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Hiking as Mental and Physical Experience

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  • University of Southeast Norway
  • UiT The Arctic University of Norway, Tromsø, Norway

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The present work studies hiking as tourist activity and its physical and mental benefits for the tourist. In particular, the study explores the relative importance of these benefits among the hikers and compare the importance with the tourists’ perceived experience, i.e., evaluation of the benefits. Building on the perception, performance and perceived quality and benefit literature a survey is carried out at different hiking sites in the southern part of Norway. The study results show that hiking tours in Norway perform rather well on factors such as physical benefits, mental benefits, facilitation of trail and slightly lower on information. Physical benefits are of higher importance than information and are also perceived to provide benefits in line with the importance given. Facilitation of trail is perceived to be of relatively high importance and the actual experience is rated higher than importance. Mental benefits is rated to be of most importance among the attributes. The tourists evaluate mental benefits to be somewhat lower than importance given. Subsequently, practice should focus on how to ensure mental benefits among hikers and research should seek to understand what this actually means in terms of new logics in tourism, i.e., experience value and the tourist own role in creating such value.
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Advances in Hospitality and Leisure
Hiking as Mental and Physical Experience
Ingeborg Nordbø Nina K. Prebensen
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To cite this document: Ingeborg Nordbø Nina K. Prebensen . "Hiking as Mental and
Physical Experience" In Advances in Hospitality and Leisure. Published online: 12 Nov
2015; 169-186.
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HIKING AS MENTAL AND
PHYSICAL EXPERIENCE
Ingeborg Nordbø and Nina K. Prebensen
ABSTRACT
The present work studies hiking as tourist activity and its physical and
mental benefits for the tourist. In particular, the study explores the
relative importance of these benefits among the hikers and compare the
importance with the tourists’ perceived experience, that is evaluation of
the benefits. Building on the perception, performance and perceived
quality and benefit literature a survey is carried out at different hiking
sites in the southern part of Norway. The study results show that hik-
ing tours in Norway perform rather well on factors such as physical
benefits, mental benefits, facilitation of trail and slightly lower on
information. Physical benefits are of higher importance than informa-
tion and are also perceived to provide benefits in line with the impor-
tance given. Facilitation of trail is perceived to be of relatively high
importance and the actual experience is rated higher than importance.
Mental benefits is rated to be of most importance among the attri-
butes. The tourists evaluate mental benefits to be somewhat lower than
importance given. Subsequently, practice should focus on how to ensure
mental benefits among hikers and research should seek to understand
Advances in Hospitality and Leisure, Volume 11, 169186
Copyright r2015 by Emerald Group Publishing Limited
All rights of reproduction in any form reserved
ISSN: 1745-3542/doi:10.1108/S1745-354220150000011010
169
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what this actually means in terms of new logics in tourism, that is
experience value and the tourist own role in creating such value.
Keywords: Hiking; push and pull attributes; physical and mental
experiences; Norway
INTRODUCTION
Hiking has long been described as one of the largest segments within
nature-based tourism (Chhetri, Arrowsmith, & Jackson, 2004), and more
and more people are taking part in hiking activities in different geographi-
cal locations (D’Antonio, Monz, Newman, Lawson, & Taff, 2012;Dyck,
Schneider, Thompson, & Virden, 2003;Mason, Suner, & Williams, 2013).
In mountain regions and protected areas hiking is normally the most
important recreational activity (Chhetri et al., 2004;Fredman & Tyrva
¨inen,
2010;Pomfret, 2006), and can provide important tourism revenues for the
local population (Wo
¨ran & Arnberger, 2012). In recent years a number of
rural destinations have put huge efforts into facilitating hiking and thus
taking advantage of tourists’ increasing demand for destination experiences
in nature (Den Breejen, 2007) and activities promoting their health and
well-being (Smith & Puczko, 2014). Even though experience quality is
revealed as vital for the tourist (Prebensen, Woo, Chen, & Uysal, 2012)
and hiking is an activity with the potential to stimulate both mental and
physical health and well-being (Bowler, Buyung-Ali, Knight, & Pullin,
2010), little research focuses on the many faceted aspects of hiking from
the customers’ point of view.
