New non visitor survey
A new research report based on a survey undertaken to try and find out why more people do not choose Exmoor for a break has been conducted by the University of Exeter on behalf of Exmoor National Park Authority and provides an insight into the holiday habits, preferences and perceptions of non-visitors to Exmoor.
The research was conducted to build on previous work commissioned by the National Park Authority which provided a strong overview of why current visitors are attracted to the area and how visitor dynamics have changed over the years.
Overall perceptions of Exmoor are encouraging. 89% of respondents had heard of the area and nearly 50% of non-visitors had no particular reason for not visiting before. Several of Exmoor’s selling points were rated as ‘strongly desirable’ or ‘desirable’ by over 70% of respondents (such as being a ‘haven for wildlife’; offering ‘plenty of opportunities to relax and unwind’; hosting the ‘highest coastal cliffs in the country’; being Europe’s first ever ‘International Dark Sky Reserve’ and containing a ‘wealth of history and heritage’).
Other key findings were as follows:
• In terms of the holiday activity preferences shown by non visitors, Exmoor’s tourism product matches these well in terms of offering short and long walks, opportunities to visit towns and villages, wildlife watching and general sightseeing.
• Some aspects of the area which non-visitors stated as unappealing are beyond human control such as the weather. However other negative perceptions such as ‘distance’, isolation’ and ‘transport’ could be challenged and overcome in marketing campaigns and through future product development.
• 21% of non visitors felt they didn’t know enough about what Exmoor had to offer, but just 5% stated that the area had no appeal to them.
• The internet and personal recommendations are the strongest communication channels to reach non-visitors, particularly for those aged under 45 and this places a growing emphasis on social media (combing personal recommendations with web technologies) and the need to maintain a quality experience for current visitors.
• The types of images that were most appealing to respondents as a holiday destination were those featuring the coast, moorlands and wildlife rather than those of historic settlements or more urban offers.
• Of those questioned 24% of had visited Exmoor within the last 5 years. Of those that hadn’t been, or had visited over 5 years ago 93% stated they are interested in taking countryside holidays, and 66% had visited another UK National Park.
Previous research has shown very strong satisfaction levels with 99% of visitors staging that their overall holiday experience was ‘good’ or ‘very good’ and this has resulted in a higher than average level of repeat visits to the area. However since the 1980s a dramatic decline in those aged under 45 visiting the area has been seen. The new research will allow those involved in supporting and promoting tourism in the Exmoor area to have a greater understanding of the non-visitor market and to focus efforts on attracting new visitors to the area.
“The research has highlighted once more that Exmoor has a strong tourism offer and that there is clearly a large market that Exmoor can benefit from” said Dan James, Exmoor National Park Authority’s Sustainable Economy Officer.
“Whilst this in itself is of little surprise we now have some very useful intelligence to help us maximise the potential of Exmoor’s visitor economy. Working with our partners, particularly through the Exmoor Tourism Partnership, we are already putting the findings of this survey to good use when planning marketing campaigns. The Exmoor Tourism Partnership is currently working on a number of campaigns including a proposed TV advert which will specifically seek to attract those that are aged under-45 and haven’t necessarily considered a visit to the area before.”
The research was conducted by Tim Wilkinson, a PhD student at the University of Exeter who is undertaking a three year study into the perceptions people have of Exmoor and how these impact the visitor economy. He was able to undertake a business placement with the National Park Authority to conduct this non-visitor survey with funding awarded by the University’s Centre for Sports, Leisure and Tourism Research from the Economic and Social Research Council’s ‘Capacity Building Clusters Award’.
Commenting on his work Tim Wilkinson said: "This survey has helped us to develop a more nuanced appreciation of how people interact with the landscape in general, as well as enhancing our understanding how the distinctive landscapes of Exmoor might be promoted to new users.”
The full report can be downloaded here or from the National Park Authority’s website: http://www.exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk/communities/tourism-trade
Exmoor National Park Authority Visitor Survey, 2010.
Published: 8 June 2012
Contact the press office:Clare O-Connor
T: 01398 322244