Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Renewable Natural Resources

Document Type



Tourism industry is one of the main drivers of the global economy and plays a key role in regional development. As negative environmental and socio-cultural impacts of mass tourism became apparent, the appeal of alternative forms of tourism, especially ecotourism, continued to gain a broad recognition. As a result, ecotourism became one of the fastest growing sectors in global tourism during the past decade. Being a fast-developing country with ample natural resources, Sri Lanka can benefit from adopting and promoting ecotourism. At present, Sri Lanka’s ecotourism resources remain largely under-utilized. With rising demand, ecotourism operators are under pressure to meet expectations of diverse consumers of their products. In this background, the need to define and distinguish ecotourists from other types of tourists has become important. The importance of using a behavioral approach to distinguish true ecotourists from other types of tourists is widely emphasized by tourism scholars. This study developed distinct motivational and behavioral profiles of visitors to forest-based attractions in Sri Lanka. Furthermore, understanding and predicting ecotourist behavior is important for ecotourism operators to better cater their target markets. Many authors have attempted to explain the recreational behavior through various behavioral theories. Based on Ajzen's (1991) Theory of Planned Behavior, this study proposed an ecotourism behavioral model of forest-based recreational areas in Sri Lanka, and incorporated knowledge and satisfaction in predicting ecotourism behavior. The role of previous visits in predicting future behavioral intentions in an ecotourism setting was modeled separately. The results identified four different types of tourists based on their behavioral and motivational characteristics i.e. ecotourists, picnickers, egoistic tourists, and adventure tourists. A typical ecotourist in Sri Lanka represents a relatively young recent high-school or university graduate, or a university student. The segment identified as “egoistic tourists” seems to be the most lucrative market segment to target from both environmental sustainability and business perspectives. The proposed ecotourism model suggests that knowledge and satisfaction are important determinants of ecotourism behavior. In addition, previous experiences of participating in ecotourism proved to be an important precursor of future behavioral intentions. Broad implications of visitor profiling and behavior modeling are also discussed.



Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

Vlosky, Richard P.