Previous research indicates a lack of information on the diversity of
hikers and the changes related to hiking preferences (Hardiman & Burgin,
2011;Rodrigues, Kastenholz, & Rodrigues, 2010;Wall-Reinius & Ba
¨ck,
2011). Kay and Moxham (1996) highlight that hiking is greatly influenced
by social, environmental and managerial factors, and that it varies over
time. Wall-Reinius and Ba
¨ck (2011) reveal changes in preference among
visitors in northern Sweden from 1980 until 2003. In particular the authors
claim that the visitors tend to have shorter stays and that adventure and
risk taking, marked hiking trails, accessibility and services have become
more important. They argue that destinations that fail to recognize chan-
ging demand patterns risk a decline in attracting visitors (p. 50). As such,
novel information regarding both tourist preferences and their evaluations
regarding hiking experiences are needed.
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Visitor experience is viewed as a central factor in understanding visitor
satisfaction (Ryan, 2000), and a number of studies see tourism experiences
as a way of satisfying a wide range of personal goals and needs (e.g. Chen,
Prebensen, Chen, & Kim, 2013;Chhetri et al., 2004;Wang, Chen, Fan, &
Lu, 2012). In order to stimulate product development and innovative prac-
tices information regarding what hikers perceive as important and how
they evaluate hiking trips is therefore essential. This knowledge can help
destinations and tourism firms to meet customers’ needs by ensuring the
right focus and quality level on the hiking experience. This paper studies
hiking activities in terms of push and pull attributes. It tests differences
between importance given to such attributes and the subsequent evaluation
of the attributes in order meet customer demand.
Many studies on tourist motivations and preferences use the push and
pull dichotomy (Crompton, 1979) in order to predict future travel patterns
and to explain travel and destination choices. Few studies, however, have
introduced the physically active dimensions using the push and pull factors
to special interest activities such as hiking during vacation. The present
study therefore contributes to existing knowledge by focusing on both fac-
tors in a hiking context.
Research shows that people want to participate in co-creating experience
value during their vacation. Hiking is an excellent example of customers
producing or co-creating the experience through physical and mental parti-
cipation in a hiking experience (Prebensen, Wu, & Uysal, 2015). Based on
new management and the marketing perspectives of the customer as being
vital for value creation processes, that is service-dominant logic (Vargo &
Lush, 2004), this paper contributes to theory by studying the importance
given to both physical and mental participation in co-creating valuable
experiences.
Tourism studies have also recognized the significance of tourist expecta-
tions versus perceived experience by employing importance-performance
(IPA) perspectives (e.g. Prebensen, 2012).
In line with these perspectives, Tribe and Snaith (1998) measure visitor’s
satisfaction through comparing visitor expectation and actual experience
whilst visiting a tourist destination. The present study takes a similar
methodological approach and contributes to practice by acknowledging
tourist preferences regarding hiking and comparing preferences (impor-
tance) with actual experiences (performance). Our study highlights various
aspects of a hiking experience, for example the physical attributes of the
trail and information received about the hiking trip, and the physical and
mental benefits from enjoying the hiking activity. By doing so, the paper
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shows the importance of hiking experience benefits for tourists. The desti-
nations and firms will benefit from this knowledge by receiving insight into
how to streamline their products and develop communication strategies to
attract and meet the needs of hikers.
The present work addresses the following research questions.
1. Which attributes comprise hiking experiences?
2. Which hiking attributes are most important for the tourist?
3. How do customers perceive the hiking tour attributes?
4. What should tourist nature-based destinations offering hiking experi-
ences focus on in terms of strategies?
As a field of research, hiking is interesting as it is related to three highly
interrelated, but traditionally distinct, theoretical fields: tourism, recreation
and leisure (Butler, Hall, & Jenkins, 1998;Den Breejen, 2007). The paper is
organized as follows. The theory behind the study is first presented and
outlined. Then the method is described. Subsequently, the results are put
forward, followed by analysis and concluding remarks.
