Investigating the role of the World Heritage brand in attracting visitors to protected areas in Queensland, Australia

King, Lisa Marie (2011) Investigating the role of the World Heritage brand in attracting visitors to protected areas in Queensland, Australia. PhD thesis, James Cook University.

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Governments and communities increasingly expect protected areas not only to act as conservation cornerstones, but to deliver a broad range of social and economic benefits primarily through tourism. The brand category assigned to a protected area can dramatically influence tourism levels and be a valuable point of differentiation. However, with over 1000 protected area brand categories in use worldwide and more than 55 such categories in Australia alone, standing out from the crowd is problematic.

World Heritage, an internationally acclaimed brand category, recognizes properties containing resources of such outstanding 'universal value' to the entire world they must be protected in perpetuity for future generations to appreciate. The World Heritage brand heightens the international profile of properties and creates a unique point of differentiation.

Furthermore, some individual World Heritage Areas have attained 'celebrity status' possessing instantly recognisable brand names that are among the best known brands in the world. For example, the Galapagos Islands and Grand Canyon National Park are names that instantly convey a series of iconic images. With over 7,700 parks in Australia, famous World Heritage properties such as Kakadu National Park or the Great Barrier Reef have a competitive advantage over lesser known protected areas.

As protected area brands play a critical role in determining the level of visitation to any property, there is surprisingly little empirical research focused specifically on visitors and their relationship with the World Heritage brand. This dissertation is designed to expand existing knowledge on the relationship between World Heritage and visitors by undertaking research on the role of the World Heritage brand in attracting visitors to protected areas in Queensland, Australia.

Based on identified research gaps, five objectives were developed to collectively address the overall aim. The objectives for this study are: 1. to develop a practical framework on the roles protected site brands play for their primary stakeholders; 2. to create a set of standardized, comparable data sets across World Heritage Areas in Queensland and analyse the data to demonstrate the benefits of such monitoring efforts; 3. to identify the level of visitor awareness of the World Heritage brand when visiting a World Heritage site in Queensland; 4. to gauge the influence of the World Heritage brand in attracting visitors to World Heritage sites in Queensland; and, 5. to determine if some individuals specifically collect World Heritage sites; and if so, identify their sociodemographic characteristics.

The research methodology consisted of a four stage approach. Focus groups informed the development of the visitor survey instrument. A self-completion questionnaire was twice piloted and refined before being administered across Queensland's World Heritage Areas on a monthly basis between 1 April and 31 July, 2008. A total of 1827 valid questionnaires were collected. The study sites were the Australian Fossil Mammal Sites (Riversleigh), Fraser Island, the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia, the Great Barrier Reef and the Wet Tropics of Australia. Semi-structured interviews with experts were conducted to gather background information pertinent to the present branding situation within each study site. Last, general on-site signage and visitor observations were made during the study period. Descriptive analyses, Chi-square along with analyses of variance were used to investigate the relationships between different variables.

Research findings were revealing. The Australian Fossil Mammal Sites (Riversleigh), the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia and Fraser Island possess distinctive visitor socio-demographic profiles while the Wet Tropics of Queensland and the Great Barrier Reef generally have more similar profiles. Only one-third of Queensland's World Heritage visitors had 'top of mind' awareness of the brand when exiting the site they had just visited. Furthermore, visitors exiting the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia and the Wet Tropics of Queensland could not recall unaided the name of the World Heritage Area they just visited. There was no signage within in the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia study sites containing the name of the World Heritage Area. Only visitors to the Australian Fossil Mammal Sites (Riversleigh) demonstrated significantly increased awareness of the World Heritage brand after time spent on-site, while visitors to the other four World Heritage Areas showed little change in brand awareness. Less than five percent of all visitors could correctly recall what a modified version of the World Heritage emblem represented.

However, approximately one in four visitors indicated the World Heritage brand influenced their decision to visit the study location. Approximately the same number of visitors indicated they would go out of their way to visit a World Heritage Area, visit a national park for a longer period of time if they were aware it was also World Heritage branded, and would prefer to visit natural World Heritage sites over other protected area brands in Australia. This research determined the World Heritage brand is a collectable experience.

The findings of this dissertation are significant. This is the first study in Queensland to explore in-depth the relationship between the visitor and the World Heritage brand. It establishes the first comparable baseline set of visitor sociodemographic data across all of Queensland’s World Heritage Areas. A published report based on the findings of this research has advised the Australian World Heritage Advisory Committee. A second report was forwarded as an IUCN endorsed briefing document to the UNESCO World Heritage Committee subgroup working on World Heritage branding issues. Thus, the findings of this dissertation have already impacted policy regarding the World Heritage brand at the national and international level. The researcher also advanced the literature by developing a practical framework identifying the roles of protected area brands among major stakeholders, a surprising gap in the literature.

