Date of Award
Open Access Dissertation
School of Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Management
Wellness tourism as a subsector is differentiated in terms of the pursuit and enhancement of wellbeing. Wellness itself is defined as holistic wellbeing and optimal psychological states. Enhanced wellbeing is cited as the motivation and outcome of travel and in terms of dedicated infrastructure, services, and amenities at destinations. Yet enhanced wellbeing following a wellness vacation is typically assumed rather than assessed. While tourism studies have focused on wellbeing as the outcome of leisure travel, a theoretical framework that might be adapted to assess wellbeing following a stay at a wellness facility was not apparent. The majority of tourism studies used quality-of-life indicators with broad categories such as work, family, or leisure satisfaction to measure aggregate changes pre and post vacation. Elements or conditions of the vacations themselves were not typically considered. This dissertation considered wellbeing as the outcome of a stay at a wellness facility based on Self-Determination Theory (SDT). Applied SDT studies have demonstrated direct precursors to psychological wellbeing as well as a link between wellbeing and program design in the context of health behavior change and educational settings. Applicability of SDT in the context of a wellness facility was determined through site visits, interviews with management staff, and two focus group sessions. Wellbeing was then measured in pre and post wellness vacation survey studies. Two structural vi equation models were also estimated based on SDT constructs namely: autonomy support, mindfulness, autonomous self-regulation, competence and relatedness. Models were tested separately for focal points of the program, namely diet and exercise. Study results suggest that a wellness facility significantly impacts wellbeing, especially enhanced vitality and positive affect. Precursors to enhanced psychological wellbeing in the context of the wellness facility were all significant. Although autonomy support did not appear to have a bearing on autonomous self-regulation as proposed in theory, it did have a direct impact on wellbeing. Autonomous self-regulation and competence demonstrated a strong association, consistent with prior studies. Mindfulness had a strong impact on competence with respect to diet and on autonomous self-regulation with respect to exercise. Practical and managerial implications were also considered.
Thal, K. I.(2015). Self-Determination Theory and Wellness Tourism: How Do Wellness Facilities Contribute to Wellbeing?. (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from http://scholarcommons.sc.edu/etd/3133