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Identifying tourists with sustainable behavior: a study of international tourists to Thailand

Identifying tourists with sustainable behavior: a study of international tourists to Thailand This study proposed a set of indicators and then measured sustainable behavior patterns of international tourists to Thailand. A post-visit index based on 12 questions about self-reported practices was used to measure sustainable behavior with respect to local economy, society and culture, and the environment. Associations between scores on the behavioral index and various other descriptors of tourists were explored using binary- logit regression. Sustainable behavior was found to be associated with region where a tourist comes from, income level of the country where the tourist resides, profession, duration of stay in the host country, nature of tourist attraction, and whether or not visitors were part of a group tour. Practical policy measures for attracting tourists with more sustainable behavior as well as modifying those with low sustainability are proposed. Keywords: sustainable tourism, tourist behavior indicators, measuring sustainable tourist behavior, Thailand, visitor behavior JEL Classification: M190 1. Introduction The field of sustainable tourism emerged in the early 1990s and has expanded rapidly since. Most studies focus on improving the practices on the production side, that is, of tourism providers. The literature on the demand side of sustainable tourism, particularly sustainable tourist behavior is very rare. Because visitor behavior is crucial to enhance tourism sustainability, this study proposes to identify visitor behaviors. As a contribution to efforts to enable more sustainable tourist behavior, our paper offers a practical set of indicators through which to measure sustainable behavior and, then, uses these measures to identify tourists who have more or less sustainable behavior. There are three dimensions of tourists' sustainable behavior: environmental, cultural and economic sustainability. Very few articles in existing literature devote discussion to measuring visitor behavior. Among those, however, discussion of sustainable behavior focuses mainly on one aspect of sustainability. While some study environmental sustainability, others research on cultural or economic sustainability. Therefore, our paper proposes to measure sustainable behavior of visitors by measuring all three aspects of sustainability simultaneously. Then, using scores of sustainable behavior derived from our sustainable behavior questions, we identify factors that are associated with or may influence sustainable behavior.The results of the study provide insights on how international visitors behave toward tourism sustainability. Factors associated with sustainability uncovered in this study can be used for policy planning to achieve tourism sustainability from a consumer perspective. The paper is organized as follows. The next section briefly surveys the literature on sustainable behavior of tourists. The following section explains the set of indicators chosen, how they were measured, and other aspects of the research design. After this, the paper moves on to describe and discuss the main findings ending with a discussion of the policy implications. 2. Sustainable Behavior To measure sustainable behavior, we employ the following definition of sustainable tourists. "Sustainable tourists as those who (1) agree with a code of conduct that recommends how they as visitors should behave, (2) appreciate that their activities have impacts on the environment and tailor their actions accordingly; (3) would like to make economic contribution to the host economy and therefore purchase local products such as food and crafts (Dinan 2010,1)." The literature on sustainable tourism from a consumption, or tourist behavior perspective, has expanded in the last decade. Most studies focus on visitor attitude and behavioral intent rather than actual practices or behavior. The tourist behavior literature can be grouped into four categories. The first group of studies investigates tourist attitude and behavioral intent. Powell (2008, 467), for example, showed that participation in ecotourism had little impact on visitor attitudes and conservation behaviors. However, visitors' attitudes and intentions related to pro-conservation behavior can be influenced by interpretation strategies, or the way environmental messages are communicated. Many studies have shown that green attitude of tourists can be influenced by green practices implemented by tourism businesses, such as practices of the lodging industry (Manaktola 2007, 364). Lee (2010, 901) asserts that behavioral intention is a crucial factor that explains customer behaviors because strong intention is likely to result in performance. To influence behavioral intentions, it is crucial to build green image of the tourism service providers. The second group studies tourist behavior and factors influencing it. The literature in this area is very limited. A review of environmentally-friendly tourists by Dolnicar (2008, 197) suggested that results of previous studies were inconclusive. The characteristics of environmentally-friendly tourists are hard to delineate clearly. However, in a more recent study Dolnicar (2010, 717) found that age, regional identity, income, and moral obligation were predictors of pro-environmental behavior. Some relevant studies have investigated tourist behavior without referring explicitly to sustainability. McKercher (2008, 369) study of visitor behavior at Ulural (Ayers Rock) in Central Australia showed that some visitors seriously challenge the values of the host community. Some visitors express overt rejection of local (Aboriginal) value and traditions while others think that they can do whatever they want simply because they are tourists. Challenging the values of the place may result in hostile attitude of local residents toward tourism. The third group of studies shows how tourist behaviors impact the local economy, environment and culture. According to Budeanu (2007, 499), the behavior that tourists display during their holidays has important consequences on well-being of the local community. International tourists tend to replicate their usual leisure behavioral patterns while visiting a foreign destination. Due to differences in cultures, this may cause clashes or tension, ending with local residents having antagonizing attitudes towards tourism. The study by Shamsub (2010, 211) substantiates this finding. Local residents in Thailand perceive visitors kissing in public and walking bearchested along the street as inappropriate and are concerned that local teenagers will copy those behaviors. Regarding environmental impact, Boyd (1996, 557) find that eco tourists leave only a limited impact on the environment. However, results of some studies suggest that ecotourism experience has little impact on visitor cognition, attitudes and conservation behaviors (Powell 2008, 467). Studies of economic impact look at patterns of spending and where money goes. Laesser (2006, 397) find that direct spending of group tour members is 10% less than that of independent tourists. Tourism in developing nations experience many obstacles to economic sustainability such as leakage and enclave tourism. Income generated in a country of destination often leaks out due to imports of goods to satisfy tourists' demand and foreign ownership of tourist facilities. Enclave tourism means inclusive tour packages that tourists stay, dine, and use services of big tourism business that belong to the same supply chain. The degree of leakage differs from country to country; for example, advance economies experience 10-20% leak, while small economies may experience leaks up to 50% (Budeanu 2007, 499). The fourth group proposes measures to enhance sustainable tourist behavior. Marion (2007, 5) , for instance, propose to use educational programs ­ such as leave no traces, code of conduct, and environmental guidelines for tourists ­ to encourage visitors to adopt low-impact behaviors. Lee (2010, 901) recommends building the green hotel image to influence behavioral intentions of tourists. Powell (2008, 467) suggests that welldesigned messages delivered during the ecotourism experience can enhance behavioral intention in support of conservation. Our paper fits most closely into the second group of studies that investigate tourist behavior. However, it differs from existing literature in the following aspects. First, many studies have investigated visitor behavior and classified tourists into groups based on their behavior without referring to sustainability. In this study we propose a set of indicators and a measure of sustainable behavior to explore patterns in behavior and classify tourists. Second, most studies in the area of sustainable tourist behavior focus on behavior toward the environment. In this study we consider all three dimensions of sustainability: environmental, economic, and socio-cultural. Third, most of previous studies focus on attitude, "planned" behaviors and behavioral intentions. In this post-visit study we asked tourists to report on their actual behavior during their trip. Positive attitudes of tourists might not be reflected in their actions (Budeanu 2007, 499). 