Recreation: Social Aspects of Fire
Major Research Initiatives
Impacts of wildfire events on tourism in Florida
Wildfires can pose a serious threat to tourism, a main economic
engine in virtually all states. A representative sample of 771
tourists (66% response rate) to Florida counties that had a recent
wildfire and received fire suppression funds completed a mailback
survey that assessed their perceptions of risk, attitudes and
knowledge towards wildfire, and behavioral changes due to them.
In general, wildfires have had a minimal impact on past Florida
trips and most feel there is little risk for future trips. Although
61 percent agreed that wildfires were a factor in evaluating travel
destinations, 70 percent also reported that they would not let
wildfires keep them from traveling to their final destination in
Florida. Florida tourists varied in their knowledge about and
understanding of the role of fire in Florida's landscape.
Two-thirds of the tourists knew what a prescribed fire is,
but only 25 percent thought the natural areas in Florida should
be burned periodically. Other questions revealed that three
situations would result in substantial alterations
(cancel or change destinations) to their trip by about
half of the tourists. These were the presence of high fire
danger conditions; reported health problems from smoke and ash,
and the spread of fire to a nearby vacation region.
The report further discusses the implications of these and
other findings for land management decisions, tourism promotion
and communications in general, e.g., providing information about
prescribed burning or fire locations may mitigate the impact of
wildfires on the tourism sector.
This study was supported by National Fire Plan research funds.
Publications and Products related to this subject:
Thapa, B.; Holland, S.M. 2002. Wildfires and tourist behaviors in Florida.
Unpublished report. Gainesville, FL: Center for Tourism Research and Development,
Department of Recreation, Parks and Tourism, University of Florida. 49 p.
Thapa, B.; Holland, S.; Absher, J. 2003. Wildfires and tourist behaviors
in Florida. Unpublished report. Riverside, CA: Pacific Southwest Research Station,
Forest Service, U. S. Department of Agriculture. 71 p.
Research conducted by: