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Proceedings of the Tourism and Hospitality International Conference (THIC 2014)

EVIDENCE OF AN EMERGING DOMESTIC ECOTOURIST MARKET FROM CAT TIEN NATIONAL PARK, VIETNAM Hue-Huong Do, PhD Department of Tourism, Faculty of Languages and Culture Studies, 8, Nguyen Van Trang, Phuong Ben Thanh, Quan 1 Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Prof. David Weaver, PhD Department of Tourism, Sport and Hotel Management Business 2 (G27), 2.14 Griffith University (Gold Coast campus) Queensland 4215, Australia

ABSTRACT Protected areas in Vietnam and other developing Asian countries are being subjected to growing ecological stress due to increases in the number of domestic and international visitors. The latter in large part are alleged to adhere to a widely recognised biocentric Western construct of the ‘ecotourist’ that should minimise the attendant environmental costs. In contrast, little is known about the characteristics of domestic protected area visitors and in particular the extent to which they adhere to the Western ecotourist model. This paper reports the results of a study in Cat Tien National Park (CTNP), Vietnam. The quantitative research involved 1,082 questionnaries completed by Vietnamese (54%) and Western (46%) visitors to the park during the 2010-2011 six month dry season. A T-teset was employed to compare any differences between the Vietnamese and Western visitors with regard to psychographic, behavioural and demographic characteristics. Using Hierarchical Cluster Analysis, five clusters were found; 19.2% ‘Sociable wildlife engagers’, 26.2% ‘Typical CTNP visitors’, 8.2% ‘Service shunners’, 15.8% ‘Classic Western ecotourists’, 22.1% ‘Unenthusiastic visitors’, and 8.5% ‘Service seekers’. Among the three groups which comprise 93.4% of the Vietnamese in the sample, one softer and two structutured ecotourist groups were identified. These findings suggest suitable ecotourism management and products for domestic ecotourist markets and effective interpretation strategies for enhancing learning/education.

Keywords: typology, domestic, ecotourists, Cluster Analysis, Cat Tien National Park, Vietnam

1 Introduction After the entirely new genus of large hoofed mammal, the Saola (Pseudorynx nghetinhensis), was discovered in Vietnam in 1992, this country has been brought to the attention of global ecotourists and has become a new ecotourism destination (Sterling et al., 2006). Despite efforts to conserve wildlife, protected areas in Vietnam are increasingly threatened (Brunner, 2012) and require a rigorous development of ecotourism as one optimal way for management of wildlife protection and increasing people’s awareness of the importance of conservation (Goodwin, 1996). Ecotourism markets are dominated by international visitors from Western countries (Eagles & Higgins, 1998), but the massive domestic visitation in Asian protected areas (Weaver, 2002a), overwhelming the international component, raises questions about the role and viability of ecotourism. In Vietnam, the emerging young educated middle class (King, 2008) constitutes a potential domestic ecotourism market which has not been sufficiently investigated in the literature. Therefore, this research is designed to identify the emerging Vietnamese domestic ecotourist market and the extent to which it combines Western and indigenous characteristics.

2 Literature review Ecotourism is defined through three core criteria (Blamey, 1997) which emphasises relatively undisturbed nature-based attraction, the provision of opportunities for environmental learning and education and the management of ecotourism sites and associated visitation in tandem with the principle of ‘triple bottom line’ sustainability. Taking this strict definition of ecotourism, not all visitors travelling to protected areas are considered ecotourists. In 1987, Laarman and Durst coined the concept of the hard-soft dimension of ecotourism by differentiating between dedicated or casual interest respectively and the physical rigor of the experience (Laarman & Durst, 1987). By examining national park visitors’ behaviours, Weaver and Lawton employed a typology technique to prove and expand this theory. They found three groups of harder, softer and structured ecotourists, in which a

newly found structured ecotourists combine characteristics of both harder and softer ecotourists in the same trips (Weaver & Lawton, 2002). Understanding about behaviours of Western harder and softer ecotourists is well developed. In term of ecotourism sites, for harder ecotourists, the destinations are wilderness or otherwise relatively undisturbed settings (Acott et al., 1998; Valentine, 1992) as well as the efforts exerted to access those remote areas (Laarman & Durst, 1987; Wallace, 1993; Weiler & Richins, 1995). In contrast, softer ecotourists prefer more infrastructure and services to make their trip more comfortable and less risky (Wallace, 1993). Softer ecotourists (or ‘occasional ecotourists’) sometimes combine their ecotourism trip with other leisure purposes (Laarman & Durst, 1987; Wallace, 1993). In addition, preference for big city attractions was used as a clustering variable as it can differentiate between ecotourists and non-ecotourists (Eagles, 1992). In addition, research on learning and education purposes displays consistent findings about harder ecotourists (Weaver, 2002b). Learning new things about nature and wildlife occurs on-site (Ballantine & Eagles, 1994; Diamantis, 1999; Lindberg, 1991; Weiler & Richins, 1995) or before the trip through prepared documents and reading (Lindberg, 1991). However, with softer ecotourists, learning activities are more passive as expressed by greater reliance on interpretation services (Meric & Hunt, 1998; Wallace, 1993), the presence of interpretation facilities (Blamey & Hatch, 1998; Wallace, 1993) and seeing wildlife (Lindberg, 1991; Ryan et al., 2000). The third ecotourism criterion comprised efforts to minimise negative impacts (or ‘footprint’) in the destination and improve conservation outcomes. Harder ecotourists require only basic accommodation and services (Laarman & Durst, 1987) and are also more likely to want to leave the destination in a better condition than when they arrive (Acott et al., 1998; Diamantis, 1999; Weiler & Richins, 1995). They are also more concerned with being ethical visitors (Wight, 1993). The softer negative impacts of ecotourists are well described in the literature (Duff, 1993; McClung et al., 2004; Müllner et al., 2004; Orams, 2002). Approaching wildlife is one aspect in this dimension. Harder ecotourists make efforts to influence other people to not have a negative impact on the site. While the Western ecotourist has been described extensively, the Asian ecotourists received poor coverage in the English-language literature (Cochrane, 2006; Tao et al., 2004). Empirical studies about Chinese, Indonesian, Japanese and Taiwanese ecotourists unveiled some common characteristics sharing with the Western ecotourists but also substantial diversified patterns (Cochrane 2006; Kerstetter et al., 2004; Tao et al., 2004; Woods & Moscardo, 1998; Wen & Ximing, 2008). No studies about Vietnamese ecotourists have been undertaken to date. Thus, two main research questions of this research are: Who are Vietnamese domestic ecotourists? How are they different from traditional Western ecotourists?

