Wildlife Visual Imagery: Do Pictures Used to Promote Destinations Online Match On-site Species Visibility at Two Geographic Destinations?
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Diverse photographic images (pictures) are used to promote wildlife tours on the Internet. But what pictures are used and are they likely to accurately reflect what visitors might see, and hence create realistic expectations for tourists? The relative importance of wildlife and the prevalence of iconic species were assessed for pictures on the Internet used by six English tour companies offering wildlife tours to very different destinations: Southern Africa and Australia. These were then compared with the likely visibility of wildlife at the destination. The content of 926 Southern African pictures representing 1316 different subjects, and 228 pictures representing 307 different subjects from Australia were classified into four themes (wildlife, landscapes/vegetation, activities, accommodation). Wildlife, particularly large mammals, was more frequently used for Southern African tours (43%) whereas pictures for Australian tours were often of landscapes (45%). Large, social mammals active during the day and hence highly visible (e.g. elephant, n = 64) were often used, while iconic, but cryptic, species such as koalas (n = 7), Tasmanian devil (n = 1), leopards (n = 12), and black rhinos (n = 2) were seldom used. Therefore, online pictures used for wildlife tours appear to merge well with what tourists are likely to see at the destination, but appear to diverge somewhat from established destination images for these two regions, particularly Australia.