THEORETICAL PERSPECTIVES
Hiking A Definition
Physical activities during vacation are becoming more and more popular
(Douglas & Derrett, 2001), and several rural communities promote nature
in developing attractive activities in order to encourage tourists to visit
their destination. The idea of undertaking a walk through the countryside
for pleasure developed in the 18th century in Europe in the awakening
of the Romantic movement and changing attitudes to landscape and
nature (Ween & Abram, 2012). In earlier times walking generally indicated
poverty, work (e.g. herding) and was also at times associated with
vagrancy. Today, hiking is defined as an appreciative recreational activity
in contrast to hunting and fishing which are defined as consumptive activ-
ities (Dunlap & Heffernan, 1975).
The word hiking is common in the English language, but can be referred
to in different ways such as ‘walking’, ‘trekking’, ‘rambling’, ‘strolling’ and
‘bushwalking’ (Nordbø, Engilbertsson, & Vale, 2014). Bushwalking is a
term and activity of Australian origin. In Canada and the United States
hiking is the preferred term for a long, vigorous walk, usually on trails and
in the countryside, while the term walking is used for shorter, particularly
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urban walks. In the United Kingdom and Ireland the term walking is used
to describe all forms of walking, whether it is trekking in the Himalayas or
a walk in the park. The word hiking is also sometimes used in the United
Kingdom, along with rambling, hillwalking and fell walking. In New
Zealand tramping is used to describe a long, vigorous walk or hike. Hiking
has turned into a popular activity with an extensive number of hiking orga-
nizations worldwide. Based on the definitions of Svarstad (2010) and
Nordbø et al. (2014), hiking in the context of this paper is understood as
an outdoor activity which consists of shorter or longer walks (from less
than an hour up to many days) in natural and cultural landscapes, and
often in rural areas. The aim of the walk might be pleasure, exercise, con-
templation or similar experiences. Research studies on rural tourism in gen-
eral often highlight a number of more mental benefits than those often
associated with hiking, like enhancing the quality of life, tranquility and
closeness to nature (Fleischer & Pizam, 1997).
Our point of view is, thus, that hiking does not only facilitate physical
benefits, but also mental benefits.
Push and Pull Attributes and Physical and Mental Benefits
Crompton (1979) suggests the pushpull dichotomy of tourist motivation,
which identifies specific push and pull effects on tourist destination choices
and experiences. Kozak (2002) describes the push factors to cause tourists
to leave home to seek some unspecified vacation destination, whereas pull
factors compel tourists to visit a specific destination that possesses attrac-
tive attributes. In other words, push factors drive individuals to travel, and
pull factors explain the physical attributes regarding the destination or the
actual trail (Chul, Uysal, & Weaver, 1995). In order to acknowledge what
the tourist sees as important for visiting and enjoying a hiking experience
and to compare this with the perception of the quality of the experience,
the push and pull framework can be used as an outline. The qualities of the
trail could be pull factors if the customers are informed before the trip.
Relaxation and enjoyment are examples of push factors.
In a study comparing push and pull motivations among German leisure
travellers to the United States, Canada and Asia, Lee, O’Leary, Lee, and
Morrison (2002) show the importance of motivation factors compared with
other variables tested for and the authors imply that a typology of vacation
patterns based on the need-satisfying properties of motivation may exist.
Lee and colleagues’ (2002) study found that pull factors exerted more influ-
ence on destination choice than push factors and vacation activity.
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In line with the study by Lee et al. (2002), Kim, Lee, and Klenosky
(2003) identify push and pull factors influencing decisions to visit Korean
national parks. The study by Kim et al. also examines the pattern of inter-
relationships among the push and pull factors. The findings from the study
show four push factors: ‘family togetherness and study’, ‘appreciating nat-
ural resources and health’, ‘escaping from everyday routine’ and ‘adventure
and friendship’, where ‘appreciating natural resources and health’ was the
most important factor. Furthermore, the study reveals three pull factor
domains: ‘key tourist resources’, ‘information and convenience of facilities
and ‘accessibility and transportation’. Visitors to national parks rated
‘accessibility and transportation’ and ‘information and convenience of
facilities’ relatively highly. The study reveals correlations between some of
the push and pull factors: ‘key tourist resources’ and ‘information and con-
venience of facilities’ both had significant positive (relatively low) correla-
tions with all four of the push factors, while the correlation between the
pull factor ‘key tourist resources’ and the push factor ‘family togetherness
and study’ was relatively high.
