It is no surprise that ecotourism experiences such as those described above can evoke strong emotional reactions (Ballantyne, Packer & Sutherland, 2011). In particular, wildlife tourism experiences in which visitors encounter non-domesticated animals in their natural environment often elicit a range of positive emotions such as “pleasure,” “amazement” and “fascination” (Schänzel & McIntosh, 2000). Conversely, some visitors also report negative emotions associated with these experiences such as “sadness to know that some animal species have to be looked after” (Schänzel & McIntosh, 2000,p. 45) or concern about visitors’ impacts on the animals and their habitats (Ballantyne et al., 2011). Clearly, such wildlife encounters can stimulate a complex array of emotions that may greatly affect visitors’ perceptions of, and satisfaction with, an ecotourism experience. Despite the seeming importance of visitor emotions during ecotourism experiences, little research has focused on the affective dimensions of these experiences. Until recently, most of the research regarding wildlife tourism has been conducted from a motivational perspective that addresses visitor expectations, goals and desired outcomes about the activity (Curtin, 2005). Consequently, much of our understanding about wildlife tourists is focused on visitor satisfaction rather than on the nature of the experience itself.
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