Funded PhD Opportunity A user centred design approach to creating environmentally friendly beach tourism experiences for domestic tourists

This opportunity is now closed.

Subject: Business and Management Studies


The visitor economy is worth £851m to Northern Ireland (NISRA 2018a), £270m of which account for domestic tourism (NISRA 2018b). Visits to coastal areas account for 26% of domestic tourism (NISRA 2018b), and beach quality is the key decision-making factor in choice of coastal destination (Nelson & Botterill, 2002); particularly clean, litter-free sand and seawater (Tudor & Williams, 2006). Balance, Ryan & Turpie (2000) found that up to 97% of the economic value of beach visits could be lost through lower cleanliness standards. Litter cleansing is already costing Northern Ireland £45.5m (KNIB 2018a) and litter management on beaches is essential to the competitiveness of the country’s tourism industry. On average, 473 pieces of litter can be found for every 100m of Northern Irish beaches.

This research aims to tackle nearly avoidable litter by designing and testing interventions that will reduce littering behaviour among beach visitors in Northern Ireland. In so doing, environmentally friendly beach tourism experiences are created and the overall beach tourism product significantly improved. Research has shown that the greatest success in influencing visitors' actions comes from understanding what they think about a particular behaviour (Brown, Hamm & Hughes, 2010).

Strategies aimed at changing attitudes and ultimately behaviour are more effective when guided by theory (Abraham & Michie, 2008). One such theory, the Theory of Planned Behaviour (TPB) (Ajzen, 1985) has emerged as one of the most influential and popular conceptual frameworks for the study of human behaviour and much support has been obtained for the efficacy of the theory as a predictor of both intentions and behaviour (Armitage & Conner, 2001).

Based on the protocols of the TPB the methodology proposed in this study is one of a User-Centred Design (UCD), which will place customer (beach users’) needs, values and demands at the heart of litter-reduction communication strategies. This premise is tested by designing beach leisure and tourism experiences that facilitate a reduction in littering behaviour and appraise customer response through Randomised Field Experiments (RFEs).

Using the sites of Ballywalter and Tyrella beaches in Northern Ireland, this research adopts a theoretical approach to the design and evaluation of a litter reducing behaviour change intervention by:

Further investigating the extent of beach littering in Northern Ireland and identifying the factors that influence littering behaviour.

Using the TPB, designing, testing and evaluating a UCD intervention to combat littering among beach users;

Evaluating the effectiveness of these behaviour change solutions and the potential wider secondary benefits (e.g. visitor satisfaction and well-being);

Appraising the feasibility of UCD to stimulate engagement between leisure/tourism service suppliers and its consumers; and

Measure the potential impact of behaviour change realised through UCD to establish a series of recommendations for future practice.

Policy makers can use these insights to inform how they engage with consumers and providers of tourism experiences, both in their communication strategies and the tourism experiences they develop. With focus on low cost and rapid prototyping of new products, UCD represents a low risk approach to introducing change.

Essential Criteria

  • Upper Second Class Honours (2:1) Degree or equivalent from a UK institution (or overseas award deemed to be equivalent via UK NARIC)
  • Sound understanding of subject area as evidenced by a comprehensive research proposal
  • A comprehensive and articulate personal statement
  • Research proposal of 2000 words detailing aims, objectives, milestones and methodology of the project

Desirable Criteria

If the University receives a large number of applicants for the project, the following desirable criteria may be applied to shortlist applicants for interview.

  • Masters at 65%


    Vice Chancellors Research Scholarships (VCRS)

    The scholarships will cover tuition fees and a maintenance award of £15,009 per annum for three years (subject to satisfactory academic performance). Applications are invited from UK, European Union and overseas students.


    The scholarship will cover tuition fees at the Home rate and a maintenance allowance of £15,009 per annum for three years. EU applicants will only be eligible for the fees component of the studentship (no maintenance award is provided).  For Non EU nationals the candidate must be "settled" in the UK.

Other information

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Key Dates

Submission Deadline
Monday 18 February 2019
Interview Date
week commencing 11 March 2019

Contact Supervisor

Dr Susann Power

Other Supervisors

Apply online

Visit and quote reference number #344904 when applying for this PhD opportunity