A study on tourism motivation identifies the dichotomy of body-related
and mind-related motivations (Prebensen, Skallerud, & Chen, 2010). While
body-related motivation is linked to comfortable weather and fitness and
health, the mind-related motivation includes culture and nature and escap-
ism (Prebensen et al., 2010). In a study on Swedish tourists to Norway,
Chen et al. (2013) find a variety of nature-based motivations, including
physical- and mind-related benefits among the tourists.
Iso-Ahola (1983) theorized that individuals travel for intrinsic reward
and well-being. As such it is of interest to see what these intrinsic rewards
include and how they rate in terms of perceived importance and evaluation.
Would physical benefits be of more importance than mental benefits in a
hiking context? Furthermore, it would be of interest to see how hikers
would perceive the two factors. Tiyce (2008) shows that tourists travel for
the benefit of their mental well-being indicating that mental benefits would
matter also for typical physical activities such as hiking. A study by Bowler
et al. (2010) suggests that natural environments may have direct and posi-
tive impacts on well-being. The present work thus understands hiking as a
way of improving one’s quality of life in one or more of the wellness dimen-
sions: physical and mental perceived wellness.
Nordbø et al. (2014) address the lack of studies/research on hiking from
a consumer-oriented perspective. They group the existing research on hik-
ing into four main categories; where one category deals with tourists’
experiences and behaviour through case studies from different geographical
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areas. These studies show that a number of extrinsic attributes related to
the scenery and landscape (such as the beauty of the landscape, experien-
cing nature and wilderness and natural scenery), as well as more intrinsic
attributes (peacefulness, solitude, play and remoteness) are important push
and pull factors in undertaking hiking (Den Breejen, 2007;Gyimo
´thy &
Mykletun, 2004;Kil, Stein, & Holland, 2014;Kyle, Bricker, Graefe, &
Wickham, 2004;Rodrigues et al., 2010;Svarstad, 2010). None of these stu-
dies test differences between the importance given to such attributes and
the subsequent evaluation of the attributes in order to meet customer
demand as conducted in the undertaken study.
The study by Wall-Reinius and Ba
¨ck (2011) found, as argued, a number
of changes in consumer preferences related to hiking based on a longitudi-
nal study. While by far the most important variable in the 1980 study was
‘beauty of the landscape’ (mean value 4.7) followed by ‘experiencing the
flora and fauna’ and ‘availability of marked hiking trails’, the most impor-
tant in the 2003 study was ‘experiencing nature’ (mean value 4.9) followed
by ‘hiking’ and ‘peace and quietness’. There was also a clear change in
‘experiencing perils’ and ‘adventure’ as it was of great/most importance for
26% of the respondents in 1980; it had increased to 56% in the 2003 study.
This is in line with the study by Gyimo
´thy and Mykletun (2004) who in
line with the increasing focus on perils highlight adventure seeking and
play as important attributes related to Arctic trekking.
Wo
¨ran and Arnberger (2012) explored the relationship between recrea-
tion specialization in mountain hiking, the experience of restorative envir-
onments in the mountains and flow experiences during hiking. Their
findings confirm the study by Mills and Butler (2005) that flow experiences
occur during mountain hiking. Their study showed that the higher the
degree of recreation specialization (the hiker’s mastering and knowledge
about hiking/outdoor life) the higher the probability was for the flow
experience to occur. They also found that the more the mountainous land-
scape is perceived as a restorative environment, the more likely is the flow
experience to appear.
The above studies seem to point in the direction that intrinsic and men-
tal benefits are becoming increasingly important attributes related to hik-
ing. Kil et al. (2014) studied differences in the experiential recreation
outcomes and setting preferences of Florida National Scenic Trail hikers
by segmenting and comparing two groups based on the type of natural
areas they hiked: wildland-urban interface (WUI) and wildland. They
found that the wildland visitors had stronger preferences for achievement
and environmental exploration benefits and for more natural settings, while
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mental and psychological health/wellness and in-group social bonding were
equally important for both groups.
Svarstad’s (2010) study of why people enjoy hiking is based on the
meaning constructions found from the qualitative tales of 81 Norwegian
hikers. Her research identified three main categories of meaning construc-
tions, in which physical health aspects of hiking are mentioned frequently
and psychological aspects even more often. The study by Sturm et al.
