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Understanding Visitor Motivations for Attending Fee-based Animal Encounter Programs

By Sandra Huynh

Category Theses

Education programs at zoos and aquariums provide opportunities for visitors to learn and garner information on animal natural history and, hopefully, conservation messaging. Fee-based programs (programs with an additional fee on top of admission prices), which are commonly employed by zoos and aquariums to foster learning opportunities for visitors, are not well studied or present in the literature. The purpose of this project is to understand visitor motivations for participating in fee-based education programs and their perceptions of the program animals, both in the aquarium and the wild.  This project was conducted at the Oregon Coast Aquarium (OCAq) in Newport, Oregon, where interactive fee-based programs ("Sea Lion/Seal Kisses" and "Octopus Encounters") were evaluated. Adult participants completed pre- and post-encounter questionnaires. They provided information on their motivations for attending the encounter and visiting OCAq that day, as well as answered questions on their perceptions of the program animal.  This project documented that during the summer season, most participants were vacationers and thought the encounter programs would be a fun, education, and unique experience. Participating in the encounter programs to celebrate an occasion was a major recurring theme. Another way of exploring visitor motivations was by identity-related motivations (Falk, 2009). Animal encounter program participants tend to be explorers and facilitators. Overall, participants were more worried about the health and status of the program animal in the wild than in the Aquarium. Interestingly, participants did not think about or seek information on the program animal much before or after the encounter, but the conservation of these animals was important to them. With this knowledge, Aquarium education program developers can begin to craft existing programs to incorporate appropriate conservation messaging for the animal encounter program audience. 


Katie Carroll

Date 2016
Pages 94
Publisher Oregon State University
Degree Master of Science
Language English
University Oregon State University
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. animal encounters
  2. Animal roles
  3. Animals in culture
  4. Aquariums
  5. Education
  6. Fish
  7. Human-animal interactions
  8. Mammals
  9. Marine animals
  10. Oregon
  11. Zoo and captive wild animals
  12. Zoos
  13. zoo visitors