A co-designed method to guide decision-making in protected area visitor centres

Año Publicación:  2019
Responsable: R. Moreno et al.
Journal, Volumen y páginas:
Journal of Environmental Management 233(1):586-594


R. Moreno, F. Llorens Montes, V. García-Morales, D. Alcaraz-Segura, A. Ridao & J. Mazariegos


Protected areas (PAs) constitute the largest global effort for biodiversity conservation and the maintenance of ecosystem services. Science-based management, grounded in methods co-designed by scientists and managers, is necessary to improve the efficiency of PAs to achieve these goals and to promote sustainable development. Visitor centres (VCs) in PAs play an important role to facilitate the supply of recreational ecosystem services and to promote environmental awareness. In this study, scientists and managers co-developed a method to assess visitors' perceptions of the recreational activities carried out in VCs and how they depend on the type of visitors. The research was performed at 13 PAs in Andalusia (Spain). A questionnaire that measures users' satisfaction with the services provided by VCs was implemented in two phases: 1) selection of items through the critical incident technique, and 2) validation of the scale by using exploratory and confirmatory factor analysis. The main result is an instrument composed of 18 indicators classified into three dimensions: information, facilities and service received from personnel. The instrument provides additional information useful for managers, such as homogeneity of valuation throughout the PA network and sociocultural factors that may explain the differences in visitors' valuation. The instrument developed could either be used directly or adapted for recreation management in other similar PAs. The proposed methodology can also be reproduced to validate other measurement instruments. This study illustrates how the development of a collaborative research method by scholars and practitioners can improve recreational management in PAs.

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