Public attitudes towards domestic tourism in protected areas: a case study of Nakuru town residents
Kiplagat, Jackson Kimutai
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The study was conducted in Nakuru Town situated in the Rift Valley Province of Kenya and focused on public attitudes towards domestic tourism in protected areas. The town is adjacent to Lake Nakuru National Park which covers an area of about 188 square kilometres. It lies at an altitude of about 1759 metres above the sea level. It is a wetland of international importance (Ramsar site), especially as waterfowl habitat as well as a rhino and a Rothschild giraffe sanctuary. The park was first declared a bird sanctuary in 1960 and was gazetted as a National Park in 1968. Nakuru town has a population of 231,262 people. Its location and status as a town adjacent to Lake Nakuru National Park made it an ideal study area for public attitudes towards domestic tourism in protected areas. I t i s also a leading park in terms of domestic tourist numbers compared to other parks in the country. The study used secondary and primary data to achieve the objectives of the study. Secondary data on the number of domestic tourists were obtained from the Kenya Wildlife Service (KW S) park e ntry records a nd C entral Bureau o f Statistics (CBS). T hrough these records domestic tourist trends to the protected area between 1991 and 2000 were assessed. Primary data was obtained by use of random and systematic random sampling techniques. Random sampling was used to select 20 residential areas in Nakuru town. Systematic random sampling was employed to select five households in every residential area. The heads of the selected households responded to the questionnaires. The data collected was analysed with the help of the Statistical Package for Social Scientists (SPSS). Multi - way cross tabulation with Chi- square, means and percentages were used to analyse the respondent's data to meet the objectives of the study. Factor analysis was used to identify groups of important factors that play an important role in influencing domestic tourism in protected areas. From the results of the study, there is an indication of a positive attitude towards domestic tourism in protected areas. The use of protected areas for biodiversity conservation had strong public support, as shown by strong disagreement on the issue of converting protected areas to farmlands. There was a strong disagreement on the idea of converting protected areas to farmlands among the general public irrespective of education level. Education was identified as playing a role in influencing public attitudes with level of positive of attitudes increasing with the increase in the levels of education and the need for use of protected areas to conserve biodiversity. Cost, transport and awareness factors showed high factor loadings indicating the important role they play in influencing public attitudes towards domestic tourism in protected areas among the Kenyan public. Domestic tourism should be coordinated at national and local authority levels to provide travel information t o the 1 ocal public. There is also need to develop ecotourism activities within and outside protected areas, which will ensure direct benefits to the local communities, This will make conservation meaningful to the Kenyan public. Professionalism in tour guiding should be enhanced by park authorities. Doing so will provide information and understanding to the local public on the importance of protected areas as domestic tourist attractions.
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