Specialized tastes

With increased experience and more activities to pursue, recreation consumers are becoming more sophisticated, and the market is diversifying in order to meet the wide range of specialist markets. There are now many ‘communities of interest’ who participate in specific activities, often requiring special areas, equipment or access during particular seasons. Success in leisure markets depends much more on identifying the specialisms. This poses great challenges for managers and designers, as special facilities may be needed with particular design requirements, such as segregation, zoning and other forms of management strategies in order to deal with potential conflicts.

Commercialization

In the past, many public-sector recreation providers allowed people free access, or charged for permits to control the amount or season for different activities such as fishing or horseriding. However, governments and other public agencies are finding that funding to maintain sites and facilities, to cope with increased demand and wear and tear on the landscape, is becoming difficult to maintain. Opportunities to charge visitors for appropriate services to help offset these costs, or to upgrade old or provide new facilities, are being considered as one solution. This is a sensitive matter, as in many European countries free access for all people to the outdoors is a much cherished tradition or right. There is also an additional dilemma for public agencies where recreation facilities are already provided from public money, and it could be argued that the taxpayer is being charged twice. Thus care is needed by public bodies to ensure that charges are only made for services that are clearly additional to the provision of free access.

Notwithstanding these reservations, many people are willing to pay for better facilities and better services. This in turn may persuade managers to develop more commercial opportunities at high-capacity, high-demand sites in key locations, such as gift shops, restaurants and unique attractions such as cable cars to scenic viewpoints. Equipment to collect money—such as ticket machines, pay booths and the need for increased security at commercial sites—all have an impact on design and management.