Social carrying capacity and emotion dynamics in urban national parks during the COVID-19 pandemic

Xiao Xiao, Jie Gao, Junyu Lu, Peizhe Li, Yuling Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the mobility, accessibility, and behaviors of visitors dramatically. Under the impact of COVID-19, the social carrying capacity and emotion dynamics in parks and recreation areas are expected to change due to the uncertainty of health risks associated with visitors’ behaviors. This study conducted an on-site visitor survey at Leiqiong Global Geological Park, a national park located in urban-proximate areas in Haikou, China. This study aims to examine factors impacting visitors’ perceived crowding and emotions under varying levels of visitor use in urban national parks in the context of COVID-19. Study results suggest that visitors have the highest level of motivation for scenery and culture viewing and are generally satisfied with the environmental quality and design and COVID-19 prevention strategies and implementation efforts within the park. Moreover, this study suggests that the level of crowding and COVID-19 prevention strategies and implementation can affect visitors’ emotions in urban natioanl parks significantly. These findings highlight the importance of enforcing the social carrying capacity limits and COVID-19 prevention strategies for urban parks and protected areas to mitigate physical and mental health risks during the COVID-19 pandemic. Management implication: This study is one of the pilot studies that examines the social carrying capacity and emotion dynamics in urban national parks under the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Study results identify the thresholds of social carrying capacity and visitors’ positive emotions based on the indicator of People Per View (PPV). Moreover, COVID-19 prevention strategies (e.g., mask-wearing and social distancing) can reduce visitors’ perceived crowding and enhance positive emotions. These findings suggest that urban national parks should monitor visitor use levels based on the social carrying capacity framework to reduce visitors’ perceived crowding and maintain positive emotions in the post-COVID-19 era.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number100451
JournalJournal of Outdoor Recreation and Tourism
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2021

Keywords

  • COVID-19
  • Crowding
  • Emotion
  • Natural landscape
  • Prevention strategies
  • Social carrying capacity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Tourism, Leisure and Hospitality Management

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