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CHAPTER SEVEN
 
RECONCILING THE PRODUCT
AND THE CONSUMER ON THE DOWNLAND.


Is the Downland an available land resource which can be exploited at will, whether it be for the agri-industry or for building roads and houses or recreation? It has been shown that for many it is a special landscape with characteristics that justify conservation. Two dominant conceptual frameworks provide the basis for evaluating any formulation of the future for such a land resource. These are economic and environmental forces which so often appear to work in conflict. In addition there are social ramifications of a particular land use that extend beyond the direct economic implications. Before these can be dealt with in detail however, in the context of tourism, the market structure of tourism on the Downland needs to be understood.

From the evaluation of what makes the Downland a special place carried out in Chapters 1-3 and the general findings of the research summarised in Chapter 6, the visitor invocation can be confirmed. This chapter then goes on to explore the key user groups that engage in Downland tourism. In this way two key elements are brought together, the "product" and its "usage".

 Gunn observes that "The attractions of a destination constitute the most powerful component of the supply side of tourism. They make up the energizing power unit of the tourism system." [1]

But each individual's perceptions and value of the Downland varies considerably, as can be concluded from the following quotations:

 "The Downs are far from beautiful. Over the years vast areas of Downland have been destructively ploughed, the result being a huge agricultural wasteland. Hundreds of miles of hedgerows and thousands of trees have been destroyed. It is there for all to see." [2]

unlike the second observer who notes that:

"The sheer sense of space on top of the Downs is hard to describe....In the early morning or evening light, strong shadows give the rounded outlines of these hills a special texture. What ever the time of year there are so many sights to discover: Saxon and Norman churches, tumuli, medieval field systems where meagre crops were grown, and dew ponds from the days of the 18th and 19th century sheep flocks. Seeing sheep still grazing on the Downs and the butterflies feeding on the wild flowers gives the traveller a tremendous sense of continuity." [3]

As a customer in a supermarket selects products for the shopping trolley so also the visitor selects experiences to enjoy for the enhancement of their leisure time. The supermarket shopper makes the selection as a result of considering a complex range of criteria, these can include price, product expectation, habit, convenience, characteristics of need, promotion, availability, cultural influence, etc. So also the visitor selects the experience to enjoy based on a comparable set of relevant criteria. These can include cost, activity expectation, habit, convenience, characteristics of experience sought, promotion, availability, cultural influence, etc. On inspection it becomes apparent that the criteria for the supermarket shopper product selection and the criteria for the tourist selecting an experience are remarkably similar in many respects. This suggests that the managerial approach to both has common denominators and introduces the concept of target markets and sector analysis.

Different individuals respond to different characteristics of the Downland in selecting the type of experience that they wish to secure from the Downland. To many, their interests render the Downs an unsuitable location, whereas to others it offers the ideal location to satisfy their needs. The broader the range of interests that the Downs caters for, the greater the appeal will be.

To the tourist, much of the experience inevitably incorporates the use of the commercial infrastructure whether it be overnight accommodation, restaurants and fast food outlets or filling stations and retail stores. Much of the commercial infrastructure of tourism, it has been shown, is not located on the Downland. The Dartmoor case study will demonstrate the value of separating, where possible, the commercial infrastructure from the recreational experience. This chapter concentrates on the Downland experience, the Downland is evaluated for what it is, an experience in a landscape that has developed from a complex history of land utilisation, climate, culture, physical geography and geology. Only when the characteristics of the visitors are identified can the supporting infrastructure be considered.

Summarising the earlier discussion, it is noted that the chalklands produce an undulating and distinct landscape which to many typifies rural England. Sheep graze rolling hills and where the hills meet the sea, spectacular white cliffs result. Agriculture, the principal land use, has been both pastural and arable. Today this is superceded by fields of mainly arable crops with sheep isolated to the steeper pastures. Particularly in the west, woodland breaks up the landscape.  The unique chalk vegetation of the Downland in turn gives rise to distinct and important flora and fauna with many species being at the most northerly limits of their habitats.

