1Snorkeling is a popular recreational activity on coral reefs throughout the world, especially in marine protected areas due to the protection afforded to the marine environment (Luna, Perez et al., 2009). This recreational activity, when combined with pressures such as climate change, declining water quality, eutrophication, introduction of alien species and over harvesting of fish species, threatens these marine resources (Hughes, Graham et al., 2010). Negative visitor impacts may include intentional or non-intentional (accidental) contacts with the substrate (such as standing or touching), damaging the resources.
2Influencing the behavior of snorkelers can reduce visitor impacts. Interpretation is a management tool used to bring about behavior change (Mayes and Richins, 2008; Skanavis and Giannoulis, 2009). Interpretation is the process of conveying a message to someone to (a) enhance the awareness and appreciation that the person has with their surroundings, and to (b) encourage pro-environmental actions. Providing easily understood interpretive messages to visitors helps them to better appreciate the natural surroundings and their own role in protecting them. The steps involved in conveying interpretive messages include information, assistance, guidance and engaging in activity. This study examines the effectiveness of interpretation in influencing the behavior of snorkelers in the Mombasa Marine Park and Reserve in the context of minimizing damage to the marine environment. The next section explains the various components of interpretation.
3Interpretation is a process that is often used to make recipients better aware of their relationship with the natural environment by stimulating interest and enthusiasm . Interpretation often includes first-hand experiences with this natural environment (Zeppel, 2008), and it: “assists the visitor to appreciate the area” (Luck, 2003: 943). Clients often identify interpretation as an important factor in their enjoyment of an excursion (Moscardo, 1996). Interpretation programs use a variety of ways to communicate with specific audiences, such as signs, guided walks, brochures, face-to-face presentations and visitor center displays (Zeppel, 2008). Effective interpretation programs influence visitor attitudes and behavior (Mayes and Richins, 2008; Zeppel and Muloin, 2008). This influence can have one of three outcomes: change existing attitudes; reinforce existing attitudes; or create a new attitude towards a particular behavior (Ham, 2007).
4It is essential to incorporate an understanding of behavior and behavior change into interpretation programs to make them more effective. This is something that has been lacking with many interpretation programs (Orams, 1997; Ham, 2007). An interpretation program could be designed to target the cognitive domain, affective domain or behavioral domain of its audience to bring about behavior change by influencing attitudes. However, current interpretation programs used in natural resource management are not abundant; suffer from limitations; and are often poorly designed (Orams, 1996; Marion and Reid, 2007).
5Elaboration is a key output of effective interpretation (Ham, Brow et al., 2009). Elaboration refers to the careful analysis of, and critical thinking about, a particular message (Manfredo and Bright, 1991). When a message is carefully considered (high elaboration) and accepted, it creates an attitude in a similar manner. This new attitude now becomes an argument for future messages that attempt to influence the behavior of the visitor. Increased critical thinking (elaboration) of a message may result in long-lasting attitude and behavior changes while shorter elaboration may result in short-lasting attitude and/or behavior changes (Manfredo and Bright, 1991). Factors that can affect the amount of elaboration a person experiences include: prior knowledge, direct exposure, and topic involvement (Manfredo and Bright, 1991).
6Some aspects of resource management may be influenced by the way visitors experience a natural resource. Moscardo states: “interpretation is the key to ensuring the quality of the tourist experience” (1996: 376). Interpretation has also been shown to be effective in increasing visitor enjoyment (Orams, 1996; Luckk, 2003). Increasing visitor enjoyment and pro-environmental behavior are vitally important as nature-based tourism grows in importance (Madin and Fenton, 2004). Studies have shown that visitors are receptive to interpretation and furthermore exhibit a desire to increase their understanding of the environment through the acquisition of information (Luck, 2003; Moscardo, Woods et al., 2004). Interpretive efforts must therefore maintain the attention span of the audience or risk losing their interest. A captivated audience is more likely to listen to the messages contained within the interpretation, absorb the content of those messages, and behave accordingly. Enjoyment of an interpretive program by itself has been shown to create a positive attitude change and acceptance of pro-environmental behavior or resource management philosophy (Moscardo, Woods et al., 2004).