(2012) found that hiking had a number of positive mental or psychological
effects such as improvement of hopelessness, depression and suicide idea-
tion in patients suffering from high-level suicide risk. Svarstad (2010, p. 97)
highlights that in terms of mental health three metaphors tend to reappear,
where the first one is that hiking allows the respondents to disengage or
detach the mind. The second metaphor is that hiking recharges the batteries
and that nature experiences allow for such a restoration. The third meta-
phor is the notion of hiking as an act of mental purification. All the meta-
phors are a sort of counterweight to the respondents’ everyday lives which
are perceived as hectic and full of time limits and appointments. Svarstad
highlights that many of the respondents in her study interpret hiking as a
source of pleasure and that feelings of happiness related to hiking provide
an important motivation. Hiking provides an opportunity for reflection
and contemplation, and respondents also emphasized peace and quietness
as important mental attributes related to hiking.
The second of Svarstad’s categories is labelled the simple outdoors dis-
course. In the recreation category hiking provides a means for individuals
to better adjust to life in modern society, while in the category of the simple
outdoors discourse, respondents see hiking as an alternative to modern
society (p. 98). The critique is especially concentrated around hiking as a
way of life that provides ‘real luxury’ in contrast to luxury as material
wealth, and the lack of freedom regarding the use of one’s own time in
modern society. Respondents also express concern for the conservation of
nature which grows out of a strong sense of unity with nature.
The third of Svarstad’s categories focuses on how respondents establish
linkages to the past and to earlier ways of living in the landscapes where
they go hiking, as such a sort of authenticity claim. Several of the hikers
highlight the importance of passing on the sense of belonging to their chil-
dren and grandchildren by taking them out hiking.
Based on the studies presented above, it can be hypothesized that hiking
trips as a significant nature-based tourism activity can be linked to pull and
push factors, as well as body- and mind-related motivations.
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RESEARCH METHOD
Study Sites
Empirical research was undertaken in the mountainous regions of
Telemark, an area located in south-east Norway. The majority of the
mountain municipalities in Norway are experiencing a simultaneous
decrease in primary industries and a decline in, and ageing of, the resident
local population. During the last decades, there has thus been a focus on
the development of tourism as a strategy to assure settlement and to
strengthen and diversify the local economy, including a number of initia-
tives to extend the season beyond the typical peak period. Since the forma-
tion of Norway as a nation state, hiking and the outdoor life have been
essential elements in building national identity and have become an integral
part of Norwegian culture. However, during the last decade the tourism
industry in Norway has also fully discovered the potential of international
hikers as a booming tourism market, particularly in rural areas. A survey
of mountain tourist behaviour among Germans, Dutch and French tourists
in Norway showed that a large majority (89%, 73% and 88%, respectively)
participated in hiking or walking activities during their stay (Akselsen,
Siljan, Skyttermoen, & Breiby, 2005). In our study 67% of the hikers were
tourists, 10% were locals and 19% were second home owners.
Design and Subjects
This study is a cross-sectional convenience sample of hikers at four trails in
the upper part of the Telemark region. Cross-sectional convenience sample
has been used in a number of other studies of hikers Mason et al. (2013),
Kil et al. (2014) argue that ‘little is known about the beneficial outcomes
(e.g. experiential benefits sought and achieved, place meanings) and envir-
onmental setting preferences across varying recreation areas’ (p. 1). In this
study hikers at four different recreational areas/trails were interviewed. The
four trails chosen for this study were Gaustatoppen, Venelifjell,
La
˚rdalsstigen and Falkeriset, located in the municipalities of Tinn, Vinje,
Tokke and Vra
˚dal in Norway. Although the trails share some similarities,
they are also quite different in terms of factors such as length, difficulty
and facilitation. The similarities and differences were thought of as relevant
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in order to include a broader range of hikers. The empirical data was col-
lected during the summer of 2014 on-site at the four trails. A structured
questionnaire including quantitative measures and a few open and qualita-
tive questions were handed out to the hikers. Combining a qualitative and
a quantitative approach is a common strategy to increase the credibility of
the research (Decrop, 1999;Mehmetoglu, 2004). Approximately 720 ques-
tionnaires were handed out and 683 valid questionnaires were returned
resulting in a response rate of approximately 95%. The return rate was
lowest at Gaustatoppen where the number of hikers was highest (many
hundreds of visitors every day).