Scattered across the rolling hills are prolific remnants of ancient settlements. Further continuity with the past is provided by the landed estates where tradition strongly influences modern land use practices.[4]

In the sheltered valleys, small villages and hamlets retain the apparent isolation of remote farming communities, using where possible local materials and styles in the creation and maintenance of the traditional and distinct built environment,[5] in spite of being only a few minutes by car from the congested urban environment.

It has also been shown in Chapter 1 that climate plays a role in furthering the distinctiveness of the Downland.

The physical attributes of the region however are only the backcloth for the psychological enjoyment and satisfaction that both visitor and resident derive from the Downland. Herbertson (1865-1915), one of the great founders of modern geography, recognised that there is a mental and spiritual environment as well as a physical one, a statement recognised as being as pertinent today as when it was coined.[6] The Downland caters for both. The result is a complex interweaving of belief and value systems producing a Downland culture.

The strength of this rural image and stereotype should not be underestimated. Short examples the power of the belief by citing the case that it was not the town that was fought for in the Great War but the "South Country" "English fields, lanes, trees, English atmospheres and good days in England" [7] Such an imagery has a strong element of the past woven into it and in some way symbolises freedom. The perpetuation of the idyll and the reinforcing of it is probably as important to the public's enjoyment of the Sussex Downs as is the re-establishment of the traditional sheep pastures. The idyll however is knowingly idealised, historic circumstances that conflict with the popular paradigm are conveniently disregarded as we recreate the past to suit our psychological needs. Even what is perceived as the once, all encompassing, traditional pasture is influenced by the rural myth. Inspection of Stamp's map, published in 1942, which identifies arable land in East Sussex, circa 1840, clearly indicates that crops were a major contributor to the farming landscape and that pasturing was not as common as is often implied.[8]

Confirmation of how these factors interact to provide an image and perception of the Downland comes from the research  detailed in Chapter 6. It is noted that this research reaffirms many of the notions of the Downland and endorses the findings of other surveys. What starts to emerge is a vision of the stereotypical image of the Downland albeit qualified by the detailed considerations summarised in Chapter six, part 1 as follows:

" The use of the car as a means of travel is a widespread expectation and the availability of coast line within the Downs or nearby is important. The Downland is a place where walking is the most significant expected activity and the concept of exploring new places, which also scored highly, gives insight into two of the fundamental appeals. The low response to heritage and cultural aspects indicates a lack of general importance. The Downs is a place for a day trip, particularly for the middle aged. The landscape conjures up images of the rural idyll although not necessarily a romantic place."[9]

A modern translation of the landscape sees three countrysides which have inherent conflicts. This segregation is important in understanding the research findings and in treating the Downs as a market commodity. The first countryside is one of a distinct place which provides experiences which can be commodified and respond to supply and demand management. The second is the idealised landscape which has powerful rural imagery and is cultural in nature. The third is a countryside of mystery, awaiting to be explored, a wilderness that is unmanaged.[10] The Downland is a consolidation of all three conceptions which vary according to the eye of the beholder.

The findings of the pilot study are, to a degree generalisations and it is in the more detailed Visitor Survey that a precise evaluation of the tourist experience and product can be assessed. In Chapter 6, part 2 the typical Downland user is identified.

The Visitor Survey shows a high incidence of use by the local population with an expectancy to enjoy the Downs with minimal cost. Car parks, toilets and the footpath/bridleway network are the key infrastructure requirements together with places for outdoor recreation and refreshment facilities for the Downland visitor. Activities are closely linked with the intrinsic appeal of the Downland and comprise in particular walking, enjoying the view, picnicking and other recreational pastimes of a low key nature.

Whilst the typical Downland user was identified earlier, together with the frequent user and day or overnight visitors in the sub-sample analysis, the Visitor Survey also enables distinct user groups to be identified as sub-samples. These in turn provide the means for a clearer understanding of how the Downland is being consumed, and to what extent, by the key user groups. These user groups become the basis for the market sector analysis referred to earlier and in turn enable specific markets to be targeted as part of a management strategy for the eduction of the Downland as a recreational amenity.

From Willis et al detailed in Chapter 6 part 3, it is possible to suggest the number of visits, for all purposes, that are made to the Downland in any one year. The estimates given suggest a total of 32.5 millions. Also it has been demonstrated that a substantial percentage are local users, rather than tourists in a more traditional sense.