3. Research Design This study used a survey research to investigate sustainable behavior of international tourists to Thailand. Tourist behavior was classified into two groups of low and high sustainable behaviors. A binary-logit analysis was used to analyze variables, such as demographic and trip characteristics, which were associated with sustainable behavior. 3.1. Research instrument for measuring sustainable tourist behavior To measure sustainable behavior, a questionnaire was designed to integrate three principles of tourism sustainability: environmental, economic and socio-cultural sustainability. Those three principles are consistent with the definition of sustainable tourism given by the World Tourism Organization as: "tourism which leads to management of all resources in such a way that economic, social and aesthetic need can be filled while maintaining cultural integrity, essential ecological processes, biological diversity and life support systems" (McKercher 2003, 1). To translate those three principles into sustainable behavior, we adopted the definition of tourists with sustainable behavior by Dinan (2000, 1), thereafter to be referred to as D&S: "Sustainable tourists as those who (1) agree with a code of conduct that recommends how they as visitors should behave, (2) appreciate that their activities have impacts on the environment and tailor their actions accordingly; (3) would like to make economic contribution to the host economy and therefore purchase local products such as food and crafts." Accordingly, D&S measured sustainable behavior using six questions asking questions whether visitors would: (1) follow the code of conduct; (2) buy local foodstuffs; (3) buy local crafts; (4) recycle glass; (5) recycle paper; and (6) recycle aluminium. It can be seen that D&S emphasize or allocate higher weight on measures of environmental sustainability because three out of six questions (Questions 4 to 6) are devoted to the environment, while Questions 1 and 2 measure cultural and economic sustainability respectively. Instead of adopting D&S's questions to measure sustainable behavior of visitors, in this study we propose a new set of indicators as an alternative to those used by D&S to measure sustainable behavior of tourists to Thailand. In addition, instead of emphasizing or weighting environmental suitability higher than others, we allocate equal weight to each dimension. Four questions were allocated to each dimension of sustainability to give a total of twelve questions (Table 1). There are two sets of questions--main and supplemental. The main questions reflected tourists' efforts to help maintain sustainability while they were in Thailand; whereas the supplemental questions identified their extra efforts. Questions on tourists' effort to help main sustainability are common questions asked in existing literature. Questions on extra efforts are those rarely found in existing literature. The questions were framed based on variety of consumption habits of visitors found in existing literature. Table 1. Scoring Sustainable Behavior Panel A: Main Questions Sustainability Selected Corresponding Behavior Yes Accepted local code of conduct imposed by tourism sites Socio-cultural Studied local customs and language and tried to adopt some in appropriate settings Bought locally-made goods or souvenirs Economic Gave preference to facilities and trips run by local people; for example, dine in local restaurants or use local tour operators Took into consideration environmental impacts when making decision about your travel Took extra care when throwing away rubbish 2 Often 2 2 2 Answer/score No (Did not see No (See the COC* messages) COC messages) 1 Sometimes 1 1 1 0 Never 0 0 0 Environmental Note: *COC = code of conduct posted at tourism sties. Maximum main score=12, minimum=0 Panel B: Supplemental questions Sustainability Environmental Socio-cultural Selected Corresponding Behavior Helped clean-up garbage and waste left by others Not have your bathroom towels changed daily Paid for sexual intercourse Bought a product made by local artists Consciously avoided using services of international chains Made donations to local schools, temples, or foundations for disadvantaged groups Note: Maximum supplement score=3, minimum=0. Economic Answer/Score Yes No 0.5 0 0 0.5 0.5 0.5 Environmental sustainability. Most existing literature equates sustainable behavior to environmental sustainability. We adapted those frequently asked in the literature to make them appropriate for Thai destinations while keeping the set of indicators as small as possible (e.g. Dolnicar 2010, 717; Dolnicar 2008, 197; Powell 2008, 467). The questions on environmental sustainability covered a wide range of practices from taking into consideration environmental impacts when making decision about their travel to having bathroom towels changed (Table 1). Economic Sustainability. In general, international tourists bring foreign currencies to the host country. However, that does not mean that income from tourism is distributed fairly. Tourism will be sustainable if local residents where visitors visit feel that they receive economic benefit from tourism. For example, residents of Victoria, Australia, felt that retail activities had changed for better thanks to tourism in the region (Inbakaran 2005, 323). Buying local products enhances more equitable economic growth due to the widespread network of small and medium enterprises that produce the products, resulting in greater multiplier effect (Bimonte 2008, 112). Hence, we measured economic sustainability behavior in terms of direct local income distribution to the community in the forms of buying local goods and giving preferences to services of local people. The questions on economic sustainability included buying locally-made goods and services and making donations (Table 1). Socio-cultural sustainability. From socio-cultural perspective, we measured aspects of behavior that could lead to hostile attitude of local residents toward tourism in particular acceptance of local culture and behavioral norms. According to Stanford (2008, 258), responsible tourists should actively engage with local communities. But this can raise problems if visitors rely solely on their own cultural norms to tell them how to behave (McKercher 2008, 369; Shamsub 2010, 211; Inbakaran 2005, 323). To enhance cultural sustainability, tourists should abide by local code of conduct. Therefore our questions to measure cultural sustainability included accepting code of conduct at tourism sites (Table 1). An aggregate score for sustainable behavior was calculated based on the 12 indicators or questions in Table 1. The six main scores carried 80% of total weight and the supplemental scores 20%. On this index the possible maximum score a tourist can have 15, while the minimum is 0. The main scores carried higher weight because they reflected tourists' efforts to help maintain sustainability; whereas the six supplemental scores identified their extra efforts that might not be considered common practices for many tourists. 3.2. Data collection Data were collected using self-administered questionnaire, which consisted of three sections: personal characteristics, tourism preferences, and sustainable behavior. Personal characteristics included country of residence, gender, age, education, and profession. Tourism preferences comprised duration of stay in Thailand, number of days per year spent on tourism, group size, and type of tour (group-tour member or independent tourist). The sustainable behavior section consisted of 12 questions as mentioned in Table 1. The questionnaire was produced in eight languages: English, French, German, Spanish, Russian, Japanese, Korean, and Chinese. Those eight languages cover approximately 80% of all international visitors to Thailand. The questionnaire was written first in English; then, translated into seven other languages by faculty members specializing in each language at the Foreign Language Center of Chiang Mai University (CMU), Thailand. Validity check for translation was performed by native speakers; most of them were foreign students at CMU. The questionnaire was tested at Mae Hong Son and Chiang Mai International Airports. Then, reliability check for questions on sustainable behavior was performed using test/retest technique. The result shows no statistical difference between the scores of the test group and the retest group. Data were collected from 501 international visitors at two major international airports in Thailand, Chiang Mai, and Phuket. Chiang Mai airport serves tourists visiting Chiang Mai, the most visited tourism destination in the North, and surrounding provinces. Tourist