The sample includes 671 respondents from 14 different European coun-
tries, and 30 tourists from other continents. The study by Tangeland, Aas,
and Odden (2013) looks into how the sociodemographic variables influence
Norwegians’ participation in outdoor recreation activities. They study four
types of activities, freshwater fishing, hunting, backcountry hiking and ski-
ing, and adventure activities, and found that the likelihood of participating
in hiking is especially influenced by membership of outdoor recreation
organizations, gender, age and educational level. The study by Kil et al.
(2014) also found that sociodemographic characteristics varied significantly
according to trip characteristics and area visited. In total 49% of the
respondents were female and 67% of the respondents held a college/univer-
sity degree.
1
Altogether, 67% of the hikers are tourists, 19% are second
home owners and 10% are local (although there are quite big variations in
this number between the different trails). In total, 73% of the respondents
have a family income above 59,000 Euros and respondents’ average age is
43.3. The median is 44 and the standard deviation on age is 14.4 years.
Comparing with statistics from Statistics Norway (2015) the data seems to
be representative.
Measurements
The variable of importance and evaluation of hiking attributes was mea-
sured by 20 items. The measurements are based on destination attribute
(push and pull) measures (28 items) (Yoon & Uysal, 2005) and value per-
ception measures (24 items) (Williams & Soutar, 2009). Based on the per-
ceived value scale and tourist quality attribute scale, hiking attributes were
outlined through a thorough testing procedure by the authors (ensuring
relevance and references to important aspects of hiking tourism). Then a
discussion with representatives from the industry was conducted, reducing
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the total attributes to 20. The respondents in the present survey, hiking
tourists in southern Norway, were asked to state their views on importance
and evaluation using a five-point Likert-type scale: 1 =not important, 5 =
very important, and 1 =not at all satisfied, and 5 =very satisfied,
respectively.
Data Analysis Procedure
The data were analysed using various analysis techniques. First, frequency,
mean and standard deviation were calculated to examine visitors’ demo-
graphic profiles and their subsequent responses. Then the mean scores of
the 18 importance and evaluation ratings were computed. Cronbach’s
alpha was calculated to test the reliability for the tourist overall rating of
importance and evaluation measures for the hiking experience: importance
and evaluation. The alpha value for the importance of facilitation of the
trail is 0.85, and for the evaluation of facilitation of trail is 0.83. The alpha
values for importance and evaluation of physical benefits were both 0.86.
Mental benefits gives alpha values for importance and evaluation as 0.86
and 0.85, respectively. And information revealed alpha values of 0.77 and
0.81 for importance and evaluation.
A paired sample t-test, using the SPSS version 21, was conducted to test
the mean differences between importance and evaluation of attributes. The
paired-samples t-test method evaluates whether the difference between the
means of the variables, that is importance and evaluation, is significantly
different from zero (Green, Salkind, & Akey, 2000). The t-values and
mean-difference scores are reported. The traditional χ2fit tests is reported.
RESULTS
In order to examine the dimensionality of the constructs and to assess the
discriminant validity of the scales, that is importance and performance
(evaluation), exploratory factor analyses are conducted. Factor analysis is
chosen because the intention is to examine whether a set of indicators can
be reduced to a more limited set of underlying dimensions. It should be
noted that exploratory factor analyses are performed to test whether the
benefits regarding hiking show similar structure in both situations (impor-
tance and evaluation). First, unrotated factor analysis is performed in order
to decide the number of factors. Varimax rotated analyses are conducted
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for both scales, and the results show the same structure for both situations.
Two items were pulled out due to low factor loadings: Fresh air and Learn
about local culture and nature. Computing factor scores helps to avoid the
multicollinearity effects of the model due to possibilities of high intercorre-
lations among items.
The factor analysis of the 18 (initially 20) items explain 64% and 66% of
variance for the importance and evaluation scale, respectively. Tables 1 and
2present the factor analysis results of questions regarding importance and
evaluations of hiking, respectively. Based on the correlations the factors
were given the following names: ‘Facilitation of Trail’, ‘Physical benefits’,
‘Mental benefits’ and ‘Information’.
