Transformational tourism has been defined in a variety of ways, ranging from purposeful seeking of self-transformation (Ross, 2010), to incidental experiences of personal growth (Lean, 2012). Considered highly personal, transformation through tourism is dependent on a multitude of variables that may contribute to personal change (Reisinger, 2013a) and positively impact attitudes and values (Christie and
Mason, 2003). The existing research on transformational tourism uses samples of tourists who identify as having been transformed by travel in multiple contexts (Lean,
2012; Kirillova et al., 2017ab; Robledo and Batle, 2017). This is significant as whilst many studies have explored transformation through travelling, few have explored
specific aspects that result in a transformational experience (Ross, 2010), warranting exploration of how practitioners can facilitate these experiences (Robledo and Batle, 2017).
This research uses a case study approach to explore how transformational experiences can be guided by an adventure tourism provider in the UK. This study therefore answers Lean’s (2009) call for research into transformational tourism that minimises the philosophical context by exploring it at an operator level. Specifically, this PhD considers how adventure experiences may instigate wellbeing transformations and pro-environmental transformations through connecting with nature. This lessens the elusiveness of transformational tourism by narrowing the focus (Sampaio et al., 2014). A constructivist philosophy and multiphase and mixed methods design was implemented, capturing the views of tourists, provider, and researcher through prospective, active, and reflective stages. The research used interviews with management, autoethnography, tourist questionnaires, narrative cartography, netnographic analysis, and follow-up interviews with tourists. This research design offers a more holistic perspective on transformational tourism than previous single method studies.This study contributes to knowledge by suggesting that more research should be undertaken to reveal the important role tourism providers play as co-creators of transformational adventure tourism experiences. The adventure guides were found to be integral in translating a tourist’s negative emotions such as fear, to positive eudaimonic outcomes such as personal growth. The research revealed nature as a co-creator of the transformational experience, with kayaking and coasteering allowing physical and emotional closeness to the natural environment. These activities facilitated new perspectives on nature and encouraged connection through small moments alongside traditional adrenalin-based adventure. The findings uncovered the role of family members as co-creators, demonstrating the profound experience of witnessing a loved one’s transformation. Coasteering provided a sense of authentic adventure to tourists of varied ages and abilities, demonstrating how transformation is possible within a half-day activity. For some tourists, meaningful experiences created appreciation for nature, whilst for others guilt and fear were prominent motivators for pro-environmental behaviours. These findings suggest the need for a transformation of motivations for pro-environmental behaviour, encouraging connection to nature felt during adventure to transcend the experience and positively impact pro-environmental behaviours. An outcome of this study is a new conceptual model ‘Multi-Transformational Adventure Tourism Experiences’. This framework highlights the characteristics, co-creators, transformational triggers, and outcomes of adventure tourism experiences. The research provides practical and theoretical recommendations around the
transformational potential of adventure tourism experiences through encounters and connection with nature.