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Measuring Trail Users’ Perception of Crowding in a Peri-urban Nature Park: A Best-worst Scaling Experiment

13.12.2018Comments are closed.,

peri-urban forest visitors,
perception of crowding,
best-worst scaling.


  • Dr. Ivan Sever, Institute for Tourism, Zagreb, Croatia
  • Dr. Miroslav Verbič, Faculty of Economics, University of Ljubljana
  • Zrinka Marušić, Institute for Tourism, Zagreb, Croatia


This paper evaluates the perception of crowding, its determinants and relationship with trail users’ experience in a peri-urban nature park. Existing crowding surveys rely heavily on a single-item 9-point crowding scale which was originally developed for backcountry areas. Receiver operating characteristic (ROC) analysis was used to test the validity and reliability of this measure in detecting crowding issues and formulating visitor capacity limits. Low validity and reliability raised concerns about the applicability of this scale in similar frontcountry areas. Inability of this simple crowding measure to detect a visitor threshold brings to the fore its another important limitation – ignorance of the complexity of crowding phenomenon. The perception of crowding varies with various social, psychological and situational factors, and a best-worst scaling (BWS) experiment was designed to simultaneously evaluate different aspects of crowding in the Medvednica Nature Park, a peri-urban nature park near Zagreb, Croatia. The findings of BWS experiment revealed that occupancy of mountain huts, number of other hikers on the trail and amount of litter along the trail on average contributed most to the trail users’ sense of crowding. A latent class analysis identified a large heterogeneity in the perception of crowding; while one group of trail users (63%) was more disturbed by the direct social impacts, the others (37%) were more disturbed by the secondary impacts of other visitors, especially by the negative externalities from road traffic in the park. Older visitors had a greater tendency to primarily associate crowding with the environmental conditions. A higher impact of trail use level in the perception of crowding, younger age and more frequent use were associated with a more negative evaluation of crowding. The park management should closely monitor road traffic in the park and visitor activity on highly used trails, especially on those popular among younger trail users.


Urban Forestry & Urban Greening


JCR SSCI 2017 IF 2,782

The article is available here.

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