Tourism is one of the world’s largest economic sectors with challenges which cannot be ignored. It affects quality of life and has environmental consequences.


For the urgent challenges within the domain of tourism, there are no clear-cut solutions. However, by executing high-quality scientific research, helping to translate our knowledge into practice worldwide and by training professionals and students, we aim to contribute to sustainable tourism development. At Wageningen University & Research, more than 20 staff members and over 200 students are addressing these challenges by participating in undergraduate, graduate and post-graduate education on tourism and executing research projects.

Currently, research and projects on Tourism@WUR are focused on six themes, spanning across a wide range of theoretical approaches and geographical focus.

View the six themes

Nature-based tourism and ecotourism

Tourism is increasingly put forward by international, national and local nature conservation and development organizations, governments and the tourism industry as a promising mechanism to resolve societal problems related to the conservation-development nexus. As a consequence new institutional arrangements, policies and practices emerge at different levels of scale (from the local to the global) in various (developing) countries.

Wageningen University & Research (WUR) contributes to the development of these arrangements by research and consultancy. WUR has experience with projects in countries like Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Namibia, Guinea Bissau and Botswana in Africa, Indonesia, Malaysia, Nepal and Mongolia in Asia, the Caribbean, Costa Rica as well as European countries (the Netherlands, Croatia, Spain and Portugal).

Experts on nature-based tourism and ecotourism

Tourism and climate change

Our researchers mainly focus on two aspects of the climate (change) and tourism research field. First of all, they translate climate data (including observations, reanalysis data, seasonal forecasts, projections) into tourism-relevant information. Secondly, researchers are involved in studies into the vulnerabilities of tourism destinations and stakeholders, their climate change adaptation options, and destinations’ resilience to (climate) change.

The oldest line of research in the category is the development and application of tailored climate indices for tourism, such as the Tourism Climate Index (TCI). Wageningen University & Research is at the forefront of the further development and testing of such indices.

More recently, WUR researchers have become involved in the development of climate services for the tourism industry, trying to address the question: what climate information is relevant/ necessary for tourism stakeholders, and in what form is this information best presented. The main target groups include urban and Arctic tourism stakeholders.

Experts on tourism and climate change

Tourist experiences

Tourism exists both to create and satisfy the desires of individuals for unique and meaningful experiences. Thus, understanding the nature of the tourist experience is crucial for understanding tourism.

At Wageningen University & Research, tourism experiences are investigated from a psychological and phenomenological perspective, with a key focus on experiences involving sound and wildlife experiences. In terms of the former, WUR researchers have focused on the embodied and affective nature of experiences involving music. In terms of the latter, the importance and efficacy of interpretation during guided activities, such as wildlife viewing tours, and the role of emotions in conservation intentions, has been explored.

Accessible tourism & health tourism

The increasing physical and mental illness burden on healthcare systems, coupled with the neoliberal de-institutionalisation and privatisation of care, has led to a growing preoccupation in contemporary societies with the ways our everyday environments relate to well-being, happiness and quality of life.

With the exploration of the environment as a site for disease prevention and health promotion a priority at Wageningen University & Research, researchers working on the intersections between tourism, accessibility and health are engaged in two lines of research. The first focuses on the therapeutic role of natural environments (e.g., blue- and greenspaces like forests, water and care farms). The second attends to the impacts of significant demographic and epidemiological trends (e.g., ageing, growing proportions of chronic illness and disability affecting people’s mobility, senses and cognition) on the accessibility of tourism and travel opportunities.

Experts on accessible tourism & health tourism

Heritage tourism

Wageningen University & Research scholars use critical and post-structural approaches to examine the intersections between (in)tangible heritage, tourism and development.

Employing their expertise in the dynamics of cultural landscape, heritage, memory and conflict, the researchers look at conflicts and governance arrangements surrounding natural, agricultural, urban, migratory and personal heritage policies and practices. The focus lies specifically on heritage-from-below approaches and practices.

Experts on heritage tourism

Mass tourism

Tourism is increasingly becoming a substantial part of the world’s economy and everyday life of cities. It is to be expected that the number of tourists will only grow in the years to come.

When tourism booms, money is made, and hordes of temporary visitors flood city streets, AirBnB is colonising whole neighbourhoods, while hotel chains and project developers aim to get their share of the pie. When tourism booms, voices highlighting the side-effects of tourism are also heard. Local residents and governments start to object the numbers of tourists, the kind of tourist and the many effects of tourism on the liveability of places: increasing housing prices, perceived overcrowding, conflicts over the meaning, identity and appropriation of places.

Our research on mass tourism looks for ways to deepen the understanding of mass tourism and the possibilities and limits to coordinate, regulate, steer and control it.

Experts on mass tourism

News and research on tourism

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Transform tourism to fight climate change

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Framing the Other is a documentary made by alumni of MSc Leisure, Tourism and Environment about tourism and its complex relationships with indigenous communities. It reveals the intriguing thoughts of a Mursi woman from Southern Ethiopia and that of a Dutch tourist as they prepare themselves for meeting each other.