attractions in this area are predominantly ecotourism and cultural tourism. Phuket is the most popular tourism destination in southern Thailand. Phuket International Airport services tourists visiting Phuket and surrounding provinces, including Phang Nga.Tourist attractions in this region are mainly sea-sand-sun (3S). The main reason why we picked samples from these two airports is to roughly test whether types of tourist attraction tourists currently visit - ecotourism and cultural tourism in the North and 3S tourism in the South - are associated with the levels of sustainable behavior. At the Chiang Mai International Airport, 410 questionnaires were collected between 9-14 January 2006. At the Phuket International Airport, 91 questionnaires were collected between 13-18 March 2006. Please note that January is the peak of tourism season in Chiang Mai, while March falls in the low season of Phuket. In addition, at the time of data collection, tourism in Phuket and surrounding areas had not fully recovered from the Tsunami devastation in late 2004. This explained why the number of tourists visiting Phuket was much lower than that of the same time period before the Tsunami. Consequently, the number of questionnaires collected at the Phuket International Airport in our sample was also much lower than that of the Chiang Mai Airport, although the same amount of time was spent at both airports and the same selection criteria were applied. The sample selection process was as follows. All international visitors of all international and domestic flights leaving both airports between 8:00am to 5:30pm during the specified time period were selected. Data collectors stopped handing out questionnaires 15 minutes before boarding time. Only one questionnaire was allowed per family and only one member of the family filled out the questionnaire. Respondents must be at least 15 years old. Visitors who did not understand those eight languages were exempt. To motivate visitors, we offered a souvenir of their choice, either a key chain or bookmark. The total of 533 questionnaires were handed out, 432 in Chiang Mai and 101 in Phuket. However, 32 persons refused: 22 in Chiang Mai and 10 in Phuket. This yielded the response rate of 94%. 3.3. Statistical method Variation in overall sustainable behavior scores (Table 1) were analyzed using binary-logit regression. Visitor's aggregate sustainable behavior scores were classified into two groups: visitors who scored at and above the average were considered having high sustainable behavior; while those who scored below the average were classified as having low sustainable behavior. The set of explanatory variables explored and how they were measured are summarized in Table 2. A similar approach was used by Dolnicar (2010, 717) to distinguish visitors who had environmentally friendly behavior from those who did not. The dependent variable, Y, is dummy variable; where Y =1 if a visitor had high sustainable behavior (scored at 11.5 and above) and Y=0, otherwise or low (scored below 11.5) Independent variables consist of three categories: trip characteristics, personal characteristics, and tourism preferences. Description of independent variables can be seen in Table 2 below. Table 2. Variable description and measurement Variable Income level of country of origin Description Log of GDP per capita of the country of resident Region where respondents are visiting from Is the respondent a first-time international tourist? First trip to Thailand or repeated visitor. Measurement Log of GDP per capita represents level of economic development. Measured using 6 dummy variables. 1= Americas ,1=Europe, 1=Australia & New Zealand 1=Asian, 0=reference group (Middle East & Africa) Dummy: 1=Yes, 0=otherwise Dummy: 1=first trip to Thailand, 0=otherwise Region of resident First-time international tourist First-time in Thailand Variable Group size Group tour Description Size of group Is the respondent a member of group tour? Chiang Mai and Phuket. Chiang Mai and surrounding areas represent ecotourism and cultural tourism. Phuket and surrounding areas represent 3S tourism. Number of days the respondent stays in Thailand on his/her recent trip Number of days per year spent on tourism relative to 365 days Number of days spent in Thailand on this recent trip in proportion to total number of days per year spent on tourism Age of respondent Sex of respondent Measurement Number of individuals in group, including respondent Dummy variable: 1= Yes, 0=otherwise Region in Thailand the respondent currently visit Dummy: 1=Southern (Predominantly Phu Ket and Phang Nga) 0=Otherwise Number of days spent including plan to spend in Thailand as a tourist on this recent trip Number of days spent on tourism 365 Number of days spent in Thailand on this trip Total number of days spent on tourism for the entire year Age Dummy variable: 1 = male, 0 = otherwise (reference) Categorical. Levels of education are divided into four major groups: 1=technical/vocational/associate 1= bachelor's 1= post graduate degree 0=high school and lower (reference) The eight-category variable is measured using seven binary dummies as follows: 1=Executives & professionals, 1 =Technicians & skilled & trades, 1=Unskilled, 1=Self-employed, 1= Unemployed, 1= look after home, 1 = Retired, 0= Otherwise = student (reference) Duration of stay in Thailand Proportion of the number of days spent on tourism to 365 days Proportion of the number of days spent on tourism in Thailand to the number of days spent on tourism in one year Age Gender Levels of education Respondents' highest level of education Profession Profession of the respondent 4. Results 4.1. Tourists Table 3. Frequency Distribution Characteristics Member of group tour International Visitors Frequency % Total 92 18.4 500 Characteristics First trip as international tourist First trip to Thailand Gender (male) Professions Executives & professionals Technical/skilled/trades Unskilled Students Self-employed Unemployed Look after home Retired Education High school & lower Technical/vocational/associate Bachelor Post graduate Region Americas Europe Middle East & Africa Australia & New Zealand Asia International Visitors Frequency % Total 55 11 500 225 45.1 499 283 57.4 493 The average age of sampled visitors was 40 years old (Table 4). Average GDP of the country of origin was US$28,673, ranging from the lowest of US$1,100 to the highest of US$41,529. The average group size was 5.8 persons.In terms of tourism preference, on average visitors spent 32 days per year on tourism and, during this trip, they spent around 18 days in Thailand. Overall the amount of time spent in Thailand on this recent trip was 57% relative to total time spent on tourism per year. Table 4. Descriptive Statistics Total Age GDP of the country where visitor come from (US$) Group size * Tourism Preference: Number of days per year spent on tourism Duration of stay in Thailand ** Proportion of days spent on tourism in Thailand to days spent on tourism in one year 498 501 501 486 488 465 Minimum 16 1100 1 2 2 0.02 Maximum 79 41529 7 200 90 1 Mean 40.2 28673 3.0 31.7 18.2 0.57 Std. Deviation 14.64 9902 1.90 27.75 17.00 0.29 Note: *To avoid outliers, the cut-off point of group size was set at the maximum of seven persons and over, although the maximum was 201. ** For the same reason, although the maximum duration is 355, the cut- of point was set at 90 days and over. 4.2. Sustainable behavior Table 5A shows the prevalence of socio-cultural sustainable behaviors in our sample. Most visitors understood and accepted codes of conduct messages (Table 5). Approximately half sometimes studied local language and customs and adopted some in appropriate settings, and another 35% did these activities frequently. On the negative side, 5% of visitors had paid for sexual intercourse on their trips. On the positive side, over 70% bought products made by local artists. Table 5. Frequency Distribution of Main Questions No Did not see COC* Freq. % 8 1.7 Sustainability Question: Did you Accept most the messages you received? Total Freq 473 Total 449 Yes % 94.9 See COC* Freq % 16 3.4 Question: Have you Studied local language and customs and tried to adopt some in appropriate setting? Brought locally-made goods or souvenirs? Panel B: Given preference to facilities and Economic trips run by local people; for example, dine in local restaurant or use local tour operators? Taken into consideration environmental impacts when Panel C: making decision about your travel? Environmental Paid extra care when throwing away rubbish? Note: * code of conduct posted at tourism sites Panel A: Socio-cultural Often Freq % 173 340 35 68.4 Sometime Freq. % 274 153 55.5 30.8 Never Freq % 47 4 9.5 0.8 Over two- thirds of visitors often bought locally-made goods/souvenirs and gave preference to facilities and trips run by local people (Table 5, Panel B). Over 60% of respondents consciously avoided using services of international chains and 55% made donation to local charities (Table 6, Panel