Table 6:4 provides a ranked list of the 11 principal activities undertaken by visitors. Using the overall number of visits calculation, estimates of the number of visits in a year that include a specific activity can be formulated. These are reproduced in Table 7:1

Table 7:1
                   NUMBER OF VISITS PER ANNUM BY KEY USER ACTIVITIES
                                                 ON THE DOWNLAND
ranked by magnitude

           activity                                percentage of                               number of visits
                                                 visitors participating                                (millions)

      00     All activities                                 100.0                                      32.50

      01     Enjoying the view                         50.9                                      16.54
      02     Walking less than 2 miles          35.5                                      11.54
      03     Casually sightseeing                  33.9                                      11.02
      04     Picnic                                             30.2                                        9.82
      05     Walking more than 2 miles        29.9                                        9.72
      06     Outdoor recreation                      26.6                                        8.65
      07     Visiting specific attractions        18.9                                        6.15
      08     Visiting stately home/
             historic site/church                        14.2                                        4.62
      09     Exercising dog                            12.8                                        4.16
      10     Reading                                       10.3                                        3.35
      11     Natural history/wildlife study      10.3                                        3.35


             Total of all usage aggregated                                                     88.92
             Resulting overlap factor percent                                                 274%

Using the sub-samples from the Visitor Survey it is now possible to identify, and comment on, the specific characteristics of each of the principal user groups, in particular those characteristics which differ noticeably from the typical Downland user, identified in Chapter 6, part 2. The overlap factor of 274 percent quantifies the degree whereby individual user groups encroach on other groups. It should be noted that the overlap figure excludes other minority uses which are considered later. The aggregated number of total visits of 88.92 millions indicates that many visits have a multi purpose role to arrive at 32.5 million actual visits in a year.

1. Enjoying the view - the "landscape enthusiast"

Sixteen and a half million visits are made to the Downs in a year, where the view is acknowledged as an meaningful part of the experience. This underlines the importance of the visual landscape to visitors on the Downs.

There is an slight inclination for this group to be more involved in walking and outdoor recreation, including casual sightseeing, than the typical Downland visitor. They are also more inclined to spend 3-6 hours on the Downland and less inclined to spend larger amounts on Food and Drink.

The large percentage of visits where the view is an important consideration suggests that "landscape enthusiast" is a term that could be applied to one in two visitors regardless of their particular pursuits. This is born out by the research which indicates that the characteristics of the "landscape enthusiast" are, by and large, similar to the typical Downland visitor. The "landscape enthusiast" is not therefore seen as a distinct consumer sector but as an characteristic commonly occurring in all other groups.

2. Walking less than 2 miles - the "short walkers"

This is the largest of the consumer groupings identified in the Visitor Survey.

In many respects this group is similar to the typical Downland visitor. Eleven and a half million visits per annum are made by this market sector to the Downland. Of those who stay overnight, they are more likely to be on a short break and staying with friends and relatives than the typical Downland visitor. They are more likely to be in a family group and for some inexplicable reason, more likely to visit souvenir shops. Their visit is more likely to be between 1 and 2 hours and they are more inclined to pay small amounts for food and drink. They are average spenders except in the "other" category where they have an inclination to spend above average. They are more inclined to visit less than once a month and will more likely be casually sightseeing. They are more likely to be aged in the 25-44 range and of middle management or of retired/unemployed/student status.

3. Casually sightseeing - the "facility seekers"

Eleven million visits are made to the Downs each year for casual sightseeing. This is the market sector that seeks facilities and organised attractions. They are more likely to be staying away overnight, either on a short break or one weeks holiday. They are more inclined to use a touring caravan or hotel and to have travelled between 11 and 50 miles a day as part of their leisure activity.

They are influenced by brochures more than the typical Downland user and are also more inclined to use facilities of all types. This is reflected in the greater preparedness to pay for all areas of expenditure researched, particularly in the middle value bands. They are more likely to spend between 3 and 6 hours on the Downland and the landscape/view is of particular importance as a backcloth to their activities.

This market sector is a prime target for commercial recreation undertakings on the Downland.

