This report focuses on the problem of overcrowding in tourists parks, particularly at Jurong bird Park. This being the largest bird park in the world, it draws thousands of visitors on daily basis. This often puts a strain on natural and physical resources at the park. This is a major concern especially when the need to conserve the environment runs supreme to the profitability of the park.
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The report looks at the various strategies put in place to counter this problem. They include the site and visitor management as well as the direct and indirect strategies. In addressing this problem, the park management has to consider the carrying capacity of the park and substitutability.
Substitutability refers to whether the experiences at the park are transferrable. This is important in tackling overcrowding at the park. Appropriate measures have to be put into place in order to ensure that the park’s carrying capacity is not exceeded.
Such measures include putting limits on the number of visitors in the park, limiting use of resources, slapping entry fees into the park, and development of alternative locations where tourists can have the same experiences. However, these measures may be hampered by the fact that most tourists develop emotional attachment to certain sites and therefore, it may not be easy to convince them to visit alternative areas.
Overcrowding is a common challenge in many recreation centres. This is because it reflects on the recreation carrying capacity of an institution and thereby, may occasion a negative impact. The purpose of this report is to assess the problem of overcrowding and then provide remedial measures to mitigate it. The study is based on Jurong Bird Park, one of the most frequented tourist centres in Singapore.
This study will offer some recommendations that highlight various strategies, which can be put in place to establish a long term panacea to the quagmire, i.e., overcrowding. Put into the spotlight will be the direct and indirect strategies, site management techniques, visitor management and quality control in the face of overcrowding.
Jurong Bird Park
Jurong Bird Park is one of the largest tourist attraction sites in the world. It is located in Jurong District, Singapore and managed by Wildlife Reserve Singapore (www.birdpark.com.sg). It occupies an expansive 202,000 square meters (www.birdpark.com.sg). It is known for its spectacular varieties of birds and it is home to about 600 avian species (www.birdpark.com.sg). Most notably, it boasts of the amazing breed of birds popularly known as the mimicking cockatoos, which showcase their antics to crowds of enthralled tourists.
Jurong Bird Park showcases the so-called Bird n Buddy Show which features the thrilling performances by birds of different species (www.birdpark.com.sg). Another crowd puller is the Birds of Prey Show in which visitors are treated to various breeds of birds of prey as they freely swoop about. There are many other attractions, which include African waterfall aviary, African wetland, flightless birds, Penguin coast, World of darkness and many more (www.birdpark.com.sg).
It is the world’s second largest bird parks and draws tourists from all over the globe. It has the highest number of bird species ever known to man. Due to this, thousands of tourists flock the park regularly. Whereas this has been a great source of income for Singapore, it is a nemesis of many challenges. One of these challenges is the problem of overcrowding.
Jurong Bird Park is home to 600 species of birds. It is this factor that attracts thousands of visitors to the park every day. The various unique features at the park are another crowd-puller. The features include performing birds, the panorail, the Lory Loft and the thirty-meter artificial waterfall (www.birdpark.com.sg). These are aspects that are unique to Jurong Bird Park. Due to this, the park inevitably experiences the problem of overcrowding.
Overcrowding occurs when the recreation carrying capacity of a given recreation centre is exceeded. It is manifested on various fronts: one, the physical carrying capacity, which is the maximum number of people that can be accommodated on a given site; two, the economic implication that reflects on the cost efficiency and effectiveness; three, the resistance and the resilience of a site’s environmental characteristics and four, the social carrying capacity (Hultzman & Hultzman, 1998).
Due to overcrowding, there is an immediate need to protect the site’s resources. The management has to identify ways of checking the number of tourists without scaring them away. In doing so, two approaches have to be committed to the mind. These are the carrying capacity and substitutability. Whereas carrying capacity refers to the maximum number of tourist that a park can sustainably accommodate, substitutability refers to the possibility of offsetting overcrowding in one park by providing similar experiences elsewhere.
