Applying Visitor Survey Results to Decision Making in Public Gardens

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University of Delaware
There is a knowledge gap between the theoretical value of visitor surveys and the reality of applying survey results to decision making in public gardens. This gap could be narrowed if there were available an increased number of relevant examples of survey result applications. Garden leaders could study these applications before they attempted their own surveys, thereby making themselves more prepared to apply their results to decision making. This thesis presents the following four new cases for their reference: The Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, The Chicago Botanic Garden, The U.S. National Arboretum, and Goodstay Gardens. These cases should also help undecided leaders better understand if a visitor survey would be an appropriate undertaking for their gardens. Except for the Chicago Botanic Garden, each case was a question-by-question investigation of the results of their survey, focusing on how the survey results were applied to decision making. The Chicago Botanic Garden case is an investigation of the data analysis that was done on all twelve surveys conducted at that garden fiom 1979 to 1995, and how that analysis was applied to decision making. The decisions affected by the survey results have been categorized into three areas: marketing, programming, and facilities management. For these four cases, marketing decisions were well informed by audience research. Programming decisions were also informed, but more care seemed necessary in question design and interpretation of the results. Minor decisions about facilities management were informed; the expertise of garden staff and contracted designers seemed to make this type of survey result superfluous to decision making. Due to the unique circumstance surrounding each decision, generalizations were not made about what types of decisions are best informed by survey results. However, four general factors affecting a garden’s preparedness to apply survey results to decision making are identified and discussed. They are: 1. Know what information is desired fiom the survey. 2. Design the appropriate instrument to get that information. 3. Become familiar with how to apply the results to decision making. 4. Provide the financial and human resources to carry through the applications. Advisor: James Swasey, John Nye, Conrado Gempesaw
Facilities management, Promotion, Visitor services, Demographics, Marketing