4. Picnic participants - the "picnickers".

There is a higher preponderance of skilled manual workers in this sector. They are less likely to be staying away overnight and those that do are less likely to use formal accommodation, preferring a tent or similar. They are more likely to be in a party and to have journeyed between 51 and 100 miles. Ten million visits take place to the Downland each year by people who consider picnicking an integral part of the experience.

They are more inclined to visit specific locations and make great use of toilets during their visit, which is more likely to exceed 3 and even 6 hours, compared with the typical Downland visitor. They are more prepared to pay for all areas of expenditure except food which they doubtless bring with them. This preparedness manifests itself in the middle value bands. This applies particularly to entry fees, reflecting their desire to visit formal locations such as museums and castles.

The "picnickers" are less likely to be regular visitors, being more inclined to visit once a month or less or even never before. When on the Downland they are more inclined to participate in informal activities such as kite flying and games and seek a specific area for this. Walking and general outdoor recreation is more significant to this group than to the typical Downland visitor and the landscape is an identifiably important part of the experience.

5. Walking more than 2 miles - the "keen walkers"

Subtle differences are identifiable from the Visitor Survey data relating to the characteristics of the "keen walker", compared with the typical Downland visitor. Ten million visits per annum are made by people who consider walking over 2 miles a key part of the experience. Although there is no marked tendency to stay overnight more than the typical user, those that do are more inclined to stay for two nights and use bed and breakfast or a guest house or possibly a touring caravan. They are also more likely to be a couple and in the 45-64 age range. Above average numbers will have travelled less than 5 miles.

"Keen walkers" will more likely always have known about the Downs and/or refer to leaflets. Footpaths and bridleways are of particular importance, as would be expected but so are public houses, Downland villages and information boards compared with the typical user. The "keen walker" is likely to spend longer on the Downland with visits of 3 hours or more. On expenditure, they have a greater expectation of paying nothing for everything except travel where there is an expectation of higher than average expenditure in the 1-8 pounds ranges. Reading (possibly maps and guides?), exercising the dog, picnicking, visiting nature reserves and natural history/wildlife study all score above average expectation.

6. Outdoor recreation - the "general recreationalists"

The lack of clear distinction in this group suggests that it is an amalgamation of other sectors. It appears to especially reflect the "picnickers" and the "keen walkers". Eight and a half million visits to the Downland result from visitors who see outdoor recreation as important, but the general nature of the term means that it is only a vaguely discernable market sector.

Toilets, footpaths and bridleways and areas specifically set aside for recreation are of above average importance to this group who subscribe to a whole host of outdoor activities to a greater extent than the typical visitor. They are more likely to be in the 25-44 age range but have few other distinguishing characteristics.

7. Visiting specific attractions - the "wealthy tourist"

This market sector is the commercial opportunity for Downland enterprise. Six million visits per annum are made by this group who have a greater expectation of spending more, in all the areas researched, than the typical visitor. This group are likely to have come greater distances. They are more likely to be on an overnight short break, in formal, commercial accommodation or staying with friends and relatives, and more likely to have found out about the Downs by word of mouth or leaflets. As would be expected they are more likely to use the full range of organised facilities and in doing so spend 3 or more hours on the Downs.

They appear to use the Downs as a convenient recreation facility between the more formal location visits. In doing so they are more likely to enjoy the view, picnic and walk a short distance.

The "wealthy tourist" is more inclined to be in the 45-64 age range, in the middle or senior management category, and female! They may well be accompanied by family however although they are less likely to be frequent Downland visitors.

8. Visiting stately home/historic site/church - as in 7.

This group replicates those in 7. above almost exactly and is therefore not a separate sector in it's own right.

9. Exercising dog - the "dog walkers"

The research suggests that 4 million visits are made to the Downland each year where dog walking is part of the experience. This popular use of the Downs results from a distinct profile of visitor. The volume of excreta deposited on the Downland as a result provides opportunity for an interesting diversionary calculation.

Dog walkers are prepared to travel some distance but not more than 100 miles. More than two thirds come from Sussex and as would be expected the data from the Visitor Survey shows a clear inclination to have travelled less than 10 miles.

