Project Description


The Maine and New Hampshire Beachgoer Survey explored the behavior of visitors to Maine and New Hampshire beaches. The study examined user visitation patterns, user preferences for beaches and coastal areas, perceptions of ocean water quality, and how users acquired beach safety information. Data gathered from this study can help inform the public about how to manage these vital coastal resources.

Project Description

Beaches and coastal tourism are important economic assets to coastal communities across the United States. Nationally, coastal tourism and recreation account for $101 billion of the GDP, and 2.1 million people are employed in jobs associated with coastal tourism and recreation. In Maine, coastal tourism and recreation contribute $1.2 billion to the state GDP and employ over 30,000 people, while across New Hampshire’s much shorter ocean coastline, coastal tourism contributes $283.2 million to the state GDP, and employs over 7,000 people. Understanding beachgoers' and coastal visitors' behavior and perceptions is an important component to managing coastal resources to ensure that they remain safe, healthy, and economically productive.

In this study, we examined the behavior of Maine and New Hampshire beachgoers by administering the Maine and New Hampshire Beachgoer Survey in the fall of 2014. This detailed survey served as a follow-up data collection from beachgoers who participated in a prior onsite beach-intercept survey conducted by NEST colleague Charlie Colgan, who surveyed users over the summer of 2014 at beaches in the Saco Bay area, Wells-Ogunquit, and the New Hampshire Seacoast. We designed this follow-up survey to: (1) collect detailed information from beachgoers that would fill key gaps identified by regional stakeholders and (2) support research on a range of human behaviors and attitudes related to beach use and beach safety. We were particularly interested in systematically assessing beachgoer visitation patterns and perceptions of water quality. We wrote and implemented this survey following scientific survey-design principles and followed IRB (Institutional Review Board) approved procedures to maintain the confidentiality of responses. The survey instrument included open-ended and categorical question formats. It collected information on general visitation patterns to coastal areas and beaches; beachgoers' opinions and attitudes about coastal water quality, coastal management, and beach safety; detailed information on beach visits to Maine or New Hampshire, and respondent demographic and household characteristics.

We contacted 1,259 potential respondents via email, a subset of Charlie Colgan’s sample, and asked them to complete our web-based survey. Our final sample includes responses from 437 respondents, 366 of which completed the entire survey.