C). In terms of environmental sustainability just under half of visitors often took into account the environmental impacts when making travel decisions (Table 5, Panel C). More visitors often paid extra care when throwing away rubbish, but only a third cleaned up garbage left by others (Table 6, Panel A). Half of visitors did not change their bathroom towels daily (Table 6, Panel A). Table 6. Mean Score for Supplement Questions Sustainability Question On these recent trips, did you ever: Total Freq. Yes % Freq. No % Sustainability Panel A: Environmental Panel B: Socio-cultural Panel C: Economic Question Help clean-up garbage and waste left by others? Not have your bathroom towels changed daily? Pay for sexual intercourse? Buy a product made by local artists? Consciously avoid using services of international chains? Make donations to local schools, temples, or foundations for disadvantaged groups? Total 499 495 496 497 496 495 162 258 27 368 306 273 Yes 32.5 52.1 5.4 74 61.7 55.2 337 237 469 129 190 222 No 67.5 47.9 94.6 26 38.3 44.8 Table 7 shows mean scores of overall sustainable behavior as well as socio-cultural, economic, environmental sustainability. On the 15-point scale the average sustainable behavior score was 11.5 with slightly higher scores on socio-cultural sustainable and economic behavior than environmental behavior (Table 7). Table 7. Mean Scores of sustainable behavioral Total Socio-cultural Environmental Economic Overall score 455 481 489 439 Minimum 0.5 0 1 5 Maximum 5 5 5 15 Mean 4.0 3.5 3.9 11.5 Std. Deviation 0.74 0.98 0.92 1.91 Coefficient of Variation (%) 18.4 27.6 23.3 16.5 4.3. Factors associated with behavioral differences Factors associated with above average overall sustainable behavior scores were compared to those for below average scores using binary-logit regression. The set of candidate predictor variables covered area of residence, trip and personal characteristics (Table 8). There were several significant relationships after adjustment for mutual confounding. Independent tourists were more likely to have high sustainable behavior scores than group-tour members. Visitors from Asia and Australia & New Zealand tend to have higher sustainable behavior scores than those from other regions, compared to the reference group of Arab & Africa. Visitors from higher-income countries are also more likely to have higher sustainable behavior scores than from lower-income sources. The longer time a visitor spends in Thailand, the more likely he or she is to have a high level of sustainable behavior. Visitors to the North with its ecological and cultural emphasis have more sustainable behavior than those visiting 3S tourism areas in the South. Visitors in several categories of professions have a higher chance of having high sustainable behavior than students. After adjustment for these other variables gender, age and education level were not significantly associated with sustainable behavior. Table 8. Binary-Logit Regression Analysis Variables Country/region of resident Income level of country of origin Region Americas Europe Australia & New Zealand Asia Trip Characteristics B 0.89*** 1.17 0.79 2.13*** 1.24* S.E. 0.30 0.75 0.72 0.82 0.76 Odds ratio/multipliers 2.43 3.24 2.21 8.45 3.46 Variables Country/region of resident First-time international tourist First-time in Thailand Group size Tourism preference Member of group tour Region in Thailand currently visited Duration of stay in Thailand Proportion of number of days spent on tourism to 365 days Proportion of number of days spent on tourism in Thailand to number of days spent on tourism in one year Personal characteristics Age group Gender Level of education Technical/vocational/associate Bachelor's Post graduate Profession Executives & professionals Technical/skilled/trades Unskilled Self-employed Look after home Retired Unemployed Constant N=417, R squared = 0.19, Log Likelihood = 513.34 Accuracy of prediction: 0 = 63.1%, 1= 65.5%, Overall = 64.3%. Dependent variable= high and low sustainable behavior Note: ***Significant at less than 0.01 **Significant at less than 0.05. *Significant at less than 0.10. B -0.02 0.24 0.021 -0.67** -0.88*** 0.01* -0.005 -0.23 0.08 0.21 0.19 0.52 0.08 1.24*** 0.77 1.14 1.50*** 1.58** 1.18* -0.09 -5.21 S.E. 0.38 0.24 0.06 0.34 0.31 0.009 0.005 0.27 0.09 0.23 0.34 0.36 0.38 0.44 0.51 0.77 0.55 0.83 0.67 1.40 1.29 Odds ratio/multipliers 0.97 1.27 1.02 0.51 0.41 1.01 0.99 0.79 1.08 1.23 1.21 1.69 1.08 3.48 2.16 3.13 4.51 4.86 3.28 0.91 0.005 5. Discussion This section discusses possible reasons why and how those ten variables are associated with tourist behavior, followed by policy implication of the findings. Type of tourism. Tourists visiting cultural tourism in the North have higher chance of having higher sustainable behavior than those visiting the 3S tourism in the South. At least three reasons explain how types of tourism may exert influence over sustainable behavior. First, the nature of tourism shapes visitors' awareness of sustainability. Visitors who visit cultural tourist attractions may learn local culture, customs and traditions in advance, making them accept local code of conduct and familiar with local culture even before arriving at the destination. Or, even if they have not learned those at the travel planning stage, they are likely to learn partially from tour guides, whose duties include imparting local code of conduct to visitors. In the case of ecotourism, visitors not only enjoy richness of the nature, e.g. rain forest and mountain, but they also get a chance to interact with local residents. This interaction may stimulate visitors' appreciation of local way of life. The above reasons can be substantiated by the study of Bimonte (2008, 112) which showed that nature-based tourists visiting Italy showed greater interest in local products. Nature-based tourists also declared that certification of local, environmental-friendly and organic products would influence their choice of buying local goods and stimulated their expenditure in the local community. While the uniqueness of cultural tourism and ecotourism found in northern Thailand may create visitors' awareness of sustainability, 3S tourism in the South may not. Sea-sand-sun tourism offers much less local uniqueness. Most 3S tourist attractions in any part of the world offer common activities such as swimming, sunbathing, jet-ski riding, and night life entertainment. Visitors don't need to learn about local culture, traditions or customs in order to experience these attractions. 3S tourists hardly mingle with locals or experience local ways of life; instead, they stick together on the beach and visit nightlife entertainment. Second, tourist education shapes visitors' awareness of sustainability. One way visitors can be educated while visiting tourist attractions is through code of conduct declared by tourism sites. Based on observation in the study of Shamsub (2010, 211), most cultural tourism and ecotourism sites in northern Thailand declared code of conduct or how they expected visitors to behave. In contrast codes on proper visiting practices were hardly seen at 3S tourist attractions in the South. Most signs educating visitors in Phuket instructed visitors on safety. This may be due to the fact that, as mentioned earlier, behavior of 3S tourists are common worldwide, causing 3S visitors to behave less sustainably than cultural and eco-tourists. Third, the image of the place attracts different types of visitors who behave accordingly. Tourism image is considered a medium of matching the demand and supply of a particular type of tourism. Cultural-and-ecotourism oriented visitors are likely to be drawn and spend more time in the northern region of Thailand. On the contrary, 3S-oriented tourists are likely to be attracted and spend more time in Phuket and its surrounding areas. Group tour members. The results of the analysis show that group tour members are likely to behave less sustainably than independent tourists. This may be attributable to two reasons. First, group tour members face many constraints and have relatively tight and fixed schedules of activities. The entire group travels together with little private time to interact with locals, to shop and to comprehend local traditions, customs and culture. Group tour members have little or no choice on facilities provided by local operators. This may result in smaller local economic contributions. Laesser (2006, 397) found that travellers on group tour to Victoria spent 10% less than average. Second, group tour members tend to be dependent on tour guides. This makes them susceptible to overlooking and violating local code of conduct if tour guides fail to perform their duties properly. Group tour members may not learn local way of life and code of conduct before arriving at the destination because they expect that any necessary local information will be provided by tour guides. However, according to our interview with tour operators in Chiang Mai, it is not possible for tour guides to pass on