Encouraging sustainability beyond the tourist experience: ecotourism, interpretation and values

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Publication details

Walker, K & Moscardo, G 2014, 'Encouraging sustainability beyond the tourist experience: ecotourism, interpretation and values', Journal of Sustainable Tourism, vol. 22, no. 8, pp. 1175-1196.

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The relationship between tourism and sustainability is complex, with considerable attention paid to ecotourism's potential to positively contribute to sustainability. One way forward could be through using tourist experiences, especially those focusing on interpretation, to activate or change sustainability relevant values, beliefs, attitudes and actions both at places visited and elsewhere. This paper reports on research conducted with passengers on expedition cruises that explored links between aspects of the overall experience including the interpretation provided, tourist perceptions of the benefits of these experiences and their awareness of sustainability values linked. An adapted mean-ends analysis technique was used and found a consistent pattern of relationships between features of interpretive experience, activation of values and intentions to adopt responsible behaviours beyond the cruise. Responses highlighted the importance of staff expertise and dedication, the ability of interpretive staff to provide security, to assist people to make personal connections and to elicit participant trust. A Value Model of Interpretation (VMI) was developed, integrating theories of effective interpretive practice and connecting interpretation to the activation of sustainability values. The VMI offers new areas for guides to consider, shifting the focus from the transmission of information and towards the facilitation of mindfulness and reflective engagement.

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