have adapted their spending behaviour at the park to still afford to visit the park during the recession. This article provides a better understanding of visitors’ feelings towards the KNP, especially amidst recessions which, in turn, will improve niche marketing and a competitive advantage. Article 2 is titled: “Factors that influenced demand to the Kruger National Park during the 2008/2009 economic recession”. The aim of this article was to identify the determinants that influence the demand for visits to the KNP. Due to the homogeneous nature of the park’s market, the results of the stepwise logistic regression analysis revealed a few socio- demographic and behavioural determinants that influenced visitors’ demand to the park. The motives Escape and Souvenirs were the only two behavioural determinants while the provinces Gauteng and Mpumalanga were the only socio-demographic determinants. These two provinces are the two main markets for the KNP. Visitors indicated that visiting the KNP is a great way of escaping their busy metropolitan areas, especially in the Gauteng province. Mpumalanga residents have many tourism attractions in their province thus lowering the chances that they will visit the KNP. The determinant Souvenirs indicates that visitors adapted their spending at the park to still be able to afford visits. It was also found that demand to visit the park was not greatly influenced by the recession, because visitors could adapt their spending at the park. This is the first time the determinants of demand to a national park during a recession period have been conducted. The study indicated that visiting natural areas may have become a primary need or part of a lifestyle, especially during the 2008/2009 recession period. This article gives park management guidelines that will ensure the sustainability of the KNP because this information now allows for well-planned, thorough marketing and management of the park. In the case of KNP, which has a homogeneous market, the number of determinants identified influencing demand for visiting the park is fewer than has been found in other studies done on heterogeneous markets. This study therefore also makes a valuable methodological contribution in relation to analysing demand of homogeneous and heterogeneous markets.