Postprint of: Schliephack, J, Moyle, B & Weiler, B 2013, 'Visitor expectations of contact with staff at a protected site', Annals of Leisure Research, vol. 16, no. 2, pp. 160-174.
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The importance of managing visitor expectations has been highlighted in natural and protected areas. However, minimal research has been completed on visitor expectations of contact with staff in national parks and protected areas. Staff can play an important role in delivering information and in interpreting significant natural and heritage attributes. This research aims to address this gap by examining visitors' expectations regarding staff contact at one protected site, Cape Byron State Conservation Area (CBSCA) in New South Wales, Australia. A mixed method approach including interviews with staff and a survey of park visitors was implemented to achieve the research aim. Results indicate that visitors have a diverse range of expectations of park staff regarding when, where, and how staff are expected to provide services and information. Peak-season visitors were more likely to want information about European heritage and the lighthouse than were off-season visitors. Visitors over 25 years of age were significantly more likely to expect information about wildlife, native plants and vegetation, the marine environment, whales and whale watching, Indigenous heritage, European heritage, and recreation opportunities within CBSCA than visitors under 25. Visitors between 36 and 45 years of age were the most likely to participate in activities involving staff. Overall, visitors were no more likely to participate in activities involving staff than in self-directed activities. Finally, some implications for the management of CBSCA and avenues for future research are proposed.