all information within limited time because they have many other duties to perform simultaneously. Region of residence. The region where visitors reside is associated with their sustainable behavior. Visitors from Asia and Australia & New Zealand were significantly more likely to have high sustainability scores (Table 8). This can be explained by the influence of distance on behavior (Debbage 1991, 251). Shorter distance may imply visitors' familiarity with the destination. Carr (2002, 321) study of visitors at Cala Millor in Britain and Touquay in Spain showed that as distance from place of origin to destination increased, the tendency for tourists to behave in a "passive" manner also increased. In this study "passive" referred to activities such as going into bars and nightclubs with hedonistic behavior, whereas, "active" included activities such as walking around the area and visiting places of interest. Countries in close proximity may share similar cultures or have better understanding of local cultures due to regional ties. Many Asian countries, to some extent, share similar values and cultures such as believing in Buddhism and eating similar type of food. Australia and New Zealand, despite racial difference, are geographically tied to Asian countries. People in those countries may understand the Thai culture better than people from other parts of the world. Income level of the country of origin. The higher the incomes level of the country of origin, the better the chance of the visitor having high sustainable behavior. This can be explained by quality of life and stage of economic development. Visitors from high-income economies are likely to have better quality of life than those from lower-income economies. As a country has passed through several stages of development, it is likely to improve its environmental performance. The study by the World Bank (1992, 126) endorses this view: environmental quality declines with economic growth at the first stage; then, increases as economic growth continues and per capita income rises. The level of economic development of a country may influence residents' behavior toward the environment. Duration of stay. The longer the visitor stays in Thailand, the higher the chance of having high sustainable behavior. As more vacation time is spent in Thailand, tourists familiarize themselves with the local culture, traditions, and way of life. Conformity to those aspects of the host community may enhance cultural and economic sustainability as longer-stay visitors may start to comprehend local code of conduct, eat local food, and buy locally-made goods. Profession. Visitors whose professions are executive, professional and self-employed are likely to have high sustainable behavior. This may be attributable to the fact that those people are more interested in naturebased and cultural tourism. Visitors interested in nature-based and cultural tourism are likely to have high sustainable behavior because nature-based tourism with good interpretation strategy influences behavioral attitude toward the environment (Powell 2008, 467) and visitors interested in culture and heritage elements have high level of knowledge of the place (Espelt 2006, 442). This view is substantiated by the studies of Bimonte (2008, 112), and Ryan (2000, 53). In the study of park visitors in Italy Bimonte (2008, 112) found that park visitors who were in professional occupations were more sensitive to environmental quality and created more positive socio-economic impact such as buying eco-friendly and locally-made products. In the study of tourism in Northern Australia, Ryan (2000, 53) found that most tourists that were classified into the cluster of intellectual seekers were in professional occupations. Tourists in this cluster tended to have passive activities such as bush walking and outback tours, having high level of interest in National Parks, and learning about Aboriginal culture. There are many possible reasons to explain why visitors whose full-time duties are to look-after home/children may have high sustainable behavior. People who look after others at home already show they have concern for others and this may be easily shifted to caring about the communities they visit. Skourtis (2010, 1) found that among Chinese and Japanese visitors to Greece, housewife respondents considered knowledge seeking a more important motive than rest or relaxation. Knowledge seeking motives included seeing how other people lived and to experience cultures that were different from their own. As most housewives travel with family and make purchasing decisions for the family during the trip - such as buying souvenirs (Trisuwan 2010, 232) their behavior reinforces economic contributions to local communities. It should be emphasized that in this study the association was significant (Table 8) even after adjustment for the gender of respondent. High sustainable behavior of retirees may be explained by the fact that most retirees have had travel experience and have been engaged in many travels for various purposes. Upon retirement, they have more freedom to pursue leisure activities. They could spend longer periods of time, live in the place, get to know, and learn various aspects of the place (Nimrod 2008, 859). The average length of stay of retirees in this study was longer than that of visitors from other professions. Policy implications. If a priority on the national tourism policy agenda was to increase the number of tourists with high levels of sustainable behavior, then visitors of those aforementioned characteristics should be targeted. In other words, tourism policy should promote long duration of stay, increase the number of independent visitors relative to those coming on group tours, and place more emphasis on promoting the country as a destination for cultural- and eco-tourism. In addition, the markets should also be segmented by profession of visitors, in addition to by geographic region or income levels. Nevertheless, one should realize that it is not practical to have only visitors with high sustainable behavior to visit the country no matter how well behavioral segmentation is implemented. Therefore, policy regarding visitor behavior should also aim at improving visitor behavior, especially among those with low sustainable behavior. To achieve this, visitor education programs should be implemented. Marion (2007, 5) proposed to use programs such as `leave no traces', code of conduct, and environmental guidelines for tourists to encourage visitors to adopt low-impact behaviors. Shamsub (2010, 211) proposed that hotels located in culturally sensitive areas post positive cultural messages in guestrooms in addition to current practice of posting environmental messages. Conclusion This study proposed a set of indicators of sustainable behavior and then measured them for a sample of international tourists visiting Thailand. Relationships between self-reported sustainable behaviors and other characteristics of visitors were explored using binary-logit regression. Visitors from regions in close proximity and from countries of higher levels of income tend to have higher sustainable behavior than others. By profession, executives & professionals, self-employed persons, retirees and housewives are likely to have high sustainable behavior. With regards to tourism preferences, visitors with long duration of stay in the country and those who visit natural and cultural tourist attractions are found to have high levels of sustainable behavior. In addition, independent tourists have higher chance of behaving more sustainably than group tour counterparts. The findings imply that, to attract visitors with high sustainable behavior into the country, the tourism policy should promote long duration of stay, increase the number of independent visitors, and place more emphasis on promoting the country as a destination for cultural and ecotourism. In addition, tourist education programs should be put in place to improve the sustainability of visitor behaviors where these are low. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Journal of Environmental Management and Tourism de Gruyter

Identifying tourists with sustainable behavior: a study of international tourists to Thailand

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de Gruyter
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2068-7729
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10.2478/v10260-012-0003-z
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Abstract