The "dog walker" has a minimal expectation of spending in any of the areas researched except travel of between 1-2. As such they are the user group with the lowest per capita expenditure. They are more likely to be the very frequent visitor, using the Downland once a week or more. They are more inclined to use footpaths and bridleways together with Downland villages but less inclined to use formal facilities. They are short stay visitors by and large, being more likely to stay less than two hours. They are not long distance walkers, being more likely to walk less than two miles.

"Dog walkers" are more likely than the typical visitor, to be on a day trip but for those who are staying overnight, touring caravans assume an above average importance. They are more likely to be a family or couple who have always known about the Downs.

The landscape is of above average importance to this group who are inclined to be in the 65+ age group and therefore retired. The above average degree of satisfaction noted suggests that to this group the Downland is a welcome low price amenity, which they use constantly, with a great degree of pleasure.

10. Reading - the "quiet recreationalists"

Those who enjoy reading on the Downland form a distinct group, albeit they will also be included in some of the other user groups. They are more likely to be on a short break using formal accommodation or a touring caravan in an inland location. They are inclined to have always known about the Downs and will use toilets, tea and refreshment bar facilities and the footpaths network to a greater extent.

They stay longer periods on the Downland than the typical visitor and are inclined to walking, picnicking, general outdoor recreation and sightseeing. The view, epitomising landscape, is an important element in the experience of this group. They expect to spend more on travel in the 3-12 categories and are more likely to be from the middle management social stratification.

This group account for 3.4 million visits to the Downland in a year.

11. Natural History/Wildlife Study - the "nature appreciators"

In many respects this group is similar to the typical Downland visitor although only representing 10 percent of visitor numbers, 3.4 million visits in a year. This reflects the fact that those with an interest in natural history pervade all user groups and do not make a clearly identified user group in their own right. Two characteristics which do differentiate this group however are 1) the use of interpretation facilities, whether they be information boards, museums or countryside centres, and 2) the inclination to spend longer periods on the Downland than the typical visitor.

They are also inclined towards long distance walking, picnicking and visiting historic sites. The view and general outdoor recreation are important to this group and they seek areas set aside for recreation which they are inclined to visit more frequently than the average user.

Summary  From the analysis, 9 principal user or consumer groups emerge if type 1, "those who enjoy the view" is seen as a generic attribute rather than a characteristic of a user group. In addition a number of minor user groups can be identified with specific characteristics. Due to their individual size (less than 10 percent of total visitors) their impact on the Downland is not on a macro level. It will be demonstrated however that in total, minority group use exceeds the most popular of specific user groups. In preparing this analysis it was noted that the characteristics are not totally exclusive to any particular sub-sample however. All groups display  characteristics which vary only slightly between groups.

The above evaluation was based on a manual comparative study of the sub sample data. Statistical confirmation of the findings was sought using a correlation matrix on SPSS. The matrix showed little distinct structure which is indicative that the user groups are not "stand alone" discrete clusters but rather modest variations on a central proposition, the typical Downland user. The typical Downland user is therefore a generally applying description, the characteristics of which cover all principal users with only minor variation, rather than a collective description for an assortment of totally different users.

It is interesting to note that the characteristics of the typical Downland user are similar to those of the Sussex countryside user in general, as identified in the amalgamated sample of 28 Sussex sites, including the West Sussex Visitor Survey data. Although not intended for inclusion in this thesis, a computer run of the all sites data revealed that, in the sample of 8102 responses, there was a slight inclination to visit more formal facilities and attractions off the Downland and that there was a greater expectation to spend more off the Downland. As would be anticipated, the use of bridleways and footpaths was greater on the Downland. Other than that, the 17 site Downland summary and the 28 site Sussex summary proved remarkably similar. This was likely to be a result of the site characteristics of the WSCC selected survey sites, an aspect which was decided by the commissioning body. The principal Downland user groups are summarised in Table 7:2.

