Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Environmental Dynamics (PhD)

Degree Level



Environmental Dynamics


Song Feng

Committee Member

Steve Boss

Second Committee Member

Lawton Nalley

Third Committee Member

Jingping Gu

Fourth Committee Member

Christopher Craig


Weather and climate serve as profound motivators for tourism travels. Much of the United States (US) has experienced a warming trend as well as higher extreme weather frequency, and the trends are projected to be continued. Consequently, the changing climate is expected to have both direct and indirect impacts on tourism decision-making and travel patterns due to the complex relationship between climate, weather, and outdoor recreation. Climate resources capture the integrated effects of varied meteorological variables that interact with humans in different ways and can be categorized along a spectrum of quantifiable values. This dissertation proposed a Camping Climate Index that considers the uniqueness of the nature-based tourism segment interaction with climate variables, as well as explored the impact of climate variability on nature-based tourism organizations in the United States. Chapter 2 used a data-driven method that combines revealed tourists' travel behaviors and multifaceted climate variables to mathematically developed a camping sector-specific climate index. The novel index is validated with 29 for-profit campgrounds across the United States. Chapter 3 examined the feasibility and application of the tourism climate index approach to the nature-based tourism for non-profit organizations in the United States. This study has advanced the understanding of the nuance among the nature-based tourism segments and facilitates the assessment the climate resources for tourism decision-making and sustainable management. Results show that the Camping Climate Index is more predictive of visitation, recreational vehicle camping, and tent camping compared to other indices, though not for all locations or tourism activities. Chapter 4 expand the study scope and explored the climate resources of entire contiguous United States. Climate change analyses have shown signals of either beneficial or adverse change in terms of climate resources for nature-based tourism, as it relates to the warming trend and weather extremes in the United States. The final chapter provides a discussion of the findings, implications, future research, and conclusions.