3 Methodology Cat Tien, a RAMSAR recognised national park, was selected as a site for this study. CTNP has an undeniable advantage as an accessible ecotourism destination compared with other national parks in Viet Nam due to its desirable location. The park is 150 kilometres by highway from Ho Chi Minh City (three hours driving) that is the economic and foreign trade capital of Viet Nam and home to about nine million residents. The city airport, Tan Son Nhat airport, is the largest international flight hub in Viet Nam and makes the park easily accessible to international visitors (See Figure 1). However, the park is remote enough from Ho Chi Minh City that it does not function merely as a weekend sightseeing site for mass tourists from that city that has a serious shortage of leisure parks and green spaces. Located in the East of the Mekong Delta, CTNP is also on the Highway to Da Lat, a famous tourist town in the Highlands (four hours from the park), and is connected to Mui Ne’s beach resorts (three hours). Thanks primarily to CTNP’s location in the ecotone between two major geophysical regions, Figure 1. Map of location of CTNP the fauna and flora of wet tropical forests and wetlands are both Bui Huu Manh, CTNP (2000). represented, giving rise to a high level of biodiversity. Flora – There are 1,610 species, 724 genera, 162 families, and 75 vegetation orders in CTNP. Thirty-eight species from 13 families are listed in the Vietnam Red Bookthat lists rare and endangered species of fauna and flora native to Vietnam that need to be protected, recovered and developed. These include red wood (Afzelia xylocarpa), rose wood (Dalbergia bariensis), narra padauk (Pterocarpus macrocarpus), and sindoer sepertir (Sindora siamensis). In addition, 22 species from 12 families are endemic local plants such as Telectadium dongnaiensis, Telectadium edule, and species from the Asclepiadaceae, Orchiadaceae, Moraceae and Anacardiaceae families (Vietnam Forest Creatures, 2012).

Fauna - CTNP is one of the most important sites in Viet Nam for the conservation of large mammals. Many species are not only found in the Viet Nam Red Book, but also in the IUCN Red List of threatened species. Among the confirmed large mammal species are the Asian Elephant (Elephas maximus), Javan Rhino (Rhinoceros sondaicus annamiticus, also known as the Lesser One-horned Rhinoceros), Indochinese tiger (Panthera tigris corbetti), Sun Bear (Ursus malayanus), Eurasian Wild Pig (Sus scrofa), Sambar deer (Cervus unicolor) and Gaur (Bos gaurus). The latter three species reportedly occur at high densities relative to other areas in Vietnam (Cat Tien National Park, 2010). The quantitative study surveyed visitors to Cat Tien National Park (CTNP) in order to extract ecotourists from nature-based tourists by motivations, preferred activities, behaviours, environmental and socio-economic attitude. 22 behaviour, 11 attitudinal and 20 motivation scale items from the ecotourism literature were resulted from the thorough review of literature about Western and Asian ecotourists upon which this selection was made examined the three core criteria of ecotourism, the distinction between harder and softer ecotourists. Using random stratified sampling method, before implementing check-out procedure, the CNTP receptionists asked every second visitor whether they were willing to participate in the survey and then collected completed questionnaires from the visitors. A total of 1,532 paper based questionnaires were distributed to all visitors who satisfied the participant criteria when they checked out of the park during the six-month dry season in 2010-2011. Of these, 1,267 visitors returned the questionnaires, resulting in a response rate of 82.7%. After the treatment of missing data, 1,082 questionnaires remained (46.2% Vietnamese, 53.8% Western). Ward’s hierarchical clustering method and one- way ANOVA were utilised to cluster visitors into distinctive groups and T-test helped to compare the differences between Vietnamese and Western visitors in each group (Hair, Black, Babin, & Anderson, 2010).

4 Findings The characteristics of the 1,082 visitors sampled, and their trips, were revealed by descriptive statistics. The demographic data included visitor age, gender, educational background and geographical origins. In addition, park visit characteristics (repeat visits, group size, accommodation, trip activities, trip satisfaction) were examined. 4.1 Visitor demographics The Vietnamese visitors tended to be younger (M=28.5, SD=10.5) while their Western counterparts were much older but display more variability (M=41.2, SD=15.2). The average age of the overall sample was 35.4 years and the median was 30 years. The minimum age was 18 due to the selection criteria, and the maximum age was 83 years. The t-test confirmed a significant difference between the Vietnamese and Western visitors in regard to the age average t(926) = -14.54, p

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