7This paper examines the efficacy of an interpretation program in changing the immediate behavior of snorkelers. The interpretation program was designed specifically for the recreational snorkeler in the Mombasa Marine Park and Reserve, Kenya by targeting the salient beliefs of these visitors (den Haring, 2014). The salient beliefs identified were then addressed through interpretation that was delivered by snorkel guides. This study assessed visitor impacts on the reef as well as visitor experience to determine the efficacy of the interpretation program with regards to influencing behavior and experiences. Interpretation studies often do not measure visitor behavior as it is time-consuming and therefore expensive (Ham and Weiler, 2006). This study measured actual behavior of the snorkelers to acquire accurate behavior data to answer the following questions: To what extent can interpretation influence the snorkel behavior of the guides? To what extent can guide-delivered interpretation influence the behavior of the snorkelers? To what extent can guide-delivered interpretation enhance visitor satisfaction of the snorkelers?
8This study was conducted in the Mombasa Marine Park and Reserve (MMPR), Kenya. Snorkeling is permitted in both the park and reserve and snorkeling excursions only frequented patch reefs within the lagoon of the park.
Figure 1. The Mombasa Marine Park and Reserve, Kenya
9Data were collected regarding a snorkeler’s behavioral intent, actual snorkeling behavior and his/her experience (Figure 2). At the start of an excursion each snorkeling visitor was asked to complete a pre-excursion questionnaire. This questionnaire contained questions about the snorkeler’s underlying beliefs (of attitudes, norms and perceived behavioral control) and behavioral intent about contacting the reef substrate while snorkeling (Likert-scaled bi-polar statements on a 7-point scale). The questionnaire also sought the participant’s prior knowledge concerning marine ecosystems to determine their existing knowledge of marine ecosystems. This questionnaire was completed before any snorkeling occurred.
10Once the boat arrived at the snorkel site the snorkelers were followed in the water and their interactions with the coral reef were recorded. This behavior was monitored by following the snorkelers in the water at a distance of 2-3m for a duration of seven minutes and noting down their behavior. For the subsequent analysis the behavior was transformed to the equivalent of a 30-minute period, as not all snorkelers could be monitored for the full seven minutes, and a 30-minute period best reflected the average snorkel time of the visitors. Definitions of the recorded behaviors are shown in Table 1.
Table 1. Definitions of actions for monitoring of snorkelers and/or snorkel guides. All definitions below are scored per single occurrence
11Initially twelve separate actions were recorded but subsequently grouped into five different actions to more adequately reflect the messages conveyed by the workshop (Table 2: left side). Some of the actions were also grouped into behavior categories that were compared for differences between the WITHOUT and WITH interpretation groups (Table 2: right side).
Table 2. Behavior groupings for the analysis of results
Behavior matrix showing the five actions that were used in comparisons between the WITHOUT and the WITH groups (left side of table: alive intentional, dead intentional, standing on seagrass, accidental and wildlife handling), and various behavior categories used in comparisons between the WITHOUT and WITH groups (right side of table).
12Upon completion of the excursion the participants were asked to complete a post-excursion questionnaire about their experience throughout the snorkel excursion. The post-excursion questionnaire (completed at the end of the snorkeling excursion) was comprised of five parts: general responses about the participant’s snorkel excursion, evaluation of the participant’s snorkel excursion, feelings towards marine park attributes, planned future excursions and basic demographics. The questionnaire also included five questions used to measure the amount of elaboration. The elaboration or critical thinking of a particular topic of the presentation and/or guided activities was measured by using five, 7-scaled, pre-set and pre-tested questions (Ham and Weiler, 2005; Wearing, Edinborough et al., 2008). Data collected in this manner were labeled as the WITHOUT interpretation group.
13When sufficient data (approximate sample size of 100 determined by time constraints) had been collected a training workshop was conducted for the snorkel operators. This workshop aimed to introduce interpretive practices into the snorkeling excursion and targeted key salient beliefs outlined earlier. Following the completion of the guide training workshop, pre- and post-excursion questionnaires, and the in-water monitoring were repeated until a similar sample size was collected. This data group was labeled as the WITH interpretation group. All participants were chosen by approaching the first boat with clients from the busiest departure point in the park. If the clients refused, or they stated that they would not snorkel, the next boat was approached. There was no overlap of participants between the WITHOUT and WITH groups as they were separated by a two-month period.
Figure 2. The research design
The research design showing the different stages of data collection. The shaded area in the WITH group shows when the interpretation was delivered.
14Complete data sets (i.e. a pre-excursion questionnaire, snorkel monitoring behavior, and a post-excursion questionnaire for one participant) were collected for 190 participants, 91 in the WITHOUT interpretation group and 99 in the WITH interpretation group. Data collection for the WITHOUT group occurred from January 2011 until June 2011 while the data collection for the WITH group occurred from July 2011 until January 2012.