Table 1. Exploratory Factor Analysis of Importance of Hiking
Attributes.
h2Facilitation
of Trail
Mental
Benefits
Physical
Benefits
Information
9a: The trail is well maintained 0.738 0.896
9a: The trail is well marked/signed 0.757 0.853
9a: The trail is well facilitated 0.738 0.840
9a: It is easy to find the starting
point of the trail
0.496 0.674
9a: To get away from the duties of
everyday life
0.707 0.819
9a: Peace and quiet 0.708 0.818
9a: Enjoy the landscape 0.652 0.789
9a: Restore mental energy 0.627 0.673
9a: Physically challenging 0.734 0.840
9a: Test my physical capabilities 0.689 0.821
9a: Improve my health 0.653 0.766
9a: Energize my body 0.586 0.611
9a: Good maps 0.631 0.784
9a: Information about local culture
and history
0.640 0.760
9a: Oral information from the local
tourist office before the trip
0.559 0.737
9a: Information given during the
hike is easy to understand
0.627 0.708
Percentage of common variance 31.10 14.18 11.90 9.15
Percentage of trace (100)
Eigenvalue 4.97 2.30 1.90 1.47
Alpha 0.846 0.862 0.856 0.767
180 INGEBORG NORDBØ AND NINA K. PREBENSEN
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Based on the factor solutions reported in Tables 1 and 2, the dimensions
for the scales were extracted (mean scores for factors). To assess the relia-
bility of the scales, Cronbach’s alpha is applied. Carmine and Zeller (1979)
suggest that Cronbach’s alpha should not be lower than 0.80 for widely
used scales. In the present study, the coefficients in the importance scale
ranged from 0.76 to 086 and between 0.81 and 0.86 for the evaluation scale,
which are acceptable (Tables 1 and 2).
A paired sample t-test assessed the statistical significance of the mean
score differences between importance and evaluation of the two sets of
attributes, successively (Table 3). Altogether, two of the four hiking attri-
butes have a statistically significant difference in terms of importance versus
evaluation: mental benefits and facilitation of trail.
Table 2. Exploratory Factor Analysis of Evaluation of Hiking Attributes.
h2Physical
Benefits
Facilitation
of Trail
Mental
Benefits
Information
Physically challenging 0.709 0.818
Improve my health 0.731 0.818
Test my physical capabilities 0.681 0.809
Good exercise 0.664 0.800
Energize my body 0.609 0.670
The trail is well marked/signed 0.744 0.852
The trail is well facilitated 0.761 0.852
The trail is well maintained 0.729 0.823
It is easy to find the starting point
of the trail
0.432 0.636
To get away from the duties of
everyday life
0.781 0.824
Enjoy the landscape 0.602 0.747
Peace and quiet 0.579 0.722
Restore mental energy 0.661 0.710
Good maps 0.700 0.812
Information about local culture and
history
0.663 0.785
Information given during the hike is
easy to understand
0.612 0.735
Oral information from the local
tourist office before the trip
0.565 0.724
Percentage of common variance 32.59 13.95 11.04 8.43
Percentage of trace
Eigenvalue 5.541 2.372 1.876 1.433
Alpha 0.826 0.862 0.850 0.810
181Hiking as Mental and Physical Experience
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Discussions
The most important factors for the hikers are mental benefits and facilita-
tion of the trail. The least important factor is information. Evaluation of
the mental benefits was rated significantly lower than the importance of
mental benefits. The facilitation of the trail was rated significantly higher
for evaluation than importance. As information and physical benefits show
the same scores for importance as for evaluation, the destination tourism
system including trail management should not focus on enhancing or redu-
cing the quality of these factors. As the hikers gave higher ratings to the
evaluation than the importance of the facilitation of the trail they could
even reduce the focus on the trail to a certain degree. The main issue is to
ensure that the tourists evaluate the mental benefits in line or above the
importance given to this factor.
Hiking as a physical activity is also highly correlated to mental benefits
among the hikers. As the mental factor is measured by the four items: get
away from the duties of everyday life, enjoy the landscape, peace and quiet,
and restore mental energy, the tourism industry may start focusing on these
elements in order to fulfil the preferences of tourists even better.