Item ID: 21186
Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: attractions; Australian Fossil Mammal Sites (Riversleigh); Bentrupperbaumer; Binna Burra; brand management; brand marketing; brand marks; branding protected areas; brown signs; Cairns; Cape Tribulation; Cape York; cassowary and Bowenia leaf logo; cassowary logo; Central Eastern Forest Reserves; certification; collecting destinations and places; collecting places and destinations; collector; communicating the World Heritage brand across Australia; conservation tourism; cultural heritage; Daintree National Park; decision to visit; desirability of protected area brands; destination brands; dingo; ecotourism; effective brand; Fraser Island; Fredman; frog on the leaf logo; GBR; GBRMPA; Goldcoast hinterland; Gondwana Rainforests of Australia; Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority; Great Sandy National Park; Green Island; Hall; Halpenny; influence of the World Heritage brand on destination choice or decision to visit; influence of the World Heritage Certification; interpretive signage; Keller's Brand Knowledge; Lamington National Park; logos; marketing protected areas; modified World Heritage emblems and symbols; Mossman Gorge; Mt. Isa; National Park; natural heritage; Noosa; outback; place brands; place collector; Port Douglas; power of protected area brands; prior knowledge; protected area management; protected areas; QPWS; Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service; Queensland World Heritage; recall; recognition; Riversleigh fossil fields; road sign; road signage; Savannah Way; Shackley; signage; special interest tourist; Springbrook National Park; stripped World Heritage emblem; symbols and emblems; the jobs of protected area brands; the role of protected area brands; tourism branding; Tourism Queensland; tourist; TQ; traveller; TTNQ; visitor awareness; visitor center; visitor centre; visitor monitoring; visitor questionnaire; visitor survey; visitor-based brand equity; Wet Tropics Management Authority; Wet Tropics of Queensland; World Heritage brands; World Heritage Committee; World Heritage emblem; World Heritage Gateway; World Heritage Gateway Center; World Heritage Gateway Centre; World Heritage List; World Heritage symbols; WTMA
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Publications arising from this thesis are available from the Related URLs field. The publications are: King, Lisa M., and Prideaux, Bruce (2010) Special interest tourists collecting places and destinations: a case study of Australian World Heritage sites. Journal of Vacation Marketing, 16 (3). pp. 235-247. ISSN 1479-1870.

King, Lisa M., and Prideaux, Bruce (2010) World Heritage or national park? Visitor preference for protected area brands in Queensland, Australia. ISBN 978-1-86295-560-8. Proceedings of CAUTHE 2010: challenge the limits In: CAUTHE 2010 20th Annual Conference of Council for Australian University Tourism and Hospitality Education: challenge the limits, 8 - 11 February 2010, Hobart, Tas, Australia.

King, Lisa M., and Prideaux, Bruce (2009) Do travellers collect world heritage areas? ISBN 978-1-86308-152-8. Proceedings of the CAUTHE - 18th International Research Conference In: CAUTHE - 18th International Research Conference, 10-13 February 2009, Fremantle, WA, Australia.

King, Lisa M., and Prideaux, Bruce (2009) Exploring the visitor-based brand equity of the wet tropics of Queensland World Heritage Area. ISBN 978-99937-51-32-8. Proceedings of the 3rd International Conference on Destination Branding and Marketing In: 3rd International Conference on Destination Branding and Marketing, 2-4 December 2009, Macao SAR, China.

Date Deposited: 23 Mar 2012 00:59
FoR Codes: 15 COMMERCE, MANAGEMENT, TOURISM AND SERVICES > 1506 Tourism > 150604 Tourism Marketing @ 50%
15 COMMERCE, MANAGEMENT, TOURISM AND SERVICES > 1506 Tourism > 150606 Tourist Behaviour and Visitor Experience @ 50%
SEO Codes: 90 COMMERCIAL SERVICES AND TOURISM > 9003 Tourism > 900303 Tourism Infrastructure Development @ 34%
90 COMMERCIAL SERVICES AND TOURISM > 9003 Tourism > 900302 Socio-Cultural Issues in Tourism @ 33%
97 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 970115 Expanding Knowledge in Commerce, Management, Tourism and Services @ 33%
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