15Workshop teachings (den Haring, 2014) were presented to the snorkelers through presentations given by the snorkel boat guides. The best method of interpretation has often been attributed to guides as they deliver a very personal interpretation (Luck, 2003; Skanavis and Giannoulis, 2009). Attributes such as the ability to demonstrate role-model behavior, manage visitor-wildlife interactions and enforce minimal impact behavior make guides properly and best placed to deliver interpretation (Moscardo, Woods et al., 2004, Skanavis and Giannoulis, 2009). The main messages of the workshop, and the resultant interpretation, were: corals are alive; corals are very fragile and easily damaged; do not stand on or touch corals as you could damage the coral; and, if you need to stand, find some sand, seagrass, or rubble substrate to stand on.
Board 1. The guide training workshop
17One-tailed t-tests were used to compare snorkel behavior of the snorkelers of the WITHOUT and WITH groups. Chi-square tests were used to compare the differences in pre-excursion and post-excursion questionnaires between the WITHOUT and WITH groups for all interval variables while independent samples t-tests were used for continuous variables. Two of the attitude measures in the pre-excursion questionnaire consisted of five responses to bipolar scales (1-7) that were combined into one average score for each of the two questions.
18Respondents in both the WITHOUT and WITH groups had strong intentions to not contact the reef substrate. Three measures of behavioral intention were measured and none of these measures differed significantly between the participants of the WITHOUT group and WITH group (chi-squared tests; Table 3).
19Generally respondents had positive attitudes towards snorkeling and coral reefs. These attitudes were measured on several different scales (direct and indirect measures). Two of the attitude scales consisted of five bipolar scales. The Cronbach’s Alpha coefficients were 0.834 and 0.718 for these two attitude measures indicating a reliable scale. All attitude measures showed that the WITHOUT and WITH group did not differ significantly (Table 3).
20A total knowledge score of marine ecosystems was calculated for every respondent. This total score was based on the answers to each question in the knowledge section of the questionnaire. The overall knowledge score of the participants of the WITHOUT and WITH groups did not differ significantly at the start of the snorkeling excursion. The average total knowledge scores were 62% (WITHOUT) and 60% (WITH) (Table 3: independent samples t-test, p=0.22, n=190), indicating that the two groups had similar levels of knowledge about the marine ecosystem prior to any interpretation delivered by the crew.
Table 3. The intention measures, attitude measures and knowledge measure, and the respective averages for the WITHOUT and WITH groups
Intention: chi-square test, df= 6, n=190; contingency table=7 scale response vs 2 groups (with/without); attitude: (chi-square test, df=6, n=190; contingency table=7 scale response vs 2 groups (without/with); knowledge: (chi-square test, df=4-8, n=190; contingency table=5-9 responses vs 2 groups (with/without).
21The behavior of 190 snorkelers was monitored during snorkel excursions (91 from the WITHOUT group and 99 from the WITH group). Average contacts (transformed for a 30 minute period) with the reef substrate appeared to be more pro-environmental for the snorkelers of the WITH group, however, these were not all significant. Significant differences are shown in Table 4 (one-tailed, n=190): more contacting dead substrate intentionally by the WITH group as compared to the WITHOUT group, more positive snorkel behavior in general, more snorkel behavior positive for the environment, and more intentional positive snorkel behavior.
Table 4. Average contacts with the reef substrate by snorkelers of the WITHOUT and WITH group for a projected 30-minute period (One-sided independent samples t-test, n=190)
22The post-excursion questionnaire showed that important reasons for participants coming on a snorkeling excursion included learning more about nature and coral reefs. Respondents also rated gaining information on marine life as very important when thinking about marine park attributes.
23Participants in both the WITHOUT and WITH groups were asked if they received a presentation on the excursion. In the WITHOUT group 34% answered ‘yes’ while in the WITH group 61% answered ‘yes’. This difference is significant (chi-square test, df=1, p=0.00, n=190; contingency table=2 categories of response vs. 2 groups (with/without)). Participants were then asked how satisfied they were with each aspect of the presentation or guided activities. The WITH group was significantly more satisfied with the amount of interaction (chi-square test, df=6, p=0.05, n=190; contingency table=7 scaled response vs. 2 groups (with/without)), use of diagrams, pictures, illustration (chi-square, df=6, p=0.001, n=190; contingency table=7 scaled response vs. 2 groups (with/without)) and how the information was worded or explained (chi-square test, df=6, p=0.001, n=181; 7 scaled response vs. 2 groups (with/without)). Furthermore participants were asked if information on marine life influenced their enjoyment on their excursion and again a significant result was found showing that participants in the WITH group were more positively influenced (chi-square test, df=4, p=0.017, n=190; contingency table=5 scaled response vs. 2 groups (with/without)).
