A cognitive hierarchy approach to understanding fee increases in the national parks of the United States

Zachary D. Miller, Jacob Jorgenson, Norma P. Nickerson, Nicholas A. Pitas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The National Park Service recently announced fee increases at many sites across the USA. Fee increases are likely a part of the future for public lands and will be a lingering issue for public land agencies. The purpose of this study is to explore the relationship of national park value orientations, attitudes towards fee increase, and intentions to visit national parks. This includes an analysis of value orientations, attitudes, and behavioral intentions within the theoretical framework of the cognitive hierarchy. An exploratory panel of travelers was used to sample national park visitors. Results indicate that there were significant differences among value orientation regarding attitudes towards fee increases. Furthermore, results indicated that attitudes towards fee increases predict intentions to visit national parks. Future research should expand this line of research to include additional regions and varying travelers across the U.S. Management implications: This study provides findings for park and conservation area management, including: • Managers should be aware of value orientations when communication with the public about fee increases.• “Eco-centric” messages may be more effective for promoting positive attitudes about fee increases for visitors.• The analysis suggests there is also a small, but real, potential for visitors to not visit US national parks if they perceive fee increases as negative. However, park demand is rather inelastic, and fee increases should not be thought of as a visitor use management tool.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)18-25
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Outdoor Recreation and Tourism
StatePublished - Jun 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Communication
  • Fees
  • Parks
  • Value orientations
  • Values

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Tourism, Leisure and Hospitality Management


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