CONCLUSION
Special interest tourism has increased rapidly worldwide (WTTC, 2015),
and in countries offering nature as core resources, physical activities such
as hiking have become popular. Despite tourism seeming to ‘go physical’,
the mental aspects of the activities are highly valued among tourists and
Table 3. Mean Difference of Hiking Attributes (Evaluation Minus
Importance).
No. Holistic Destination Attributes Mean (Standard
Deviation)
Mean Difference t-Value
Importance Evaluation
1 Physical benefits 4.0 (0.824) 4.0 (0.953) 0.0 1.6ns
2 Mental benefits 4.3 (0.670) 4.1 (0.875) 0.2 5.5*
3 Facilitation of trail 4.2 (0.859) 4.4 (0.803) 0.2 6.0*
4 Information 3.4 (1.004) 3.4 (1.082) 0.0 0.7ns
ns =not significant.
*p<0.05.
182 INGEBORG NORDBØ AND NINA K. PREBENSEN
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seem to have increased in importance for tourists. This is in line with pre-
vious research highlighting the mental aspects of nature-based experiences
(Bowler et al., 2010;Tiyce, 2008).
The present study reveals several interesting and useful managerial
insights and implications for nature-based tourist destinations and for tour-
ist firms offering hiking tours. Subsequently, the paper contributes to man-
agement by integrating theory and empirical data to investigate the
potential tourist evaluationimportance gap.
Altogether, the study results show that hiking tours in Norway perform
rather well on factors such as physical benefits, mental benefits, facilitation
of trail and slightly lower on information. Even though tourists claim infor-
mation to be of less importance, the tourists evaluate the experience in a
similar fashion, indicating that information given is compatible with the
importance given to the information. Physical benefits are of higher impor-
tance than information and are also perceived to provide benefits in line
with the importance given. Facilitation of trail is perceived to be of rela-
tively high importance and the actual experience is rated higher than
importance. This indicates that the trails are evaluated as higher than the
importance given. Mental benefits is rated to be of most importance among
the attributes. The tourists evaluate mental benefits to be somewhat lower
than importance given. Subsequently, the research focus should be on what
is improving mental benefits among the hikers.
The present study offers new knowledge in terms of hiking experiences
in Norway. Even though it is a representative survey, it is performed in a
region in the south-east of Norway. As such, generalization should primar-
ily be about hikers in that area. However, as the respondents vary in terms
of background variables and demography, the findings may have relevance
for nature-based tourists in general. Additionally, nature-based tourism is
increasing worldwide (Statistics Norway, 2015;WTTC, 2015). It can be
speculated that similar results would be found in other countries, especially
those countries similar to Norway. Comparative studies of consumers’ per-
ceptions of importance and evaluation in other countries should be carried
out to further extend our knowledge in this area.
NOTE
1. Other studies of hikers tend to show a higher percentage of males
(e.g. Hardiman & Burgin, 2011), while the tendency for hikers to be highly edu-
cated, and a higher share of well-educated individuals is documented in a number
of other studies as well (Pedersen, 1995; Wall-Reinius & Ba
¨ck, 2011).
183Hiking as Mental and Physical Experience
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Af Kirsti Pedersen, Dansk Idrætshistorisk Forening - Krop og Kultur, Syddansk Universitetsforlag, 1995
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For all I know I might be dreaming right now. Or perhaps there is an evil Demon deploying all his powers to deceive me. Maybe, even, I am a brain in a vat. On the other hand, maybe things are just the way they seem to me. Some philosophers are inclined to say that these considerations put me in an epistemological quandary; I just do not know whether any of my beliefs about the external world are true, indeed, whether there is an external world at all. Through these sorts of arguments, Descartes is reputed to have left to the modern student of philosophy a legacy. It is not, however, (just) the specter of skepticism that we have inherited (nor, of course, did we inherit Descartes’ substance dualism). Rather, it is the idea that, in the various scenarios sketched above, I might be having all the same thoughts, regardless of whether they are true or radically mistaken. This has been taken by some to suggest that my cognitive life is distinctively private and insulated from the rest of the world; the suggestion is that our cogitations are internal affairs, to be individuated independently of our environments.1 We may call this Cartesian legacy internalism (or, for some purposes and in some contexts, individualism).