24When asked if there were factors that added to their enjoyment, most participants of the WITHOUT and WITH group answered ‘yes’ (no difference between the WITHOUT and WITH group; chi-square test, df=1 p=0.941, n=190; contingency table=yes/no response vs. 2 groups). The reasons the participants gave for their enjoyment differed significantly between the WITHOUT and WITH groups (Table 5-top half: chi-square test, df=6, p=0.039, n=180; contingency table=7 categories vs. 2 groups (with/without)). The top two reasons given were enjoying marine life (54% for WITHOUT and 44% for WITH) and the influence of the crew (being friendly, helping, informative, etc.; 15% for both WITHOUT and WITH). However, when the influence of the crew factor is examined more closely (Table 5-lower half) it shows that in the WITHOUT group only 17% is a result of the crew member (guide) being informative whereas in the WITH group 36% of the factor is explained by the crew member being informative.
Table 5. The factors that contributed to participant enjoyment
The top half shows the main reasons participants gave as adding to their enjoyment (sample sizes WITHOUT group n= 89, WITH group n=92). The bottom half shows some of the different factors that contributed to the “crew influence” reason from the top half (sample sizes WITHOUT group n= 22, WITH group n=20).
Figure 3. The amount of elaboration by the WITHOUT and WITH groups as a result of the guided activities and/or presentation
The columns reflect groupings of the elaboration score with 5-10 being the lowest and 31-35 the highest amount of elaboration (n=190).
25The WITHOUT Interpretation vs. WITH Interpretation Group
Various comparisons were made to show that the participants were of the same demographic population. The participants in the WITHOUT and WITH groups were similar when compared across their snorkel experience, reasons for coming on this snorkel excursion, feelings towards marine park attributes and basic demographics (Table 6). Snorkel experience includes how much snorkel experience participants have, their usual snorkel companions, and the importance participants attached to snorkeling as an activity. There was also no difference if this was the participant’s first time snorkeling in the Mombasa Marine Park, how other reefs they’ve seen compared to the Mombasa reef, and the total number of people on their snorkel excursion. Fifteen different reasons participants chose to come on the snorkeling excursion were also measured. Participants then scored each reason on a scale of very important to not at all important. No differences were found between the participants of the WITHOUT and WITH groups for fourteen of these reasons (Table below). The only reason that differed was ‘to develop skills’ and WITH participants scored this reason with more importance than the WITHOUT group (chi-square test, df=4, p=0.003; contingency table=5 scaled response vs. 2 groups (with/without)). Both groups were also similar in their feelings towards marine park attributes as well as gender and age. These were expected results as no bias was made in the data collection before or after the workshop towards certain demographic traits.
Table 6. Reasons for coming on this snorkel excursion
This table shows the different reasons participants have for coming on a snorkel excursion. Participants are from the WITHOUT (interpretation) group and the WITH (interpretation) group and the p-value indicates that there is no significant difference between the participants of both groups (independent samples t-test for ‘age’ and chi-square test for all others, df=1-9, n=190; contingency tables range from 2 responses to 10 responses vs. 2 groups (with/without)).
26The amount of elaboration was measured in the post-excursion questionnaire through the use of five questions. When the total elaboration score was examined (adding up the individual scores of each question, 35 representing the most amount of elaboration) it showed that a significant difference existed: more critical thinking occurred in the WITH group than the WITHOUT group (chi-square test, df=5, p=0.021, n=190; contingency table=6 groups of elaboration vs. 2 groups (with/without)). Most participants in the WITH group were provoked to think more on certain topics of the presentation and/or guided activities during their excursion than their WITHOUT group counterparts (45% of the WITH group scored in the highest elaboration category compared to 27% of the WITHOUT group; Figure 3). The amount of elaboration can be used as a gauge for identifying successful interpretation as interpretation aims to stimulate elaboration.
27Observed differences between participants of the WITHOUT group and the WITH group were due to the test variable (without vs. with interpretation) since no significant differences between WITHOUT and WITH groups were detected on a range of demographic and participation variables. A summary of those variables is shown in the tables.
