Younger, Less Affluent Travellers Willing to Pay More for Sustainable Tourism
Although there has been a continuous increase in global tourism despite the economic recession (902 million international travelers in 2008 – a 4% increase over 2007), negative effects are also being identified by businesses and governments alike. One of the ways to counter detrimental effects is for tourists and locals to engage in sustainable tourism practices. The demand for sustainable tourism is difficult to assess, however, as most figures are anecdotal and reflect a willingness to participate rather than pay.
Although multiple studies have been conducted by organizations such as Lonely Planet, National Geographic and others, there is little research data about visitors to Canada, let alone Canada’s biggest city – Toronto. A 2007 study conducted by Arente and Ennamorato on Canadian tourists’ awareness and perceptions of sustainable tourism found that only 12% of Canadians are ‘somewhat’ familiar with the concept of sustainable tourism while 31% had never even heard of it. As for participation in sustainable tourism practices, 49% would choose to participate in activities that have sustainable benefits while travelling and 42% would use travel agencies that follow sustainable tourism guidelines. Over 75% of respondents believe that businesses that market and sell tourism as well as mass media should take on the responsibility of distributing information on sustainable tourism.
To augment this data, a recent study of 400 visitors to Toronto was conducted by Dodds, Antonov, Babkina & Gordon (2008). The purpose of the study was to determine the level of demand for and use of sustainable tourism products (e.g., choosing responsible tour operators, carbon offsetting flights and car rentals, purchasing green products and services such as hotels who showcased environmental policies, and organic and fair trade food/products).
The study found that young and not necessarily affluent respondents were willing to pay for sustainable products. Of the respondents, 46% were between the ages of 19- 29 and had a relatively low household income (48% with an income of $24-59,000). Results showed that 11% were willing to pay 11-25% more and 59% of respondents were willing to pay 1-10% more.
Although there is often confusion over the term ‘sustainable tourism’ (45% had never heard of sustainable tourism or were not familiar with it as a form of tourism), 72% of respondents said they were likely to use sustainable tourism products in the future.
The study also found that the more respondents were likely to consider buying sustainable tourism products in the future (77%), the more likely they would pay a premium for them.
In terms of motivation or choice, 44% of respondents said they participated in sustainable tourism practices because they did not want to harm the environment. Although this number is not the majority, many people were also concerned that it corresponded with their moral values (38%) and understood the importance of doing so (39%).
Many sceptics maintain that there is not outstanding participation in or widespread demand for more responsible tourism products. This, however, may be due to limited awareness (33% of the travellers who had never purchased sustainable tourism products said that this was because they were not aware of them).
Canadian travellers are also comparable to international travellers. In a 2007 TripAdvisor ecotourism survey of 1,000 travelers worldwide, 38% responded that environmentally-friendly tourism is a consideration when travelling. This finding is similar to the Toronto study. Only 4% of respondents were ‘not at all’ likely to participate in sustainable tourism practices while travelling in the future, while 44% were ‘somewhat’ likely to consider purchasing sustainable tourism products.
Arente, H. & Ennamorato, M. (2007). Sustainable Tourism: Travel Like You Mean It! Toronto: TNS Canadian Facts. Retrieved Dec 16, 2008, from http://www.tns-cf.com/conferences/ttra/ttra-2007.pdf
Dodds, R., Antonov, Y., Babkina, I., & Gordon, S. (2008). Travellers’ Demand For and Participation in Sustainable Tourism Practices in Canada. Toronto: Ryerson University.
TripAdvisor. (2007). TripAdvisor Travelers Keen on Going Green. Press release. Retrieved Dec 16, 2008, from http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/PressCenter-i120-c1-Press_Releases.html
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