ZMET: A psychological approach to understanding unsustainable tourism mobility

C. Khoo, B. Prideaux

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Citations (Scopus)


This paper examines the work done by tourism researchers to understand why tourists make travel decisions that lead to high levels of greenhouse gas emissions and find it difficult to change their transport mode and destination choice towards more sustainable outcomes. It notes the growing recognition of an understanding of the psychological factors underlying tourist behaviour and the growing use of photography and photo elicitation in tourism research. It makes a case for using the Zaltman metaphor elicitation technique (ZMET) to develop a deeper understanding of the reluctance of consumers to choose environmentally friendly transport modes. ZMET is a technique for eliciting inter-related notions that influence thought and behaviour. Derived from Freudian psychology, ZMET is a projective technique based on the notion of unconscious and repressed thoughts - thoughts that patients were unwilling or unable to reveal to their psychologists. It uses respondents' pictures as entry points to understanding the respondents' actions. The ten steps used by ZMET are described. An evaluation of the technique's use in non-tourism research is given, along with a discussion about why ZMET has rarely been used in many academic studies. © 2013 Copyright Taylor and Francis Group, LLC.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1036-1048
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Sustainable Tourism
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • photography
  • qualitative method
  • tourist behaviour
  • ZMET
  • ecotourism
  • environmental planning
  • planning method
  • psychology
  • qualitative analysis
  • sustainability
  • tourist destination
  • transportation mode


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