Large-scale tourism development after a natural disaster often leads to substantial changes in the living conditions of local residents. Few studies have examined how these changes are perceived by residents and related to their support to tourism development. We conducted a household survey in Wolong National Nature Reserve, which is a popular nature-based tourist location severely devastated by a catastrophic earthquake in 2008. Structural equation modelling (SEM) was employed to explore the association between residents’ expectation of tourism impacts and their willingness to support tourism development. Results indicated that they held high expectations about development and believed that it would be enhance Wolong’s economic progress and improve their personal living conditions. Expected economic benefits (EEB) had a significant and positive relationship with the expected improvement of their personal living conditions, but not with their support to tourism development. The latter two variables, however, were associated with each other, suggesting that expected improvement of living conditions mediated between expected benefits and stated support to tourism development. Similar results were not found for resistance and concerns about tourism development. Policy-makers and tourism planners should recognize that public support to tourism development is not necessarily driven directly by expected economic benefits.
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