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Reflecting on the human dimensions of wild dolphin tourism in marine environment

Patroni, J., Newsome, D., Kerr, D., Sumanapala, D.P. and Simpson, G.D. (2019) Reflecting on the human dimensions of wild dolphin tourism in marine environment. Tourism and Hospitality Management, 25 (1). pp. 141-160.

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Purpose – Many studies report on the potential ecological impacts of wild dolphin tourism, risks to people, and economic benefits to local communities. Fewer studies report the social aspects (human dimensions) of dolphin tourism, such as visitor satisfaction and attitudes of participants. This communication postulates that human dimensions are an important consideration in any strategy to keep wild dolphin tourism operations sustainable by balancing the welfare of the dolphins and the desires and expectations of tourists to interact with these charismatic, iconic creatures.

Methodology – This communication synthesizes learning gained from a recent quantitative systematic literature review of marine wildlife tourism, a previously unreported review of wild dolphin tourism literature, and a recent study from the Dolphin Discovery Centre in Bunbury, Western Australia.

Findings – Human attitudes towards marine mammals ultimately reflect how dolphin tourism is developed and managed. It is therefore important to understand how people experience and perceive dolphin tourism. Wild dolphin tourism is of great value to local economies, tour operators, and visitors who enjoy those experiences. The potential impacts that can arise from dolphin tourism need to be understood and minimised by actions under the control of tour operators and government authorities. This is important to make the satisfaction visitors gain from such experiences worthwhile and to ensure the long-term sustainability of wild dolphin tourism experiences.

Originality of the research – Most wild dolphin tourism research has an ecological focus. This communication demonstrates that equally important social research, concerned with understanding visitor awareness, knowledge, expectations, and satisfaction, has a vital role to play in developing best practice management for wild dolphin tourism experiences.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): Environmental and Conservation Sciences
Centre for Sustainable Aquatic Ecosystems
Harry Butler Institute
Publisher: University of Rijeka, Faculty of Tourism and Hospitality Management
United Nations SDGs: Goal 14: Life Below Water
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