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Place attachment, place satisfaction and pro-environmental behaviour: a case study of the Dandenong ranges national park
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posted on 14.02.2017by Ramkissoon, Haywantee
The recognition of environmentally responsible behaviour as a key tool for sustainable management of national parks and other tourism environments demands an understanding of how the relationship between people and places might influence pro-environmental behaviour. This study is underpinned by an attitudinal approach to the study of place attachment based on the principles of attitude-behaviour models. Operationalising the multi-dimensional nature of place attachment as four sub-constructs (place dependence, place identity, place affect, place social bonding), the present study develops a conceptual framework that integrates the different place attachment sub-constructs and tests their relationship to place satisfaction and pro-environmental behavioural intentions of visitors in a national park context. The study employs reliable and well-established scales from literature to inform the survey design. Data were collected from 115 visitors in the pilot study and 452 visitors in the main study at the Dandenong Ranges National Park, situated east of the city of Melbourne, in the state of Victoria, Australia. Due to the need for a pro-environmental behavioural intentions scale that was appropriate to the context, a pilot study using this scale only was undertaken and the results were subjected to an exploratory factor analysis (EFA). As a result of modifications made to the scale items, the scale was reanalyzed in the main study. Results from EFA in the main study suggested it was necessary to consider pro-environmental behavioural intentions as a two-factor structure construct which were labelled as low and high effort pro-environmental behavioural intentions. Recognising that each of the place attachment sub-constructs are fundamentally different and may have differing effects, the study employed multiple regression to test their separate effects on place satisfaction and pro-environmental behavioural intentions. Findings suggest that the four place attachment sub-constructs were significantly associated with place satisfaction and the latter was significantly associated with low effort pro-environmental behavioural intentions. Place affect positively influenced both types of pro-environmental behavioural intentions, while place identity was not significantly associated with either. A significant association was also noted between low effort and high effort pro-environmental behavioural intentions. The study further established and confirmed the validity of place attachment as a second-order factor and investigated its relationships with place satisfaction and visitors’ low and high effort pro-environmental behavioural intentions. Confirmatory factor analysis and structural equation modelling were employed to test the structural model using AMOS Version 19. Results indicate positive and significant effects of place attachment on both low and high effort pro-environmental behavioural intentions of park visitors. A significant and positive effect of place attachment on place satisfaction was noted. Findings also suggest a significant and positive effect of place satisfaction on low effort pro-environmental behavioural intentions while a negative and significant influence of place satisfaction was noted on high effort pro-environmental behavioural intentions. Findings led to important theoretical and practical contributions for park sustainability and sustainable tourism development. A notable contribution is that this study consolidates the increasingly fragmented work of place attachment by shedding light on its multi-dimensional nature taking into account the four sub-constructs of dependence, identity, affect and social-bonding. A significant methodological contribution this research makes is that it establishes and supports the validity of place attachment as a second-order factor. The study further contributes to the scarcity of studies linking place attachment and pro-environmental behaviour in a national park context. Another important contribution that this study makes to existing literature relates to the delineation of the pro-environmental behavioural intention construct into low and high effort pro-environmental behavioural intention. The study suggests that it may be misleading to consider pro-environmental behaviour as a uni-dimensional construct because the sub-constructs of place attachment had different effects with the two types of environmental behaviours. The study also provides important practical implications for the Dandenong Ranges National Park management and discusses the implications of the findings for tourism sustainability. Findings suggest that the park’s management may benefit from implementing strategies to foster place attachment through information provision, investment in distinctive attributes of the park, infrastructure, activities, and affective components of the site. The significant contribution of place identity and place affect to place attachment further suggests that these are important areas that park managers should focus on to increase visitors’ attachment to the site and ultimately improve visitor satisfaction and promote pro-environmental behaviours among park visitors. In doing so, the findings from this study ultimately may contribute to the conservation of environmental resources, thereby contributing to society’s welfare and to the goals of sustainable development.