Nevertheless, the carrying capacity approach has some glaring limitations. This is evident in the view that the impact of overcrowding on the biological and physical resources may not be sufficient in establishing the carrying capacity of a site. Secondly, there is no baseline for carrying capacity since different recreational activities have varying carrying capacities. What is obvious is the inevitable change that occurs as a result of visitors’ use of the resources availed at the site.
Overcrowding has a two-fold impact on recreational satisfaction. In the case of wilderness sites like Jurong Bird Park, an increasing level of use of the site’s resources leads to a gradually diminishing satisfaction level. This is due to the fact that the physical resources wear down while the human resource becomes fatigued. On the other hand, fun fair revellers enjoy increased satisfaction with increased level of use (Pigram and Jenkins, 2006).
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The second approach, substitutability, involves establishing if visitors can choose to go somewhere else for the same activity. This is informed by the view that some experiences are transferable depending on the level of experience and the characteristics of an individual. However, the flip side of this school of thought is that some leisure activities and experiences depend on the natural and artificial resources available at the site and the emotional attachment visitors have developed to a given place.
This is the case with Jurong Bird Park. It may be difficult to convince revellers to consider alternative destinations because there may not be other places with the same variety of birds, or astounding artificial resources like the panorail and the thirty-meter waterfall unique to Jurong Bird Park.
It is also important to balance recreational use with resource protection needs. This can be done through the Limits of Acceptable Change (LAC) process. In this process, pressure can be eased from specific points of the park by identifying alternative opportunity zone allocations.
Increasing access to most other portions of the wilderness may be able to drive holidaymakers away from strained resource areas. It will now be upon the management to enhance the alternative zones by ensuring that the conditions in those alternative sites are up to the required standards.
There is also the Visitor Activity Management Process (VAMP). This involves a number of activities. Some of these activities include setting visitor activity objectives, identifying and analyzing visitor management issues, developing options for visitor activities and services and providing recommendations and seeking approval for any facility plan before finally implementing it (Duman & Kozak, 2009).
Another possible approach to easing overcrowding is the Visitor Experience Resource Protection (VERP). Visitor experience resource protection one is designed specifically for US Parks Service. It incorporates points of view from other agencies and communities of interest who may be involved in a given site. It encourages public participation in setting up standards for zones created within the parks or for special sites for visitors (Duman & Kozak, 2009).
Overcrowding is a serious challenge faced by many institutions that offer recreational activities. If unchecked, there may be equally serious consequences to be faced by the institutions. It is, therefore, important to lay down various strategies that can help deal with the situation. These strategies can either be direct or indirect as discussed below.
Several direct strategies are applicable in visitor management. Zoning is a strategy meant to reduce overcrowding at sites by separating users by experience level. This ensures that those visitors who have the proper knowledge in particular activities are given access to zones corresponding to them. This limits the number of visitors to the site hence addressing the issue of overcrowding. There is also need to separate visitors on the basis of compatibility with uses.
Placing restrictions on activities in Jurong Bird Park may also address the problem of overcrowding. This could be accomplished through limiting group sizes visiting particular zones at given times. This ensures that the parks carrying capacity is not compromised. The facilities at Lory Loft, for example, may only be maintained by limiting the number of visitors to this site.
Limiting the length of stay also reduces the pressure on the resources in the park (Pigram, and Jenkins, 1999). It is also important to ration use intensity by putting a limit on use of resources at the campsite, rotational use and reservation requirement to help monitor the number of visitors.
Laying down law and policy enforcements is also another strategy in visitor management (Pigram, and Jenkins, 1999). Mechanisms can be put into place to ensure that those who don’t observe the tenets of environmental conservation are made to account for their actions. This may include imposition of fines. This requires increased surveillance in all areas of the park in order to administer use of resources.
On the other hand, there are the indirect management strategies. These include methods of discouraging visitor activity at given sites. This may involve charging of fees, improving access to alternative campsites while deliberately neglecting pressured areas of the park and by identifying surrounding opportunities and providing minimum impact education to visitors.
Site management is crucial in addressing the issue of overcrowding (Pond, 1993). One way of managing tourist sites is by training tour guides. This ensures that the tour guides are well versed in the management of visitors and this could go a long way in addressing the problem of overcrowding (Dahles, 2002).
