Tourism and transitions toward sustainability: Developing tourists’ pro-sustainability agency

Aisling Force, David Manuel-Navarrete, Karina Benessaiah

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Leveraging human agency for sustainability transitions may benefit from interventions at the subjective level. This paper explores nature-based tourism as an example of a social process through which pro-sustainability agency could be promoted in tourists. We examine the potential of nature-based tourism to advance sustainability through a model linking tourism experience, personal change and pro-sustainability agency. Our conceptual model is explored through an empirical study of tourists surveyed before and after one-day whitewater rafting tours on Costa Rica’s Pacuare River. Results suggest that tourists’ past experiences, motivation, predispositions to change and fit with personal development processes are leveraging factors for the design of nature-based experiences that promote pro-sustainability agency. These findings have significant implications for the design of tourism, including ways to extend tourists’ experiences, increase collaboration among tourism operations and enhance the guides’ role in tour impact. This research highlights tourism sustainability as a necessary complement to sustainable tourism, and the opportunity of tourism actors to design activities that encourage pro-sustainability agency.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)431-445
Number of pages15
JournalSustainability Science
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2018


  • Change agent
  • Ecotourism
  • Personal change
  • Sustainability transitions
  • Tourism sustainability
  • Whitewater rafting

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Health(social science)
  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Ecology
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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