28The measuring of actual participant target behavior (in this case not contacting the reef whilst snorkeling) is a limitation of many interpretive studies (Zelezny, 1999; Gralton, Sinclair et al., 2004; den Haring, 2014). This study was able to measure the actual target behavior and results indicate that behaviors of those participants who did not receive any interpretation differed from the behavior of participants who did receive interpretation. The levels of snorkeling experience of participants who did not receive interpretation were similar to those that did receive interpretation; attached similar level of importance to the various reasons for partaking in the snorkel excursion; held similar beliefs about marine park attributes in general; and were of similar basic demographics. Paired with their similar behavioral intentions and attitudes towards not disturbing life on a reef when snorkeling, the only factor that could explain the increase in pro-environmental behavior in the group that received interpretation was the effectiveness of the interpretation program delivered by the guides. This effectiveness is a result of successful targeting of the salient beliefs driving behavior (den Haring, 2014) and of effective use of the guides as transferring the teachings of the workshop through the resultant interpretation program. The main messages conveyed in the workshop and the resultant interpretation (and interpretive materials) explained that corals were alive and easily damaged by contact. Furthermore, these messages stated that if someone needed to rest or stand up, an area of sand, seagrass or rubble should be located and used as no damage could be inflicted there. The difference in behavior between participants of the group that received interpretation and the group that did not receive interpretation is a result of these interpretive messages. Participants who received interpretation had significantly more contacts with dead substrate and seagrass substrate. These results support the need established by numerous researchers that interpretation based on behavior theory can be effective in conserving resources (McKenzie-Mohr, 2000; Madin and Fenton, 2004).
29The increase in visitor satisfaction evident in the group who received interpretation is another result of the interpretive efforts of the guides. Apart from providing an opportunity to snorkel, visitor satisfaction is another output of an effective interpretation program and results have supported the realization of this output. In this study the transfer of information appears to be the driving reason for the increased visitor satisfaction. Participants who received interpretation and those that did not had a similar level of prior knowledge of marine ecosystems at the start of the excursion and they both attached a similar value of importance to receiving information on marine life. The desire of visitors to learn has been illustrated in other studies (Luck, 2003; Zeppel, 2008). Increasing visitor satisfaction was one of the main goals of the interpretive program as increased satisfaction will make people more receptive to interpretive efforts and increase acceptance of the program by snorkel guides and their clientele (Moscardo, Woods et al., 2004). This means that a well-designed interpretation program will benefit the clients, the guides and the environment.
30Results of this study indicate that snorkelers of the interpretation group were more satisfied with the knowledge of the guide, another important characteristic of a successful guide and effective interpretation program. Mayes and Richin (2008) described similar results studying dolphin watching tourism in Australia. Eagles et al. (2002) stated that tourists expect guides to be knowledgeable, a characteristic mirrored by Higham and Carr (2003). But it is not just visitors who believe guides should be knowledgeable. Ballantyne and Hughes conducted a study on ecotour guides in Australia to determine the perceptions of their (the guide) role and responsibilities. They found that the guides: “regard the provision of information and awareness of one’s audience as paramount” (2001: 2).
31The increased knowledge that the guides of this study exhibited could also account for the increased levels of elaboration, or critical thinking, in those snorkelers who had received interpretive efforts. Elaboration of a message is an essential step in influencing behavior (Ajzen, 1992). This high degree of elaboration may also have created lasting connections between the topics provided in the interpretation and the resultant pro-environmental behavior (Ham and Weiler, 2005). Connections may also be made with, or strengthened by, an individual’s existing knowledge or past behavior as a result of elaboration (Moscardo, Woods et al., 2004). Past research has shown that visitors who have been informed about appropriate behavior are more likely to exhibit this behavior (Ballantyne, Packer et al., 1998; Moscardo, 1999, Moscardo, Woods et al., 2004) and these lasting connections only strengthen that.
32Results of this study indicate that the behavior of snorkelers can be influenced through interpretative efforts. A properly designed interpretation program, that is based on behavior psychology and targets the salient beliefs, can be effective in influencing the snorkel behavior of snorkelers. Furthermore, the interpretive efforts can also create an enhanced visitor experience through the transfer of information.
33Results of this study indicate that the behavior of snorkelers can be influenced through interpretative efforts. A properly designed interpretation program, that is based on behavior psychology and targets the salient beliefs, can be effective in influencing the snorkel behavior of snorkelers. Furthermore, the interpretive efforts can also create an enhanced visitor experience through the transfer of information.
34Due to impacts created by snorkelers, active management of marine resources is necessary. Interpretive efforts are one option that could be applied to reduce inappropriate behavior and minimize negative impacts on the environment (Moscardo, 1998; Pastorelli, 1998: Liittlefair, 2003; Madin and Fenton, 2004). Interpretive efforts should become a vital component of management plans of marine resources as interpretive efforts are cost effective and they involve those stakeholders that frequent those natural resources most often.