This study proposed a set of indicators and then measured sustainable behavior patterns of international tourists to Thailand. A post-visit index based on 12 questions about self-reported practices was used to measure sustainable behavior with respect to local economy, society and culture, and the environment. Associations between scores on the behavioral index and various other descriptors of tourists were explored using binary- logit regression. Sustainable behavior was found to be associated with region where a tourist comes from, income level of the country where the tourist resides, profession, duration of stay in the host country, nature of tourist attraction, and whether or not visitors were part of a group tour. Practical policy measures for attracting tourists with more sustainable behavior as well as modifying those with low sustainability are proposed. Keywords: sustainable tourism, tourist behavior indicators, measuring sustainable tourist behavior, Thailand, visitor behavior JEL Classification: M190 1. Introduction The field of sustainable tourism emerged in the early 1990s and has expanded rapidly since. Most studies focus on improving the practices on the production side, that is, of tourism providers. The literature on the demand side of sustainable tourism, particularly sustainable tourist behavior is very rare. Because visitor behavior is crucial to enhance tourism sustainability, this study proposes to identify visitor behaviors. As a contribution to efforts to enable more sustainable tourist behavior, our paper offers a practical set of indicators through which to measure sustainable behavior and, then, uses these measures to identify tourists who have more or less sustainable behavior. There are three dimensions of tourists' sustainable behavior: environmental, cultural and economic sustainability. Very few articles in existing literature devote discussion to measuring visitor behavior. Among those, however, discussion of sustainable behavior focuses mainly on one aspect of sustainability. While some study environmental sustainability, others research on cultural or economic sustainability. Therefore, our paper proposes to measure sustainable behavior of visitors by measuring all three aspects of sustainability simultaneously. Then, using scores of sustainable behavior derived from our sustainable behavior questions, we identify factors that are associated with or may influence sustainable behavior.The results of the study provide insights on how international visitors behave toward tourism sustainability. Factors associated with sustainability uncovered in this study can be used for policy planning to achieve tourism sustainability from a consumer perspective. The paper is organized as follows. The next section briefly surveys the literature on sustainable behavior of tourists. The following section explains the set of indicators chosen, how they were measured, and other aspects of the research design. After this, the paper moves on to describe and discuss the main findings ending with a discussion of the policy implications. 2. Sustainable Behavior To measure sustainable behavior, we employ the following definition of sustainable tourists. "Sustainable tourists as those who (1) agree with a code of conduct that recommends how they as visitors should behave, (2) appreciate that their activities have impacts on the environment and tailor their actions accordingly; (3) would like to make economic contribution to the host economy and therefore purchase local products such as food and crafts (Dinan 2010,1)." The literature on sustainable tourism from a consumption, or tourist behavior perspective, has expanded in the last decade. Most studies focus on visitor attitude and behavioral intent rather than actual practices or behavior. The tourist behavior literature can be grouped into four categories. The first group of studies investigates tourist attitude and behavioral intent. Powell (2008, 467), for example, showed that participation in ecotourism had little impact on visitor attitudes and conservation behaviors. However, visitors' attitudes and intentions related to pro-conservation behavior can be influenced by interpretation strategies, or the way environmental messages are communicated. Many studies have shown that green attitude of tourists can be influenced by green practices implemented by tourism businesses, such as practices of the lodging industry (Manaktola 2007, 364). Lee (2010, 901) asserts that behavioral intention is a crucial factor that explains customer behaviors because strong intention is likely to result in performance. To influence behavioral intentions, it is crucial to build green image of the tourism service providers. The second group studies tourist behavior and factors influencing it. The literature in this area is very limited. A review of environmentally-friendly tourists by Dolnicar (2008, 197) suggested that results of previous studies were inconclusive. The characteristics of environmentally-friendly tourists are hard to delineate clearly. However, in a more recent study Dolnicar (2010, 717) found that age, regional identity, income, and moral obligation were predictors of pro-environmental behavior. Some relevant studies have investigated tourist behavior without referring explicitly to sustainability. McKercher (2008, 369) study of visitor behavior at Ulural (Ayers Rock) in Central Australia showed that some visitors seriously challenge the values of the host community. Some visitors express overt rejection of local (Aboriginal) value and traditions while others think that they can do whatever they want simply because they are tourists. Challenging the values of the place may result in hostile attitude of local residents toward tourism. The third group of studies shows how tourist behaviors impact the local economy, environment and culture. According to Budeanu (2007, 499), the behavior that tourists display during their holidays has important consequences on well-being of the local community. International tourists tend to replicate their usual leisure behavioral patterns while visiting a foreign destination. Due to differences in cultures, this may cause clashes or tension, ending with local residents having antagonizing attitudes towards tourism. The study by Shamsub (2010, 211) substantiates this finding. Local residents in Thailand perceive visitors kissing in public and walking bearchested along the street as inappropriate and are concerned that local teenagers will copy those behaviors. Regarding environmental impact, Boyd (1996, 557) find that eco tourists leave only a limited impact on the environment. However, results of some studies suggest that ecotourism experience has little impact on visitor cognition, attitudes and conservation behaviors (Powell 2008, 467). Studies of economic impact look at patterns of spending and where money goes. Laesser (2006, 397) find that direct spending of group tour members is 10% less than that of independent tourists. Tourism in developing nations experience many obstacles to economic sustainability such as leakage and enclave tourism. Income generated in a country of destination often leaks out due to imports of goods to satisfy tourists' demand and foreign ownership of tourist facilities. Enclave tourism means inclusive tour packages that tourists stay, dine, and use services of big tourism business that belong to the same supply chain. The degree of leakage differs from country to country; for example, advance economies experience 10-20% leak, while small economies may experience leaks up to 50% (Budeanu 2007, 499). The fourth group proposes measures to enhance sustainable tourist behavior. Marion (2007, 5) , for instance, propose to use educational programs ­ such as leave no traces, code of conduct, and environmental guidelines for tourists ­ to encourage visitors to adopt low-impact behaviors. Lee (2010, 901) recommends building the green hotel image to influence behavioral intentions of tourists. Powell (2008, 467) suggests that welldesigned messages delivered during the ecotourism experience can enhance behavioral intention in support of conservation. Our paper fits most closely into the second group of studies that investigate tourist behavior. However, it differs from existing literature in the following aspects. First, many studies have investigated visitor behavior and classified tourists into groups based on their behavior without referring to sustainability. In this study we propose a set of indicators and a measure of sustainable behavior to explore patterns in behavior and classify tourists. Second, most studies in the area of sustainable tourist behavior focus on behavior toward the environment. In this study we consider all three dimensions of sustainability: environmental, economic, and socio-cultural. Third, most of previous studies focus on attitude, "planned" behaviors and behavioral intentions. In this post-visit study we asked tourists to report on their actual behavior during their trip. Positive attitudes of tourists might not be reflected in their actions (Budeanu 2007, 499). 3. Research Design This study used a survey research to investigate sustainable behavior of international tourists to Thailand. Tourist behavior was classified into two groups of low and high sustainable behaviors. A binary-logit analysis was used to analyze variables, such as demographic and trip characteristics, which were associated with sustainable behavior. 