Professor Sara Dolnicar

Vice-Chancellor Research Fellow

School of Business
Faculty of Business, Economics and Law
+61 7 336 56702


Sara Dolnicar was born in Ljubljana (Slovenia), grew up in Vienna (Austria) and now lives and works in Brisbane (Australia). She holds a Masters and PhD degree from the Vienna University of Economics and Business and a Masters degree in Psychology at the University of Vienna. After completing her PhD she worked in the School of Tourism at the Vienna University of Economics and Business where she also served as the Secretary General of the Austrian Society for Applied Research in Tourism. In 2002 she moved to Australia to take up a position in the School of Management and Marketing at the University of Wollongong. Sold on a life in Australia, Sara moved to Brisbane in 2013 where she currently works as the Research Professor in Tourism at UQ Business School.

Sara’s core research interests are the improvement of market segmentation methodology and the testing and refinement of measures used in social science research. Because her key research interests are not tied to any particular application area, Sara has had the luxury to investigate a range of different applied research areas, including sustainable tourism and tourism marketing, environmental volunteering, foster carer and public acceptance of water alternatives and water conservation measures.

To date, Sara has (co-)authored more than 300 refereed papers, including more than 140 journal articles and led a total of twelve Australian Research Council (ARC) grants. In 2011 she took up a prestigious ARC Queen Elizabeth II Fellowship.

Sara is the wife of a chemisty academic (who hates nothing more than anyone standing between him and his molecules) and the mother of eight year old Miles (who loves to dance) and five year old Dana (who has taken up jiu-jitsu).

Research Interests

  • Improving measurement in the social sciences
  • Improving market segmentation methodology
  • Developing better tools for tourism marketing
  • Improving brand image measures
  • Attracting good foster carers
  • Increasing public knowledge about and acceptance of water alternatives

Research Impacts


In the area of market segmentation research, Dolnicar has uncovered flaws in segmentation studies, both at the methodological and conceptual level (Dolnicar, 2002; 2003; 2005; 2007), recently proving that factor analysing items before constructing segments (the predominant method in tourism research) leads to inferior results compared to using the raw data directly (Dolnicar & Grün, 2008).

Dolnicar has also contributed significantly to segmentation methodology. Since her PhD in 1997, which compared nueral networks with traditional algorithms, she has been exploring the usefulness of novel algorithms for market segmentation. Later she adapted bagged clustering — an ensemble method leading to increased stability of solutions — for segmentation purposes (Dolnicar & Leisch, 2000; 2003). Most recently she introduced bi-clustering to solve the item selection problem while grouping individuals (Dolnicar, Kaiser, Lazarevski & Leisch, 2013). A comparative study of indices for determining the number of clusters in binary survey data led to a Psychometrika publication in 2002 (Dimitriadou, Dolnicar & Weingessel, 2002) which is cited by researchers from not only marketing, but also psychology, geophysics and engineering. Dolnicar was part of the research team that invented perceptions-based market segmentation, a nonparametric simultaneous analysis of segmentation, positioning and competition which prevents sequence errors from occurring when both positioning and segmentation decisions are made (Dolnicar, Grabler & Mazanec, 1999; Buchta, Mazanec & Strasser, 2000; Buchta, Dolnicar & Reutterer, 2000). As such, she has made a significant contribution to the improvement of segmentation in the broader context of marketing strategy.


In the the area of measurement in the social sciences, Sara has conducted numerous empirical studies investigating the VALIDITY OF ORDINAL ANSWER FORMATS, raising serious validity concerns about the most popular answer format used by marketers: the ordinal multi-category scale such as the Likert scale (Dolnicar, 2003; Dolnicar, Grün & Leisch, 2004; Dolnicar & Grün, 2007). She also investigated the problem of data contamination by cross-cultural RESPONSE STYLES, and developed an ensemble-based method to assess the robustness of results from potentially contaminated data (Dolnicar & Grün, 2007a; Dolnicar & Grün, 2007b). During her research on the validity of marketing measures as well as ensemble methods for the assessment of response bias in survey data, the question of OPTIMALITY OF ANSWER FORMATS arose. Currently Dolnicar is conducting a large-scale investigation supported by two ARC Discovery grants: one specifically investigating optimal brand image measures (Dolnicar & Rossiter, 2008; Dolnicar & Grün, 2007), the other investigating general answer format optimality. Results indicate that the level-free full binary answer format outperforms more commonly used multi-category answer formats in the context of brand image measurement.


Sara has worked with many industry partners since commencing her academic career in Austria. For example, she assisted the Austrian Business Chamber (Hotel Section) in developing a research-based national hotel starring system for Austria. She advised the Austrian Ministry of Tourism on strategic matters and undertook research for the Austrian National Tourism Organization. In Australia, she has for many years worked with a consortium of not for profit organisations responsible for the placement of foster children. Currently she is working with a group of online market research companies in developing and testing improved survey measures specifically designed for the online environment.


