Dr Christy Hehir

Senior Lecturer in Tourism and Events
PhD in Environmental Psychology and Tourism
Please email me for an online appt


Areas of specialism

Environmental Psychology; Connectedness to Nature; Behaviour Change; Last-chance Tourism; Travel within the Polar Regions; Tourists as Ambassadors; Wildlife Tourism



Research projects


Postgraduate research supervision



CHRISTY HEHIR, CAROLINE ELIZABETH SCARLES, KAYLEIGH WYLES, Joe Kantenbacher (2022)Last chance for wildlife: making tourism count for conservation, In: Journal of sustainable tourism Routledge

Nature-based tourism offers the opportunity for tourists to see first-hand both wildlife and the conservation efforts of organisations and individuals to protect habitats and species. Whilst recent studies hint that tourism can prompt visitors to provide philanthropic support for conservation, studies to-date have focused on behavioural intentions within specific case studies rather than actual behaviour, thereby limiting generalisability and explanatory scope. Consequently, little is known if and why individuals donate more after nature-based tourism. An online questionnaire, which included both quantitative and qualitive measures, explored key predictors of what triggers tourists to engage in philanthropic behaviour. Through a collaboration with two leading UK adventure travel companies, 924 participants' travel patterns and donation histories were examined to assess the role tourism plays in prompting new donations. Findings confirm, first, that travel to last chance destinations prompts higher instances of new philanthropy compared to other international and domestic trips; second, that other key factors, including the importance of stronger identity with nature and/or first-time visitation, influence new philanthropic support. Alongside the scholarly contributions, this study provides actionable guidance on how to encourage philanthropic behaviour working with both tour-operators and non-profit organisations.

Kyle Maurice Woosnam, MANUEL ALECTOR RIBEIRO, Tara J. Denley, CHRISTY HEHIR, B. Bynum Boley (2021)Psychological Antecedents of Intentions to Participate in Last Chance Tourism: Considering Complementary Theories, In: Journal of Travel Researchpp. 1-16 SAGE Publications

Last chance tourism (LCT) has received significant attention within the academic literature and popular press due to its controversial nature of bringing travelers to threatened places. However, little theory has been applied to understand why travelers gravitate towards this controversial type of tourism. Hence, this work combines the value-belief-norm (VBN) model and theory of planned behavior (TPB) framework to explain intentions to participate in LCT. Survey data were collected from a national panel (n = 436) of U.S. travelers in 2019. A two-step modeling approach (CFA-SEM) was followed to examine psychometrics and hypothesized relationships between VBN constructs, TPB constructs and intentions to participate in LCT. Of the 11 hypotheses examined, 10 were supported, with both theories combining to explain 61% of the variance in travelers' intentions. The TPB construct of 'social norms' was the best predictor of LCT intentions, emphasizing the conspicuous nature of LCT's influence on demand.

Tara J. Denley, Kyle Maurice Woosnam, Manuel Alector Ribeiro, B. Bynum Boley, Christy Hehir, Jesse Abrams (2020)Individuals’ intentions to engage in last chance tourism: applying the value-belief-norm model, In: Journal of Sustainable Tourism28(11)pp. 1860-1881

For tourism to be entirely sustainable, one cannot travel. This is impossible. This paradox is particularly evident within last chance tourism (LCT), where tourists, seeking experiences with vanishing animals and land/seascapes, can accelerate the decline of those very attractions. Though recent studies hint that those with the highest intentions to visit LCT destinations are also some of the most concerned with climate change, no study has assessed the psychological drivers that may help explain why individuals are increasingly engaging in this paradox. Drawing on the VBN model, this research examines a theoretical framework to assess the psychological drivers behind individuals’ intention to engage in environmentally responsible behavior while traveling and, ultimately, their desire to participate in LCT. Results reveal that a set of environmentally referent cognitions (i.e., values, environmental worldview, awareness of consequences, and ascription of responsibility) lead to personal norms activation, which then influence tourists’ intent to behave in pro-sustainable ways and, ultimately, individuals’ intentions to engage in LCT. Findings are important as they further confirm the benefits of using VBN theory within an LCT context. For practitioners, this research strengthens the appeal of sustainable tourism operations to secure business and receive positive word-of-mouth from potential LCT tourists.

C Hehir, Emma Stewart, Pat T Maher, M. A Ribeiro (2020)Evaluating the impact of a youth polar expedition alumni programme on post-trip pro-environmental behaviour: a community-engaged research approach, In: Journal of Sustainable Tourism Taylor & Francis

Youth-based programmes providing education-based expeditions to the Polar Regions have been offered for more than two decades, and whilst studies hint that participants return as inspired and empowered ambassadors, research to date has been inconclusive as to what impact such expeditions have had on their participants’ subsequent lifestyle decisions and pro-environmental behaviours. To address this research gap, Social Identity Theory (SIT) was used to evaluate the impact of youth polar expeditions on participants’ pro-environmental behaviour, up to 18 years after their polar voyage. In collaboration with Students on Ice (SOI), this study tested the direct and indirect relationships between previous SOI students’ (n = 217) social identity towards the alumni programme and their subsequent connections with nature and pro-environmental behaviours. Findings suggest that social identity might be one way to explain the long-term impact of educational expeditions in terms of desired future pro-environmental behaviours, underscoring the critical importance of an alumni programme. Furthermore, a Community-Engaged Research (CER) approach was adopted to evidence the impact of this research beyond the realm of academia. We reflect on the CER approach with the intention of assisting others to produce impactful and socially robust knowledge, maximising the real-world impact of the findings.

C Hehir, P Maher, Emma Stewart (2021)Learning on ice: A qualitative examination of the impact of polar travel on youth, In: 2021 SCAR SC-HASS Biennial Conference: The Global Antarctic Kobe University, Japan and Online

Growing concern - Ethics of travelling

C Hehir, P T Maher, Emma Stewart (2022)Polar impact: Utilising Self-Determination Theory to maximise the proenvironmental potential of youth expeditions, In: SCAR 2022: Antarctica in a Changing World

Our research explores the impact of educational polar expeditions on youth by assessing participants’ pro-environmental behaviour, career choices and ambassadorial activities, up to 18 years after their polar voyage.

Additional publications