3.1. Research instrument for measuring sustainable tourist behavior To measure sustainable behavior, a questionnaire was designed to integrate three principles of tourism sustainability: environmental, economic and socio-cultural sustainability. Those three principles are consistent with the definition of sustainable tourism given by the World Tourism Organization as: "tourism which leads to management of all resources in such a way that economic, social and aesthetic need can be filled while maintaining cultural integrity, essential ecological processes, biological diversity and life support systems" (McKercher 2003, 1). To translate those three principles into sustainable behavior, we adopted the definition of tourists with sustainable behavior by Dinan (2000, 1), thereafter to be referred to as D&S: "Sustainable tourists as those who (1) agree with a code of conduct that recommends how they as visitors should behave, (2) appreciate that their activities have impacts on the environment and tailor their actions accordingly; (3) would like to make economic contribution to the host economy and therefore purchase local products such as food and crafts." Accordingly, D&S measured sustainable behavior using six questions asking questions whether visitors would: (1) follow the code of conduct; (2) buy local foodstuffs; (3) buy local crafts; (4) recycle glass; (5) recycle paper; and (6) recycle aluminium. It can be seen that D&S emphasize or allocate higher weight on measures of environmental sustainability because three out of six questions (Questions 4 to 6) are devoted to the environment, while Questions 1 and 2 measure cultural and economic sustainability respectively. Instead of adopting D&S's questions to measure sustainable behavior of visitors, in this study we propose a new set of indicators as an alternative to those used by D&S to measure sustainable behavior of tourists to Thailand. In addition, instead of emphasizing or weighting environmental suitability higher than others, we allocate equal weight to each dimension. Four questions were allocated to each dimension of sustainability to give a total of twelve questions (Table 1). There are two sets of questions--main and supplemental. The main questions reflected tourists' efforts to help maintain sustainability while they were in Thailand; whereas the supplemental questions identified their extra efforts. Questions on tourists' effort to help main sustainability are common questions asked in existing literature. Questions on extra efforts are those rarely found in existing literature. The questions were framed based on variety of consumption habits of visitors found in existing literature. Table 1. Scoring Sustainable Behavior Panel A: Main Questions Sustainability Selected Corresponding Behavior Yes Accepted local code of conduct imposed by tourism sites Socio-cultural Studied local customs and language and tried to adopt some in appropriate settings Bought locally-made goods or souvenirs Economic Gave preference to facilities and trips run by local people; for example, dine in local restaurants or use local tour operators Took into consideration environmental impacts when making decision about your travel Took extra care when throwing away rubbish 2 Often 2 2 2 Answer/score No (Did not see No (See the COC* messages) COC messages) 1 Sometimes 1 1 1 0 Never 0 0 0 Environmental Note: *COC = code of conduct posted at tourism sties. Maximum main score=12, minimum=0 Panel B: Supplemental questions Sustainability Environmental Socio-cultural Selected Corresponding Behavior Helped clean-up garbage and waste left by others Not have your bathroom towels changed daily Paid for sexual intercourse Bought a product made by local artists Consciously avoided using services of international chains Made donations to local schools, temples, or foundations for disadvantaged groups Note: Maximum supplement score=3, minimum=0. Economic Answer/Score Yes No 0.5 0 0 0.5 0.5 0.5 Environmental sustainability. Most existing literature equates sustainable behavior to environmental sustainability. We adapted those frequently asked in the literature to make them appropriate for Thai destinations while keeping the set of indicators as small as possible (e.g. Dolnicar 2010, 717; Dolnicar 2008, 197; Powell 2008, 467). The questions on environmental sustainability covered a wide range of practices from taking into consideration environmental impacts when making decision about their travel to having bathroom towels changed (Table 1). Economic Sustainability. In general, international tourists bring foreign currencies to the host country. However, that does not mean that income from tourism is distributed fairly. Tourism will be sustainable if local residents where visitors visit feel that they receive economic benefit from tourism. For example, residents of Victoria, Australia, felt that retail activities had changed for better thanks to tourism in the region (Inbakaran 2005, 323). Buying local products enhances more equitable economic growth due to the widespread network of small and medium enterprises that produce the products, resulting in greater multiplier effect (Bimonte 2008, 112). Hence, we measured economic sustainability behavior in terms of direct local income distribution to the community in the forms of buying local goods and giving preferences to services of local people. The questions on economic sustainability included buying locally-made goods and services and making donations (Table 1). Socio-cultural sustainability. From socio-cultural perspective, we measured aspects of behavior that could lead to hostile attitude of local residents toward tourism in particular acceptance of local culture and behavioral norms. According to Stanford (2008, 258), responsible tourists should actively engage with local communities. But this can raise problems if visitors rely solely on their own cultural norms to tell them how to behave (McKercher 2008, 369; Shamsub 2010, 211; Inbakaran 2005, 323). To enhance cultural sustainability, tourists should abide by local code of conduct. Therefore our questions to measure cultural sustainability included accepting code of conduct at tourism sites (Table 1). An aggregate score for sustainable behavior was calculated based on the 12 indicators or questions in Table 1. The six main scores carried 80% of total weight and the supplemental scores 20%. On this index the possible maximum score a tourist can have 15, while the minimum is 0. The main scores carried higher weight because they reflected tourists' efforts to help maintain sustainability; whereas the six supplemental scores identified their extra efforts that might not be considered common practices for many tourists. 3.2. Data collection Data were collected using self-administered questionnaire, which consisted of three sections: personal characteristics, tourism preferences, and sustainable behavior. Personal characteristics included country of residence, gender, age, education, and profession. Tourism preferences comprised duration of stay in Thailand, number of days per year spent on tourism, group size, and type of tour (group-tour member or independent tourist). The sustainable behavior section consisted of 12 questions as mentioned in Table 1. The questionnaire was produced in eight languages: English, French, German, Spanish, Russian, Japanese, Korean, and Chinese. Those eight languages cover approximately 80% of all international visitors to Thailand. The questionnaire was written first in English; then, translated into seven other languages by faculty members specializing in each language at the Foreign Language Center of Chiang Mai University (CMU), Thailand. Validity check for translation was performed by native speakers; most of them were foreign students at CMU. The questionnaire was tested at Mae Hong Son and Chiang Mai International Airports. Then, reliability check for questions on sustainable behavior was performed using test/retest technique. The result shows no statistical difference between the scores of the test group and the retest group. Data were collected from 501 international visitors at two major international airports in Thailand, Chiang Mai, and Phuket. Chiang Mai airport serves tourists visiting Chiang Mai, the most visited tourism destination in the North, and surrounding provinces. Tourist attractions in this area are predominantly ecotourism and cultural tourism. Phuket is the most popular tourism destination in southern Thailand. Phuket International Airport services tourists visiting Phuket and surrounding provinces, including Phang Nga.Tourist attractions in this region are mainly sea-sand-sun (3S). The main reason why we picked samples from these two airports is to roughly test whether types of tourist attraction tourists currently visit - ecotourism and cultural tourism in the North and 3S tourism in the South - are associated with the levels of sustainable behavior. At the Chiang Mai International Airport, 410 questionnaires were collected between 9-14 January 2006. At the Phuket International Airport, 