The sample for this study was drawn from January 2001 to December 2001 mailings to non-resident overnight leisure travelers that had visited destinations/counties in Florida. The total sample (aged 18 or older) was 771 for a 66.5% response rate. Attitudinal and knowledge items were adapted from Jacobson, Monroe & Marynowski's (2001) study that sampled Florida residents. Reactionary behavioral change in travel behaviors was conceptualized in a 14-item Likert scale format.
The results of this study are based on a representative sample of Florida tourists to the sampled counties (n=26), with demographic characteristics fairly proportional across age, number of people in household, income, origin, race and marital status categories. About 90% were on return trips for a mean 5 trips to Florida. Florida tourists varied in their thoughts about the role of fire in Florida's landscape. There does seem to be a substantial number (about half) who do not seem to understand the role of fire in Florida's natural environment, and efforts to reduce this unawareness or misunderstanding could raise the tolerance and understanding of some visitors to be more accepting of controlled burns. There was general acceptance of the possibility and acceptability of wildfires that are not close to a destination they are traveling to, so emphasizing the distance away from wildfires, might be a good strategy to reduce cancellations or destination substitution. The negative impact of burned over areas from past fires, seems minimal and with Florida's long growing season and heavy vegetation in many natural areas, the visibility of burn scars would be limited in time. Perhaps the most unexpected finding is that so many people responded negatively to a controlled burn. Perhaps better education of tourists to the ecological benefits and reduction in fuel load issues leading to a safer situation in the long term might reduce negative reactions and attitudes.