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The Vredefort Dome World Heritage Site: Client satisfaction with commercial whitewater rafting
Given the substantial growth of whitewater rafting in the Vredefort Dome World Heritage Site (VDWHS), it quickly grew into an unregulated adventure tourism commodity. With the area being a World Heritage Site, concerns have arisen about the impact it could have on the environment, service quality and public safety. As a result, official regulation is certain to take over. In an attempt to demonstrate this industry’s significance in terms of its economic, recreation and leisure-related value, this study set out to determine levels of client satisfaction with aspects concerning the operator’s choice of pre-trip, transport and catering arrangements, sensitivity towards toilet and trash issues, interest in the preservation of the river’s atmosphere, sharing information about the VDWHS and the standard of guiding and equipment used. Additionally, it was determined how important they rated this activity (whitewater rafting) as a reason for their visit to this area. Three hundred and seventy-seven (n=377) questionnaires were completed by the whitewater rafting clients (142 female and 233 male). Results indicated that between 70 and 90 percent of the clients indicated they were either very satisfied or extremely satisfied with all the applicable details. Of the 252 correct cases, 218 of the respondents had whitewater rafting as a reason for visiting this area, of which 60.6 percent rated it as most important. While the operators’ professionalism and overall standard of guiding was highest in terms of satisfaction, it is recommended that more emphasis be placed on the preservation of the river’s atmosphere as well as the utilization of the natural surroundings in terms of information and interpretation. It is concluded that only through a collaborative effort between the operators themselves and industry associations can this industry be protected, managed and used to its full potential.