Keywords

Animal-Based Attractions, Zoos and Aquariums, Tourism, Ethics, Animal Rights.

Abstract

From time immemorial human beings have utilized animals for various needs and purposes, which led societies to debate the justification for using animals and to reflect on the way in which animals are treated. These concerns have also resulted in various contemporary studies aimed to reveal interest groups'--as well as the general publics'--views and opinions on the issues under dispute. Nevertheless, despite the considerable incorporation of animals in entertainment and leisure venues, only limited efforts have been geared towards exploring the ethical aspects of using animals in these initiatives. This lack of attention is especially evident in the tourism literature, despite the great relevancy of animal-based attractions to the tourism industry. Moreover, despite certain preliminary attempts to investigate people's perceptions of the use of animals in attractions, their attitudes for the most part are still ambiguous and speculative. Consequently, the purpose of the current research was to fill these and other gaps in the literature by investigating tourists' attitudes toward various animal-based attractions. The theoretical framework used for the study was based on a previous exploratory qualitative research, which also assisted in developing the research questions and hypotheses as well as in constructing the study survey. Therefore, the current study's instrument attempts to cover the main aspects of tourists' attitudes as they appear both in the literature and in the exploratory study. The survey was conducted among 252 tourists to the Central Florida area, using judgmental sampling with the intent to ensure heterogeneity among the study sample. Prior to addressing the research questions, the study instrument was tested for reliability and validity, which were found to be at satisfactory levels. The statistical analyses revealed some interesting findings with important implications for both research and practice. While several inquiries were evaluated in the course of the dissertation, the central findings of the study concerned the prominent aspects of tourists' ethical evaluation of animal-based attractions. The tourists expressed the highest agreement with the roles of the attractions in conservation, in family-oriented experience, in education, and as an alternative to nature. They also expressed a clear animal welfare approach, as they put the greatest importance on the way the animals are treated and trained by their keepers among conditions for ethical operations. Nevertheless, it was found that the key to developing positive attitudes toward attractions is the conviction in general arguments in favor of their presence, while specific sites' attributes seem to be more limited in their influence on the tourists' overall attitudes. In addition, belief in the positive effects of public opinion on attractions' ethical treatment of animals was found to have a greater association with tourists' attitudes, in comparison to more formal supervision and regulations. No less important, the study's findings confirm the heterogeneous nature of animal-based attractions as perceived by tourists, where multiple dominant factors influence attitudes toward diverse attraction types. Following the description of the results, the dissertation offers specific recommendations based on the findings for the management and marketing functions in animal-based attractions, especially with regard to potential steps for the purpose of improving and enhancing their ethical image among tourists. The study can be seen as one of the few comprehensive attempts to investigate tourists' attitudes toward animal-based attractions in the tourism literature, which can also serve as a benchmark and a basis for future studies on this contentious issue. The paper ends with an assessment of the study's limitations, and a series of suggestions of relevant topics for future investigations.

Notes

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Graduation Date

2009

Advisor

Pizam, Abraham

Degree

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

College

College of Education

Department

Educational Research, Technology and Leadership

Degree Program

Education

Format

application/pdf

Identifier

CFE0002693

URL

http://purl.fcla.edu/fcla/etd/CFE0002693

Language

English

Release Date

September 2009

Length of Campus-only Access

None

Access Status

Doctoral Dissertation (Open Access)

Location

Rosen College of Hospitality Management

Included in

Education Commons

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