Determinants of Demand for Recreational Walking Trails in Ireland

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Place: County Galway

Overview

Visitors to walking trails in rural Ireland are likely to spend more to visit flat or valley trails, as well as trails that have signage and maps. The authors use the results to evaluate a set of proposed trails to identify those most likely to bring the most visitors and generate the greatest economic impact.

Relevance

The general findings from this research are relevant for those working at a county or regional level to evaluate several options for trail development, with the goal of having the greatest economic impact by attracting the greatest number of visitors.

The authors introduce a unique notion of breaking down a trail’s appeal into discrete factors, and identifying those factors that most strongly predict trail use. However, because it is unlikely that they were able to capture all factors that affect a user’s experience, some results may not be accurate (e.g., the appeal of flat trails may reflect their proximity to towns, not the topography alone).

Location

The study includes responses from users and trail managers in rural parts of County Galway, Ireland (population 250,541 in 2011).

Trail Type

The study included respondents surveyed at three walking trails of varying length and topography.

Purpose

The purpose of this research is to identify the factors most likely to increase demand for walking trails to help planners develop trails that support the goal of economic growth and economic diversification, particularly in rural areas of Ireland.

The authors are university professors. No specific funding source is identified.

Findings

  • Respondents are more likely to pay higher entrance fees or spend more to travel to a flat or valley trail, relative to a hill or mountain trail.
  • Trail signage and amenities like maps are associated with greater trail use.
  • Trail attributes, such as topography or views, are more likely to affect demand for a trail than infrastructure such as maps or signage.
  • Using model results, the authors extrapolate to proposed trails and find that one particular valley is most likely to attract visitors with relatively inexpensive improvements to signage and maps.

Methods

Respondents were asked questions related to their willingness to pay to enter the site, their travel cost to the site, demographics, the importance of different trail features, and whether they perceived infrastructure such as parking or maps as being present at the site. The authors also collected data from land managers regarding trails in their district.

The researchers used statistical models to identify which variables best predicted respondents’ demand for an individual trail. They applied the model results to a set of new trails to predict future trail use under different trail management scenarios.

Citation

Kelley, H., T. M. van Rensburg, and N. Jeserich. 2016. “Determinants of demand for recreational walking trails in Ireland.” Tourism Management 52: 173-186.