  • Master of Business Administration, Wirtschaftsuniversitat Wien
  • Master of Natural Science (Psychology), University of Vienna
  • Doctor of Philosophy, Wirtschaftsuniversitat Wien


View all Publications


  • (2015) Doctor Philosophy

  • Doctor Philosophy

  • Doctor Philosophy

View all Supervision


Featured Publications

Book Chapter

  • Randle, Melanie and Dolnicar, Sara (2017). Increasing civic engagement through market segmentation. In Timo Dietrich, Sharyn Rundle-Thiele and Krzysztof Kubacki (Ed.), Segmentation in social marketing: process, methods and application (pp. 129-142) Singapore, Singapore: Springer. doi:10.1007/978-981-10-1835-0_9

  • Dolnicar, Sara and Grün, Bettina (2017). Methods in segmentation. In Timo Dietrich, Sharyn Rundle-Thiele and Krzysztof Kubacki (Ed.), Segmentation in social marketing: process, methods and application (pp. 93-107) Singapore: Springer. doi:10.1007/978-981-10-1835-0_7

  • Hajibaba, Homa and Dolnicar, Sara (2016). Drivers of trip cancellations among Australian travellers. In M. Kozak and N. Kozak (Ed.), Tourist Behaviour - An International Perspective (pp. 97-105) Oxfordshire, United Kingdom: CABI.

  • Dolnicar, Sara (2015). Environmentally sustainable tourists?. In C. Michael Hall, Stefan Gossling and Daniel Scott (Ed.), Routledge handbook of tourism and sustainability (pp. 140-150) Abingdon, Oxon, United Kingdom: Routledge.

  • Sara Dolnicar (2014). Market segmentation approaches in tourism. In Scott McCabe (Ed.), The Routledge Handbook of Tourism Marketing (pp. 197-208) Abingdon, Oxon, United Kingdom: Routledge.

  • Dolnicar, Sara (2014). Public perceptions of recycled water and why they matter a lot!. In Celine Herve-Bazin (Ed.), Water communication: analysis of strategies and campaigns from the water sector (pp. 148-150) London, United Kingdom: IWA Publishing.

  • Dolnicar, Sara, Yanamandram, Venkata and Juvan, Emil (2013). Ecotourists: who are they and what should we really call them?. In Roy Ballantyne and Jan Packer (Ed.), International handbook on ecotourism (pp. 95-107) Cheltenham, United Kingdom: Edward Elgar.

  • Dolnicar, Sara (2013). Tourism market segmentation: a step by step guide. In Clement A. Tisdell (Ed.), Handbook of tourism economics: analysis, new applications and case studies (pp. 87-104) Singapore, Singapore: World Scientific Publishing. doi:10.1142/7956

  • Dolnicar, Sara (2012). Market segmentation in tourism. In Rodoula H. Tsiotsou and Ronald Earl Goldsmith (Ed.), Strategic Marketing in Tourism Services (pp. 17-34) Bingley, UK: Emerald Group Publishing.

  • Dolnicar, Sara, Lazarevski, Katie and Yanamandram, Venkat (2012). Quality of life and travel motivations: integrating the two concepts in the Grevillea Model. In Muzaffer Uysal, Richard R. Perdue and M. Joseph Sirgy (Ed.), Handbook of Tourism and Quality-of-Life Research: Enhancing the Lives of Tourists and Residents of Host Communities (pp. 293-308) Dordrecht, Netherlands: Springer. doi:10.1007/978-94-007-2288-0

  • Dolnicar, Sara and Hurlimann, Anna (2010). Desalinated versus recycled water: what does the public think?. In Isabel Escobar and Andrea Schäfer (Ed.), Sustainable Water for the Future: Water Recycling Versus Desalination (pp. 375-388) Amsterdam, Netherlands: Elsevier. doi:10.1016/S1871-2711(09)00213-X

  • Dolnicar, Sara and Huybers, Twan (2010). Different tourists – different perceptions of different cities: consequences for destination image measurement and strategic destination marketing. In Josef A. Mazanec and Karl W. Wöber (Ed.), Analysing international city tourism (pp. 127-146) Vienna, Austria: Springer. doi:10.1007/978-3-211-09416-7_8

  • Dolnicar, Sara and Kemp, Byron (2009). Tourism segmentation by consumer-based variables. In Metin Kozak and Alain Decrop (Ed.), Handbook of Tourist Behavior: Theory & Practice (pp. 177-194) New York, NY, United States: Routledge. doi:10.4324/9780203881804

Journal Article

PhD and MPhil Supervision

Current Supervision

  • Doctor Philosophy — Principal Advisor

    Other advisors:

  • Doctor Philosophy — Principal Advisor

    Other advisors:

Completed Supervision