International Handbook on Ecotourism
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International Handbook on Ecotourism

Edited by Roy Ballantyne and Jan Packer

This Handbook brings together contributions from over forty international experts in the field of ecotourism. It provides a critical review and discussion of current issues and concepts – it challenges readers to consider the boundaries of what ecotourism is, and could be. The Handbook provides practical information regarding the business of ecotourism; insights into ecotourist behaviour and visitor experiences; and reflections on the practice of ecotourism in a range of different contexts.
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Chapter 14: Encouraging reflective visitor experiences in ecotourism

Jan Packer and Roy Ballantyne


Reflection has long been recognized as an important, perhaps even necessary component of experiential learning, or learning from doing. It is an integral part of Kolb’s (1984) experiential learning cycle, Revans’ (1980, 1982, 1998) process of action learning and Schon’s (1983, 1987) reflective practitioner. Recent research has revealed that it is also an important component of learning in tourism and leisure contexts (Ballantyne, Packer & Falk, 2011; Ballantyne, Packer & Sutherland, 2011). The concept of mindfulness (Langer, 1989, 1997; Moscardo, 2009) has also often been used in these contexts, highlighting the need for visitors to consciously maintain awareness and control over their thoughts and behaviour. This chapter argues that visitor mindfulness is a necessary but not sufficient precondition for the kind of learning that changes lives – the kind of learning that ecotourism aims to encourage. It suggests that in order to facilitate meaningful and lasting changes in visitors’ environmental behaviours, ecotourism operators need to encourage visitors to intentionally reflect on their experience and its meaning for their lives, and to make concrete and achievable plans for changes they will make in response to their experience. Ideally, they should also find ways to follow up with their visitors, to hold them accountable to their own commitments. This chapter suggests ways in which this might be achieved.

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