Transformative travel as a sustainable market niche for protected areas: a new development, marketing and conservation model

Isabelle D. Wolf*, Gillian B. Ainsworth, Jane Crowley

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    72 Citations (Scopus)


    Many protected areas worldwide are mandated to provide visitor enjoyment and sustainable heritage conservation but face growing challenges and competition. To satisfy modern aspirational markets, parks must design meaningful experiences delivering long-lasting participant benefits that cultivate visitation rates and a conservation constituency. Transformative travel can deliver such benefits through participants’ psycho-physiological transformation but market insights critical for experience development in parks are lacking. Our systematic quantitative review of 126 transformative travel articles provides those insights, linking experiential characteristics, participant traits and motivations to experience outcomes according to five transformative travel typologies pertinent to parks: health and wellness, nature-based physical activity, spiritual, cultural and volunteering travel. We identified 35 travel motivations, 14 participant traits and 23 experience characteristics linked to transformation and 28 purposefully or incidentally realised benefits. Transformative travel improved participants’ psychological, physiological, social, economic and environmental conditions, as well as satisfaction with and destination loyalty towards parks. Socio-demographic characteristics and propensity for independent versus social travel shaped choice of travel experience. Our results are uniquely conceptualised in a transformative travel framework and transformative market niche model which we apply to sustainable experience development and marketing in parks. We identify implementation possibilities and areas for future research and monitoring.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1650-1673
    Number of pages24
    JournalJournal of Sustainable Tourism
    Issue number11
    Publication statusPublished - 2 Nov 2017


    • benefit
    • market
    • nature
    • park
    • transformation
    • visitor experience


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