SI2015-E-4: “Monitoring visitor experience aboard expedition cruises to Sable Island National Park Reserve” – Patrick T. Maher, Ph.D.

Expedition cruise ships visit many remote regions of the world. These smaller expedition vessels carry fewer passengers and offer an increased educational program with onboard teams of environmental and cultural guides (Walker & Moscardo, 2006). Expedition cruises are interested in “finding new unspoilt, previously unvisited locations with a strong natural or cultural appeal” (Ellis & Kriwoken, 2006, p. 251), and Sable Island certainly fits the bill.

In August 2013, CBC reported that Sable Island National Park Reserve would welcome a schedule of cruise visitors in the summer of 2014 (see CBC, 2013). This exploratory research was set up to collect data from this critical baseline season with hopes that it will assist in designing and implementing appropriate management strategies in the future.

Data was collected from both Adventure Canada voyages to the island in 2014. The project used a pre-and-post survey method on board the cruises asking questions that the tourists themselves were the knowledge holders (i.e. opinions and personal thoughts). Without a permanent, general public type of population on Sable Island this data was collected to provide insights into both expectations and initial reflections of the experience from that a general public-type of perspective. Contextual input, such as landing sites, weather patterns, etc. could be gained from the tour operator or Parks Canada.

Survey responses were 81 pre and 87 post trip, with a largely Canadian bias to the group. Initial analyses indicate that a very positive experience was encountered by these visitors, but that there is certainly room to improve with regards to education and management. Analysis of the data is ongoing and final results should be available in May.