Encouraging Respectful Wildlife Viewing Among Tourists: Roles for Social Marketing, Regulatory Information, Symbolic Barriers, and Enforcement
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Encouraging Respectful Wildlife Viewing Among Tourists: Roles for Social Marketing, Regulatory Information, Symbolic Barriers, and Enforcement

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  • Journal Title:
    Social Marketing Quarterly
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    Background The practice of viewing animals in captivity is losing popularity among tourists, who would rather observe wildlife in their natural environments. A laudable sustainability goal is to provide enjoyable viewing possibilities while also protecting wildlife. Focus of the Article This study tested a social marketing campaign that promoted replacement behaviors against standard regulatory signage in persuading individuals to follow the viewing distance guideline for Hawaiian green sea turtles. The characteristics of one of the study sites also offered the opportunity to study the impacts of symbolic barriers (e.g., rock walls, orange safety cones) and enforcement from authority-like figures on people’s compliance. Research Questions The study addresses three research questions: (1) Can a social marketing-based approach encourage respectful wildlife viewing? (2) How does the approach compare to one providing simplistic information about the behavior and associated laws? (3) How do symbolic barriers and enforcement by authority-like figures add impact to influencing respectful wildlife viewing? Program Design/Approach The “Amazing from Afar” campaign was designed with insights from federal wildlife managers, existing literature on tourists’ psychology and goals, and key informant interviews with local residents. The campaign promoted replacement behaviors of taking forced perspective photos of sea turtles and was evaluated alongside other techniques to encourage respectful viewing. Importance to the Social Marketing Field This article demonstrates the effectiveness of social marketing for nature-based recreation, an under-served area where interest in approaches focused on behavior change is emerging. The study documents improved compliance with wildlife viewing distances using a social marketing approach compared to the more standard approach of stating rules/laws and putting up symbolic barriers. Plus, it illustrates how symbolic barriers and enforcement can enhance impact. Methods Research took place over two studies, one on Oahu ( n = 1,437) and one on the Island of Hawai‘i ( n = 10,217) using a quasi-experimental design where the control conditions reflected existing efforts at the site. Using naturalistic observation, we categorized and counted people at various distances from basking sea turtles before and during the social marketing campaign. Results Findings showed regulatory information signs located near the sea turtles positively impacted people’s compliance with the viewing distance guideline, and the social marketing campaign improved compliance even further. The symbolic barrier could help or hurt compliance depending on how close sea turtles got to its edges, but compliance was over 90% with the social marketing campaign in place. Recommendations Natural resource managers and conservationists should carefully consider how regulations/enforcement, environmental design, and marketing can work together to achieve wildlife protection while preserving fulfilling viewing opportunities. Limitations The field research relying on observations of people’s behavior did not allow for assurances of exposure to signage, and in some cases, the symbolic barriers could have been overlooked as well. Instead, there could have been descriptive norm cues from others since it was common for multiple parties to be viewing at once.
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    Social Marketing Quarterly, 29(1), 67-86
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    CC BY-NC
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