Publication Date

Summer 2018

Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

Dr. Leslie North (Director), Dr. Jason Polk, Dr. Edward Huijbens, Dr. Jun Yan

Degree Program

Department of Geography and Geology

Degree Type

Master of Science


Since the late 20th century, nature-based tourism, an alternative to mass tourism with a focus on natural environments, has steadily grown in popularity. Nature-based tourism areas are considered a platform for informal education and exemplify principles of environmental stewardship and conservation. Iceland, an island nation in the North Atlantic, is one area of the world that has seen dramatic growth in its nature-based tourism industry in recent years; tourists are drawn to Iceland in numbers five times the total population of the Country. The pressures of economic development have resulted in the continued promotion of Icelandic tourism, and, subsequently, the rapid, sometimes detrimental, development of tourist destinations. This study used a triangulated mixed methods approach including post-visitation assessments, mobile eye-tracking (MET), GPS footpath collection, and observational analysis to assess visitor experience and behavior in two popular Icelandic tourist destinations: Sólheimajökull and Þingvellir. Through the use of MET, a greater understanding of visitor behavior was developed in these areas. Results suggest that the infrastructure development which has occurred at Þingvellir is effective at managing tourist behavior; however, the less developed and more authentic environment of Sólheimajökull appeals more to visitor expectations of Icelandic tourism. Observing the strengths and weaknesses of the study sites revealed ways to guide the future development of the sites in ways that promote both education and conservation. Furthermore, the critical evaluation of the original methodology developed for this study also presents a technique by which the development of other nature-based tourism destinations can be assessed.


Communication Technology and New Media | Environmental Education | Environmental Health and Protection | Geography | Tourism