A very high level of visitor satisfaction and recognition of the Northumberland National Park brand, as well as a need to improve mobile phone and broadband coverage in rural areas, were just some of the findings from the National Park Visitor Survey of 2011, published today.
Visitors cited ‘General friendliness’ and ‘quality of accommodation’ as the main factors where experience far exceeded expectation
Tony Gates, Chief Executive of Northumberland National Park Authority, said: “The National Park brand is a major asset for Northumberland and the North East, so it’s important that we encourage all aspects of visitor service to provide that excellent experience. We are clearly delivering such quality through the independent spirit of the businesses providing accommodation, who have worked hard and set a high standard to gain this recognition.
“We need to maintain that momentum in other areas and the Authority has been active in campaigning for improved mobile and broadband coverage in the hill country. Our recent announcement about 4G mobile filling in the blackspots in the next few years will be very welcome news to businesses whose customers expect continuous communications.”
In order to monitor and improve the visitor welcome to Northumberland National Park, Qa Research, based in York, was commissioned by the National Park Authority to undertake the visitor survey during the summer and autumn of 2011. The key aims were to:
- Profile who is visiting – party size, transport used, type of visitor, frequency of visiting, accommodation used, duration and spend;
- Identify motivation for visiting and sources of information used;
- Rate different aspects of the facilities and services provided in the National Park
- Measure impressions of the visit and level of satisfaction
- Capture suggestions for changes or improvements to enhance the visitor experience.
Almost 440 face-to-face surveys were completed at eight locations across the National Park, between Hadrian’s Wall and the Cheviot Hills.
Other key findings include:
The National Park attracts a large proportion of day visitors (62%) compared to overnight visitors staying in the NE (33%), indicating that many people in the region visit their National Park for leisure.
The mean number of visits undertaken by those who had visited at least once in the previous twelve months (excluding local residents) was 17 times, suggesting that the Park attracts a core group of very frequent and regular visitors.
87% of visitors were aware of Northumberland National Park status, with 57% stating that the designation had encouraged them to visit.
75% of visitors stated they would recommend a visit to Northumberland National Park to a friend. The only reasons cited why they would not make a recommendation reflected a desire to keep the National Park quiet and unspoilt (unlike other celebrated beauty spots).
The only areas where experience was lower than expectation were the disappointing lack of public toilets and wifi/mobile coverage in the National Park.
Duncan Wise, National Park Visitor Development Officer, said: “These findings reflect the feedback from own visitor centres and Rangers out and about, but it is good to have such positive response and high level of overall satisfaction confirmed amongst our visitors.
“We cannot be complacent however, many of the essential aspects of a visit, such as road signage, the availability of toilets, car parking and refreshments, are just as important to visitors as the inspirational qualities of outstanding vistas and the sense of tranquillity.”
The new Northumberland National Park Visitor Guide 2012 list a range of high quality accommodation. It is available to download at: www.northumberlandnationalpark.org.uk/visiting/visitorguide.