our origin

The need for sustainable practices by the tourism industry and destinations are vital to secure resources for future generations. The Tourism, Environment and Sustainability Group is working to address such societal challenges within the prism of sustainability in multiple destinations in Central and Latin America, Asia, and the South Pacific regions.

The team consists of Drs. Angélica Almeyda Zambrano, Andrei Kirilenko, Jin-Won Kim, Heather Gibson, and Brijesh Thapa.


What we do

  • The need for sustainable practices by the tourism industry and destinations are vital to secure resources for future generations.

  • Address such societal challenges within the prism of sustainability in multiple destinations in Central and Latin America, Asia, and the South Pacific regions.

  • Contribute to research and education on sustainable tourism and hospitality management in tourism developing regions through development of academic partnerships.

Featured ACADEMIC Articles


Tourists’ willingness to accept/pay increased entry fees for park improvement projects

Thapa, B., & Parent, G. (2018). Current Issues in Tourism.

Based on contingent valuation methods, this study examined visitors’ level of willingness to accept as well as pay an increase in the daily entry fee to be used for proposed improvements at Kafue National Park in Zambia. Data collection was conducted via visitor intercepts at international airports, recreation sites, and accommodations.

Influence of environmental knowledge on affect, nature affiliation, and pro-environmental behaviors among tourists

Kim, M., Kim, J., & Thapa, B. (2018). Sustainability, 10, 3390

Jeju Island is a popular destination in South Korea that is dependent on nature-based tourism. The annual increase in the influx of visitors has created major environmental impacts due to overuse and commercial expansion. With projected growth in arrivals and the development of tourism infrastructure, the island will experience perpetual challenges for sustainable management of natural resources. However, the role of visitors will be central via a commitment to practice pro-environmental behaviors to protect the island from further degradation. This study was grounded in the cognition-affection-attitude-behavior model to examine the predictive validity of tourists’ environmental knowledge, environmental affect, and nature affiliation on pro-environmental behavior.

Access for all? Beach access and equity in the Detroit Metropolitan Area

Jinwon Kim & Sarah Nicholls (2018) Access for all? Beach access and equity in the Detroit metropolitan area, Journal of Environmental Planning and Management, 61:7, 1137-1161

Beaches are a unique type of recreation setting, offering a variety of water- and land-based opportunities that can meet residents’ diverse and complex recreation needs. Providing and improving equitable access to recreation amenities such as beaches have been recognized as essential responsibilities of public leisure agencies. This study assessed the degree of equity inherent in the distribution of public beaches in the Detroit metropolitan area; to account for spatial effects, phenomena rarely considered in prior equity analyses, geographically weighted regression was employed. Considerable local variations in the relationships between level of access to public beaches and population density, proportion of elderly population and educational attainment were identified. Such findings can help parks and recreation agencies better understand local patterns of equity, an important first step in facilitating the formulation of more efficient and effective planning and policy approaches.

Wetland loss impact on long term flood risks in a closed watershed

Gulbin, S., Kirilenko, A., Kharel, G., & Zhang, X. (2019). Environmental Science & Policy, 94, 112-122.

Flood control is one of the most important ecosystem services provided by wetlands. Large-scale loss of wetlands, combined with more intensive precipitation under changing climate, increases flood risks, to which closed watersheds are particularly susceptible. In the Devils Lake (North Dakota, USA) watershed, a prolonged wet condition since early 1990s has caused a nearly 10 m rise in water level, resulting in over $1 billion losses. While studies have shown the changing climate is the major driver of this flooding, it is still unclear how much contribution could be due to the historical conversion of wetlands in the upper basin. We developed a Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT) model for the Devils Lake watershed and simulated various scenarios representing present and possible past and future wetland area. We estimated the changes in flood risks under the historical and CMIP-5 future climates with these wetland scenarios. We found that while currently wetland restoration does not significantly change flood risks, under the modified climate it presents a good complementary measure reducing the negative impacts of current flood management strategies.

Community reactions to tourism development: How does governmental fairness work?

Kim, M., Thapa, B., & Kim, J. (2018). Journal of Environmental Planning and Management, 61(9), 1511-1534

Based on the elements of social exchange and organizational justice theories, a conceptual model and associated hypotheses were formulated to examine the relationship among community residents and their perceptions of governmental fairness (i.e., distributive, procedural, interpersonal, and informational dimensions), social capital (i.e., cognitive and structural dimensions), and support for government and environmental development. Data were collected from 496 residents in four Korean cities: Busan, Gyeongju, Pohang, and Ulsan. Empirical testing resulted in support for multiple hypotheses. More specifically, cognitive social capital was significantly influenced by distributive, interpersonal, and informational fairness. Structural social capital was significantly affected by distributive and informational fairness. Subsequently, two dimensions of social capital positively influenced two types of support. Overall, the results suggest that the interplay of governmental fairness and social capital is important in influencing residents’ support for government and environmental development.

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