Project Title

Visitor Perceptions of Sustainable Cave Tourism in Kentucky

Department

Recreation and Park Administration

Abstract

Many of Kentucky’s cave parks, such as Mammoth Cave National Park and Carter Caves State Park attract many tourists throughout the year to see distinctive geologic formations and unique animal populations. Such visitation creates a high risk of spreading White Nose Syndrome (WNS), a fungus affecting bat populations, to unaffected areas and threatening more bats. The spread of WNS has significantly decreased bat populations, a threat to tourism aimed at bringing visitors close to this nocturnal species. The purpose of this study is to determine cave tourists behavior intentions and bat population management and habitat philosophy to ensure sustainable cave tourism in Kentucky. The focus of the research was to identify the difference in knowledge and attitudes between park visitors that have gone through a guided cave tour at Carter Caves and those who have not gone on the tour. The findings conclude that personal interpretation methods facilitate a gain in cave visitor knowledge, however, there is a lack of evidence showing any change in attitudes or behaviors in these visitors. Cave parks in Kentucky and throughout the United States need to continue their efforts in interpretational education to raise awareness of White Nose Syndrome, bats, and cave ecology.

Presentation format

Poster

Poster Number

149

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Visitor Perceptions of Sustainable Cave Tourism in Kentucky

Many of Kentucky’s cave parks, such as Mammoth Cave National Park and Carter Caves State Park attract many tourists throughout the year to see distinctive geologic formations and unique animal populations. Such visitation creates a high risk of spreading White Nose Syndrome (WNS), a fungus affecting bat populations, to unaffected areas and threatening more bats. The spread of WNS has significantly decreased bat populations, a threat to tourism aimed at bringing visitors close to this nocturnal species. The purpose of this study is to determine cave tourists behavior intentions and bat population management and habitat philosophy to ensure sustainable cave tourism in Kentucky. The focus of the research was to identify the difference in knowledge and attitudes between park visitors that have gone through a guided cave tour at Carter Caves and those who have not gone on the tour. The findings conclude that personal interpretation methods facilitate a gain in cave visitor knowledge, however, there is a lack of evidence showing any change in attitudes or behaviors in these visitors. Cave parks in Kentucky and throughout the United States need to continue their efforts in interpretational education to raise awareness of White Nose Syndrome, bats, and cave ecology.