In Singapore, it is already a requirement that all tour guides attend a minimum of 21 hours of training within the period of their licenses (Yu, 2003). Yu (2003) notes that tour guides require certain important competencies when guiding Chinese tourists in Australia. This also applies to tourists visiting Singapore to tour Jurong Bird Park.
It is also important to put into account measures that address certain negative impacts of tourism (Garrord et al, 2002). The negative impacts include environmental degradation, pollution, overdevelopment and speedy development, social conflict and visitor dissatisfaction.
The site-seeing environment is supposed to be fully equipped with the necessary resources (Wang, 2010). These include transport facilities and accommodation facilities. In Jurong Bird Park, transport facilities are insufficient; thus, aggravating the problem of overcrowding (www.birdpark.com.sg).
The panorail and buses need to be increased in order to cater for the rising number of tourists. The park management could also consider introducing air transport since this is a very extensive park. Other important facilities are medical, hygiene and security at the park (Bentley et al, 2001). Overcrowding has put a strain on these facilities.
Visitor management strategies are two-fold: direct and indirect. They involve onsite education that aims at provoking and stimulating interest and awareness among visitors to a recreational site (Baud-Bovy, 1998). It also includes encouraging appreciation of the recreational environment on the part of the tourists and inducing the desired behaviour of tourists at the sites (Baud-Bovy, 1998). They also put into consideration the public cooperation and responsibility in conserving recreational values.
In addition to onsite education, there is the offsite education that involves use of park websites in which crucial information concerning the park can be accessed. Creation of interest groups that encourage the welfare of parks is also important. These groups will help foster best practices among tourists.
Visitor management can also be achieved through social marketing. A set of marketing tools are used to influence a target audience in rejecting or accepting behaviour for the benefits of individuals or societies (Moscardo, 2009). Alongside this, de-marketing can also be applied in order to reduce numbers at a given site. This is especially important when there is shortage of resources, chronic over-popularity (which is the case for Jurong Bird Park) and conflicting visitor use of the available resources (Kotler & Roberto, 1989).
Quality evaluations are mostly cognitive unlike satisfaction levels, which are dependent on experience. There are five broad dimensions in service quality. These are reliability, responsiveness, assurance, empathy, and tangibles. Overcrowding has a serious impact on reliability of the various services offered at the park including transport and accommodation facilities. Another import dimension of quality is responsiveness towards tourists by the human resources at the site.
Assurance reflects on the employees’ politeness, competency and trustworthiness (Dahles, 2002). Empathy is another dimension and lastly is the tangibles. The tangibles are the physical conditions of the physical facilities, websites, equipment and communication materials (Pigram and Jenkins, 1999). A deliberate neglect of quality can go a long way towards solving the problem of overcrowding in Jurong Bird Park.
The problem of overcrowding is prevalent in most parks. Consequently, the Jurong Bird Park management has been grappling with the issue for quite some time. This is done with the view of developing appropriate strategies that can counter the problem in its entirety. The strain on resources in a park requires keen attention. This is because the resources have to be conserved even as the parks aim at maximizing profits.
Proper visitor and site management strategies can mitigate the dangers of overcrowding effectively. Emphasis should be laid on diversifying tourism activities in Singapore so that the pressure on Jurong Bird Park is considerably lessened. This can be done through the government’s licensing of the private sector to participate in tourism. Development of infrastructure throughout Singapore is also essential. This would provide access to other tourist destinations, thus reducing overcrowding at Jurong Bird Park.
Education to the entire public is also needed in order to disseminate information concerning best practices to potential tourists. They would know what and what not to do at the parks. It is also important for the Singapore government to legislate against inappropriate behaviour at its parks.
Jurong Bird Park remains the centre of attraction for many tourists. As such, it is important that stringent measures be taken to address the problem of overcrowding. Above all, efforts should be made to preserve the environment at all costs. Concerted effort is required from both governmental and non-governmental organizations in building a framework that would help protect the park’s natural and artificial resources. It may also be necessary to improve on these resources although the cost of doing so may be quite substantial.
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