Exploring visitor’s perceptions of climate change: A study in Columbia, MO Nature Areas

Author(s): Sonja Wilhelm Stanis, Hongchao Zhang, and Mark Morgan
Date of Publication: January 2016

Climate is one of the defining attributes of place, which determines the attractiveness, comfort, and suitability of locations for various recreational and tourist activities (Gallarza, Saura, & Garcı́a, 2002). Understanding visitor perceptions of climate can be helpful for making travel decisions, including the likely consequences of climate change (Gossling et al., 2006). Climate change will not only impact visitor experiences, but also produce significant economic implications given the contribution of outdoor recreation and tourism to local economies (Day et al., 2013). Therefore, it is important to understand park visitors’ perceptions of climate change and how this phenomenon influences park resources.
The purpose of this study was to examine visitor’s perceptions of climate change and its perceived impacts at selected nature areas in Columbia, Missouri. In order to address the purpose of this study, a survey was conducted to understand visitors’ perceived impacts to Columbia City Parks; how visitors respond to climate change, their knowledge level of climate change, and how supportive they are for actions that minimize the impacts of climate change.
An onsite survey was distributed to a sample of visitors at three nature areas in Columbia (Forum, Garth, and Grindstone) between July and August in 2015. The self-administered questionnaire was conducted using tablets activated with an offline application of Qualtrics. Half of the sample were asked to participate in a full onsite survey, while the other half were asked to complete a short questionnaire onsite, followed by a request to complete the full version online (distributed via email addresses collected during the onsite contact). The all-onsite version obtained a 66.2% response rate. The short onsite request initially yielded 82.6% compliance; 55.1% of those visitors provided email addresses and 59.0% of them actually responded to the online survey. In sum, 319 participants completed the first part of the questionnaire (combined 74.4% response rate) and 199 completed the full questionnaire (combined 46.4% response rate).
This report is organized into five sections. Section I illustrates the visitors’ profile. Section II describes visitors’ perceived threats and challenges to Columbia City Parks, and impacts on their decisions to visit. Section III provides a summary of visitors’ perceptions and responses to climate change (Leiserowitz et al, 2014). Section IV examine visitors’ beliefs and knowledge about climate change, and how they acquired information about this issue (Van der Linden, 2014). Finally, Section V addresses visitor responses to climate change impacts in Columbia City Parks and their willingness to support various climate change initiatives (Davis, 2014).

Citation: Zhang, H., Wilhelm Stanis, S., Morgan, M. (2016). Exploring visitor’s perceptions of climate change: A study in Columbia, MO Nature Areas. Columbia, MO: University of Missouri, Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism.
Team(s): Plant Team