Inside the Mind of the Local Ecotourist: Do Environmental Attitudes and Actions Align?
Ecotourism is responsible travel that is designed to manage and mitigate tourists’ impact on the environment and to promote the sustainability of natural resources. Previous research focused on ecotourism has been carried out from theories that have helped show intentions towards ecotourism behavior but failed to address spatial cognitive perceptions. The aim of this study was to examine tourists’ perceptions of ecotourism. This was done from the perspective of Gestalt philosophy. Survey research was carried out among visitors of the Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge Site (n = 79) and with Cypress Valley Canopy Tours (n= 69) in Texas, followed by subsequent focus group interviews in subsamples. The results revealed that visitors used various criteria to identify ecotourism involvement activities, with habitat conservation most often confirmed at both sites. Nature-based was the most commonly identified component of ecotourism. However, visitors rarely had a full understanding of the concept of ecotourism and also often did not identify as ecotourists. The spatial cognitions could not explain who had identified themselves as an ecotourist beforehand, but more positive experiences did seem to contribute to identification as ecotourist after the visit. The COVID-19 pandemic had made the visitors more appreciative of nature and its therapeutic effects. Using the Gestalt perspective through Brunswick’s Lens model, further interpretations and possible implications were focused on improving the theoretical framework in future studies and using the findings to further motivate people to participate in ecotourism. It was concluded that spatial awareness is important to stimulate feelings of ecotourism in visitors of ecosites and to encourage them into showing more sustainable behavior.
Ecotourism, Ecotourist, Central Texas, COVID-19, Geography, Tourism
Turk, Y. H. (2022). <i>Inside the mind of the local ecotourist: Do environmental attitudes and actions align?</i> (Unpublished dissertation). Texas State University, San Marcos, Texas.