Posts By / Steve Calver

Tourism Week – The drivers of visitor enjoyment at heritage properties

This research project conducted during 2011 is part of a portfolio of research conducted for the National Trust, the UK’s major conservation charity. The organisation is committed to the aims of widening the appeal of the properties and countryside under its management, as well as providing meaning and inspiration as part of this broad appeal. The measurement of enjoyment, linked to meaning and inspiration is therefore a critical measure in the success criteria of individual properties and the organisation as a whole.

The aim of the research was to identify the ‘drivers’ or causes of enjoyment ratings; various approaches have been used to analyse the causal relationships in the data generated from a survey of 189 pay for entry properties and 11 countryside properties in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The data used for analysis was collected in 2010 and a survey running in 2011 will be used to further test the current findings.

One approach to analysing the data has used structural equation modelling where causal relations between enjoyment and factor analysed (principal axis factored), independent variables are examined by comparing the results of a series of hypothetical models. Fifteen key drivers  of the two main components of visitor enjoyment at National Trust properties, ‘Service & Relaxation’ and ‘Stimulation & Interest ‘ have been identified. A further 20 operational imperatives have been formulated which provide guidance for property managers to improve visitor enjoyment.

The research methodology draws upon previous research in the fields of psychology and applied statistics, specifically Batson, C.D., Shaw, L.L., Oleson, K.C., (1992) Emotion review of personality and social psychology, Bagozzi, R.P., & Yi, Y., (1988) On the evaluation of structural equation models, Szymanski, D.M. & Henard D.H. (2001) Customer satisfaction: A meta analysis of the empirical evidence and Ajzen, I., (1991) The theory of planned behaviour.

The Holburne Museum, Bath

The mrg is currently completing a research project for the Holburne Museum in Bath (managed by N Pretty), a project that extends back to 2006 and builds on earlier museum studies conducted since 1998.

During 2002 a methodology was developed for research at the V&A Museum in London which was to inform the redevelopment and arrangement of the British Galleries and then later the Sculpture and Ceramics collections. The research was extended to include an evaluation of the representation of Black and Ethnic History at the V&A.  The methodology developed for this research was based on a number of previous studies but notably the work of Eilean Hooper-Greenhill who has published widely on the topic of art and interpretation including ‘Changing Values in the Art Museum: rethinking communication and learning’ (2000), a particularly influential paper.

In 2006 The Holburne Museum commissioned the mrg to conduct research to inform the development of their galleries and collection of mainly 18th century art. This research offered the opportunity to refine the methodology developed for the V&A and other museums. The work was completed in 2011 and the mrg is currently undertaking a review study, to test some of the assumptions and recommendations of the earlier research.

An interesting connection has developed from this research with the countryside research portfolio developed by the mrg over the past 15 years. The Holburne Museum is about to present an exhibition of Gainsborough paintings from which the museum wishes to gain a better understanding of the emotional response to the English countryside or how people imagine it. This has been  a key theme of the mrg’s countryside research and the subject of a recent book ‘Visions of England‘ by Roy Strong.

This work will form the basis of an AHRC bid this Autumn to fund a research project that ties together the key themes of art, countryside and leisure currently supported by a number of museums and collections.

MRG project news

The mrg recently completed a complex and controversial research project for the Dorset Library Service which informed policy for the retention or closure of library services in the county. The feedback from the Library Service included the following comment:

Thank you to you and your team for your help and support with the consultation work. You have been extremely responsive in meeting our requirements and in particular being adaptable to meeting the deadlines. This is much appreciated as it enabled me to prepare the necessary reports for members, of which the consultation information was an important part. You (Lisa S) and Jon (H) have been very willing to meet our expanding requests for information and support and the youth focus groups are an example of that’.

The mrg has also recently been awarded a contract to conduct research for the Christchurch and East Dorset Partnership. This is a survey of residents to investigate quality of life metrics and satisfaction with public services in the area.

Further new research includes a study to investigate the decision protocols of 6th form students choosing their post ‘A’ level courses in the tertiary sector and data analysis for the Tank Museum at Bovington.

This year the mrg has been conducting a major research project investigating the drivers of visitor enjoyment and satisfaction at heritage attractions and countryside locations. A series of reports and presentations have already been submitted and 2 weeks ago a model of visitor satisfaction using structural equation modelling SEM) was submitted and has provided the basis for the next stage in the development of the research and the organisation’s strategic response.

Members of the mrg team have attended development programmes to improve their capability in causal modelling techniques including SEM in recent months.

Does anybody read this blog?

The Green Living Project

This project was funded by DEFRA and harnessed the support of several organisations involved with the management of natural and environmental resources in the UK. MRG was commissioned by the National Trust for their contribution to the Green Living project, this involved a two year research programme with a £68,000 budget. The purpose of the research was to support an initiative to encourage people to eat more sustainably using locally produced food, in season and to grow their own food. The results of the survey showed a change in people’s behaviour which demonstrated a greater regard for environmentally friendly activities  following  a programme of information dissemination, events and education. The results have encouraged a change of policy towards Green Living initiatives which will be incorporated in future strategy.

The Green Living project is the latest example of work undertaken by MRG in the countryside, a programme of research extending back to 1995.