Walking and driving through an empty sand desert can have an existential, transformative impact on a European tourists’ identity creation. Cultural Ecosystem Services (CES) in wide natural environments offer spiritual, educational and aesthetic values for people.The gliding and walking through the sands while sensing the texture of the sand contributed to feelings of ‘being in a different world’, a spiritual and multi-sensory experience of the environment along with a “self-or ego enhancement”. These experiences in nature were shaping an “authentic selfhood”, similar to a spiritual experience shaped during a religious pilgrimage. Tourists feel that they are part of an adventure film, within a liminoid zone, outside their everyday lives, having an ‘embodied’, powerful effect while contemplating the sunset is seen as another spiritual, ‘magic moment’. This can be compared to other adventure activities such as wildlife watching in a forest. My research is based on quantitative and qualitative methods conducted with different stakeholders in tourism including German-speaking cruise tourists and group tourists. The research was conducted in the Omani Sharquiyah Sands desert prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. It calls for slow, responsible tourism practices in fragile, natural environments as well as more environmental protection and a valorization of Cultural Ecosystem Services in tourist experiences.
Keywords: walking|slow tourism|cultural ecosystem services|desert|mixed methods