Contested images, place meaning and potential tourists’ responses to an iconic nature-based attraction ‘at risk’: the case of the Great Barrier Reef
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This study explores images of an attraction that is simultaneously tagged as the ‘greatest reef in the world’, the ‘best managed reef’ and potentially a ‘world heritage site in danger’. Combining research in conservation psychology, place identity and visual communication, this study analysed a sample of images (n = 45) of the Great Barrier Reef to explore the complexity of messages being conveyed with regard to the status and health of the world heritage site and their impact on emotions and behavioural intentions of potential tourists (n = 1249). The results reveal three very different image types: tourism promotion, government support and conservation-oriented. Few of the images portray messaging underpinned by the science of conservation psychology, with most images portraying a negative or ambivalent message. The emotions elicited by the images significantly differed across the three different image types, resulting in different behavioural intentions in response. The overall finding is that there are often contradictory messages about the Reef, arguably impeding conservation efforts to protect the Reef, and a need for an integrated place identity management communication strategy. We propose the notion of care as one value that drives all three major stakeholders and that could underpin an integrated strategy.
Tourism Recreation Research
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