The view, brew & loo: perceptions of botanic gardens?

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Purpose: This is an exploratory and qualitative study to consider approaches to capture, analyse and monitor perceptions from big data, to inform and contribute to place management research and practice of botanic gardens (BGs). This paper aims to address the ongoing significant threat to BGs due to funding being cut and the need to inform and develop sustainable revenue streams for their survival. Design/methodology/approach: Guiding research questions for this study were: ‘What are the perceived strengths and areas for development for 2 BGs via a Leximancer Automatic Content Analysis (ACA) of TripAdvisor online reviews; and do they match BGs purpose of scientific research, conservation, display and education?’ A content analysis of 582 online reviews from 2007 to 2017 follows qualitative methodology techniques using a combination of manual and automatic text analysis (Leximancer text mining software). These approaches enabled a comparison of online TripAdvisor reviews with Likert-type or rating scale items of 1 to 5 stars. Findings: Insights revealed the use of Leximancer and TripAdvisor (or similar innovations) as tools for potential place management, place marketing communications and monitoring purposes. Predominant perceptions extracted from reviews are not concerned with documented collections of living plants for the purposes of scientific discovery, conservation, display and education. Reviews clearly focus more upon aesthetics, facilities and services, which support previous studies. Overall, reviews highlighted positive sentiments towards the BGs. Research limitations/implications: Limitations link to limited data across two BGs, synthesis and meaning of complex perceptions, matters of subjectivity and time needed to interpret information. Implications enable insights into BG “place” gleaned from big data in the form of user-generated content and electronic Word-Of-Mouth using Leximancer; viewed as a measure alongside management action plans. Future studies could strengthen debate and action regarding the use of Leximancer, and also public perception of BGs’ core functions, importance and value. The research supports potential to monitor and transform perceptions, values and beliefs. Outcomes could eventually inform policy and generate a much-needed shift in funds and resources for BGs by highlighting their relevance and value to society. Originality/value: An empirical and methodological contribution via peer reviewed studies of visitor perceptions via online reviews of Britain’s BGs “place” and “space” analysed with Leximancer have never been published. This study critically explores potential visitor and place management needs of BGs. Managers can make better use of big data from social media platforms/digital channels, using a novel type of data analytical software like Leximancer for strategic planning; with more informed approaches to place management, innovation and development. A key contribution of this study is this ACA methodological approach for place management.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)20-38
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Place Management and Development
Issue number1
Early online date29 Oct 2018
Publication statusPublished - 4 Mar 2019


  • Botanic Gardens (BGs)
  • Leximancer
  • Online reviews
  • Perceptions
  • Place management
  • Sustainability
  • Botanic gardens (BGs)


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