Science Tourism is an emerging form of nature-based and special interest tourism. It can be defined as a tourist motivation and leisure experience where science, scientific knowledge, and/or engagement in scientific research are integral parts of visitors’ experiences (Rakikonen et al., 2019).
The term “scientific tourism” can have many different interpretations for both ordinary people and professionals in the tourism industry. It could refer to hiking groups of scientists or exploring science sites, but also other professionals from other fields, laboratories, or self-paid astronauts on Earth’s orbit.
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However, it is essential to distinguish between different kinds of science tourism and recognize its distinct potential for tourist motivation. The current study empirically investigates this distinction using a theoretical framework.
This study differs from traditional education-oriented tourist motivation studies by emphasizing the experiential aspects of scientific knowledge and research, emphasizing how scientists can be active mediators and enablers of nature-based tourism experiences. We apply our framework to five potential nature-based science tourism products on Seili Island in Finland and empirically analyze tourist motivation based on product intensity of scientific content as well as tourists’ engagement in research activities.
Results indicate that tourists’ motivation for nature-based science tourism experiences varies depending on the research and type of products offered. The primary driver was learning, though enjoyment and escape or relaxation were highly valued too. Furthermore, there were strong connections between different types of nature-based science tourism products and their intensity of scientific content, as well as tourists’ engagement levels within them.
This study provides practical recommendations for creating nature-based science tourism experiences that take into account tourists’ diverse motivations. Ultimately, nature-based science tourism must adopt sustainable ecotourism practices and foster biodiversity conservation through effective interpretation and education.