   Table 7:2                                per annum

                             PRINCIPAL CONSUMER GROUPS ON THE DOWNLAND

      Group                                         % of all                              number of
                                                          visitors                                  visits
                                                                                                     (millions)

  All users                                         100.0                                   32.50

      Short walkers                               35.5                                   11.54
      Facility seekers                           33.9                                   11.02
      Picnickers                                    30.2                                     9.82
      Keen walkers                               29.9                                     9.72
      General recreationalists             26.6                                     8.65
      Wealthy tourists                           18.9                                     6.15
      Dog walkers                                12.8                                      4.16
      Quiet recreationalists                 10.3                                      3.35
      Nature appreciators                   10.3                                      3.35

      Amended total of all visits                                                      67.76
       amended overlap factor percent                                          209%
 
    

The refining of the identifiable user groups has enabled the overlap factor to be substantially reduced from that in Table 7:1, thereby giving more clearly defined market sectors. In addition, by adjusting the overlap factor to 100 percent, it is possible to calculate segmentation of the total "market" of 32.5 million visits by user groups. To do this however it is necessary to consider those minor usage groups, revealed by the Downland Visitor Study but not included in the principal use analysis. In view of the high incidence of overlap, it is considered safe to assume that minority groups are accommodated within the principal groups. Table 7:3 identifies the market segmentation, which of course is "by volume".


    Table 7:3                                                                                                  per annum

                         MARKET SEGMENTATION BY PRINCIPAL CONSUMER USAGE
                                                              ON THE DOWNLAND

                                                                                                                  indexed*
      Group                                  % of                                                       number of
                                               "market"                                                   visits factor
                                                                                                                   (millions)
      Short walkers                       17.0                                                          5.54
      Facility seekers                   16.3                                                          5.29
      Picnickers                            14.7                                                          4.71
      Keen walkers                       14.3                                                          4.66
      General recreationalists     12.8                                                          4.16
      Wealthy tourists                     9.1                                                          2.95
      Dog walkers                           6.1                                                          2.00
      Quiet recreationalists            4.9                                                          1.61
      Nature appreciators              4.9                                                          1.61
     

                total                             100.0                                                       32.50*
       amended overlap factor percent                                                       100%
 
      (*Totals within 0.1 due to decimal rounding)


The percentage of the market has been arrived at by taking the number of known visits by each usage group as a percentage of all usage aggregated. The number of visits factor is then calculated by dividing the total visits of 32.5m according to the percentage of the market. It can be seen that the greatest single interest is short walkers which accounts for 17.0 percent of all Downland use. In turn this gives a visits factor of 5.54m of the 32.5m total known visits. The economic significance of these market shares is considered in Chapter 13.

Where this information is invaluable is that it enables policy and management to have regard for the impact on a particular user group of a proposed course of action. For example, car park derogation will affect some groups more than others, particularly "wealthy tourists" who are likely to have travelled greater distances. This may in turn have implications for rural economies due to the above level of expenditure from this user group. This data therefore is potentially a major resource in management planning for the Downland and can be quantified using the Downland Visitor Survey results. The data is therefore developed further in ensuing chapters.


Footnotes:


[1] Gunn C. 1994, Tourism Planning, 3rd ed. Taylor and Francis, London, p57.

[2] Cooper D J. 1993, "Homes or Ploughed Chalk and Flint?" Letter in West Sussex Gazette, 11 March.

[3] Millmore P. 1990, South Downs Way, National Trail Guide, Aurum Press, p18.

[4] See Table 3:7.

[5] Automobile Association, 1988, South Downs, Ordnance Survey Leisure Guide, p23-26.

[6] Gilbert E W. 1972, See Chapter 10 "Andrew John Herbertson", British Pioneers in Geography, David and Charles, posthumous paper, p204.

[7] Short B. 1992, The English Rural Community, Cambridge Univ. Press. Cambridge, p2.

[8] Stamp L D. Briault E W H. & Henderson H C K. 1942, The Land of Britain, Sussex (East and West), Parts 83/84, Geographical Publications, London, p503.

[9] See Chapter six, part one.

[10] Clark G. Darrell J. Grove-White R. Macnaghten P. & Urry J. Lancaster University, 1994, "Social Identity, Leisure and the Countryside", Leisure Landscapes - Leisure, Culture and the English Countryside: Challenges and Conflicts, CPRE, May, see background paper 3, 3.56, 3.57.

 
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