91 questionnaires were collected between 13-18 March 2006. Please note that January is the peak of tourism season in Chiang Mai, while March falls in the low season of Phuket. In addition, at the time of data collection, tourism in Phuket and surrounding areas had not fully recovered from the Tsunami devastation in late 2004. This explained why the number of tourists visiting Phuket was much lower than that of the same time period before the Tsunami. Consequently, the number of questionnaires collected at the Phuket International Airport in our sample was also much lower than that of the Chiang Mai Airport, although the same amount of time was spent at both airports and the same selection criteria were applied. The sample selection process was as follows. All international visitors of all international and domestic flights leaving both airports between 8:00am to 5:30pm during the specified time period were selected. Data collectors stopped handing out questionnaires 15 minutes before boarding time. Only one questionnaire was allowed per family and only one member of the family filled out the questionnaire. Respondents must be at least 15 years old. Visitors who did not understand those eight languages were exempt. To motivate visitors, we offered a souvenir of their choice, either a key chain or bookmark. The total of 533 questionnaires were handed out, 432 in Chiang Mai and 101 in Phuket. However, 32 persons refused: 22 in Chiang Mai and 10 in Phuket. This yielded the response rate of 94%. 3.3. Statistical method Variation in overall sustainable behavior scores (Table 1) were analyzed using binary-logit regression. Visitor's aggregate sustainable behavior scores were classified into two groups: visitors who scored at and above the average were considered having high sustainable behavior; while those who scored below the average were classified as having low sustainable behavior. The set of explanatory variables explored and how they were measured are summarized in Table 2. A similar approach was used by Dolnicar (2010, 717) to distinguish visitors who had environmentally friendly behavior from those who did not. The dependent variable, Y, is dummy variable; where Y =1 if a visitor had high sustainable behavior (scored at 11.5 and above) and Y=0, otherwise or low (scored below 11.5) Independent variables consist of three categories: trip characteristics, personal characteristics, and tourism preferences. Description of independent variables can be seen in Table 2 below. Table 2. Variable description and measurement Variable Income level of country of origin Description Log of GDP per capita of the country of resident Region where respondents are visiting from Is the respondent a first-time international tourist? First trip to Thailand or repeated visitor. Measurement Log of GDP per capita represents level of economic development. Measured using 6 dummy variables. 1= Americas ,1=Europe, 1=Australia & New Zealand 1=Asian, 0=reference group (Middle East & Africa) Dummy: 1=Yes, 0=otherwise Dummy: 1=first trip to Thailand, 0=otherwise Region of resident First-time international tourist First-time in Thailand Variable Group size Group tour Description Size of group Is the respondent a member of group tour? Chiang Mai and Phuket. Chiang Mai and surrounding areas represent ecotourism and cultural tourism. Phuket and surrounding areas represent 3S tourism. Number of days the respondent stays in Thailand on his/her recent trip Number of days per year spent on tourism relative to 365 days Number of days spent in Thailand on this recent trip in proportion to total number of days per year spent on tourism Age of respondent Sex of respondent Measurement Number of individuals in group, including respondent Dummy variable: 1= Yes, 0=otherwise Region in Thailand the respondent currently visit Dummy: 1=Southern (Predominantly Phu Ket and Phang Nga) 0=Otherwise Number of days spent including plan to spend in Thailand as a tourist on this recent trip Number of days spent on tourism 365 Number of days spent in Thailand on this trip Total number of days spent on tourism for the entire year Age Dummy variable: 1 = male, 0 = otherwise (reference) Categorical. Levels of education are divided into four major groups: 1=technical/vocational/associate 1= bachelor's 1= post graduate degree 0=high school and lower (reference) The eight-category variable is measured using seven binary dummies as follows: 1=Executives & professionals, 1 =Technicians & skilled & trades, 1=Unskilled, 1=Self-employed, 1= Unemployed, 1= look after home, 1 = Retired, 0= Otherwise = student (reference) Duration of stay in Thailand Proportion of the number of days spent on tourism to 365 days Proportion of the number of days spent on tourism in Thailand to the number of days spent on tourism in one year Age Gender Levels of education Respondents' highest level of education Profession Profession of the respondent 4. Results 4.1. Tourists Table 3. Frequency Distribution Characteristics Member of group tour International Visitors Frequency % Total 92 18.4 500 Characteristics First trip as international tourist First trip to Thailand Gender (male) Professions Executives & professionals Technical/skilled/trades Unskilled Students Self-employed Unemployed Look after home Retired Education High school & lower Technical/vocational/associate Bachelor Post graduate Region Americas Europe Middle East & Africa Australia & New Zealand Asia International Visitors Frequency % Total 55 11 500 225 45.1 499 283 57.4 493 The average age of sampled visitors was 40 years old (Table 4). Average GDP of the country of origin was US$28,673, ranging from the lowest of US$1,100 to the highest of US$41,529. The average group size was 5.8 persons.In terms of tourism preference, on average visitors spent 32 days per year on tourism and, during this trip, they spent around 18 days in Thailand. Overall the amount of time spent in Thailand on this recent trip was 57% relative to total time spent on tourism per year. Table 4. Descriptive Statistics Total Age GDP of the country where visitor come from (US$) Group size * Tourism Preference: Number of days per year spent on tourism Duration of stay in Thailand ** Proportion of days spent on tourism in Thailand to days spent on tourism in one year 498 501 501 486 488 465 Minimum 16 1100 1 2 2 0.02 Maximum 79 41529 7 200 90 1 Mean 40.2 28673 3.0 31.7 18.2 0.57 Std. Deviation 14.64 9902 1.90 27.75 17.00 0.29 Note: *To avoid outliers, the cut-off point of group size was set at the maximum of seven persons and over, although the maximum was 201. ** For the same reason, although the maximum duration is 355, the cut- of point was set at 90 days and over. 4.2. Sustainable behavior Table 5A shows the prevalence of socio-cultural sustainable behaviors in our sample. Most visitors understood and accepted codes of conduct messages (Table 5). Approximately half sometimes studied local language and customs and adopted some in appropriate settings, and another 35% did these activities frequently. On the negative side, 5% of visitors had paid for sexual intercourse on their trips. On the positive side, over 70% bought products made by local artists. Table 5. Frequency Distribution of Main Questions No Did not see COC* Freq. % 8 1.7 Sustainability Question: Did you Accept most the messages you received? Total Freq 473 Total 449 Yes % 94.9 See COC* Freq % 16 3.4 Question: Have you Studied local language and customs and tried to adopt some in appropriate setting? Brought locally-made goods or souvenirs? Panel B: Given preference to facilities and Economic trips run by local people; for example, dine in local restaurant or use local tour operators? Taken into consideration environmental impacts when Panel C: making decision about your travel? Environmental Paid extra care when throwing away rubbish? Note: * code of conduct posted at tourism sites Panel A: Socio-cultural Often Freq % 173 340 35 68.4 Sometime Freq. % 274 153 55.5 30.8 Never Freq % 47 4 9.5 0.8 Over two- thirds of visitors often bought locally-made goods/souvenirs and gave preference to facilities and trips run by local people (Table 5, Panel B). Over 60% of respondents consciously avoided using services of international chains and 55% made donation to local charities (Table 6, Panel C). In terms of environmental sustainability just under half of visitors often took into account the environmental impacts when making travel decisions (Table 5, Panel C). More visitors often paid extra care when throwing away rubbish, but only a third cleaned up garbage left by others (Table 6, Panel A). Half of visitors did not change their bathroom towels daily (Table 6, Panel A). Table 6. Mean Score for Supplement Questions Sustainability Question On these recent trips, did you ever: Total Freq. Yes % Freq. No % Sustainability Panel A: Environmental Panel B: Socio-cultural Panel C: Economic Question Help clean-up garbage and waste left by others? Not have your bathroom towels changed daily? Pay for sexual intercourse? Buy a product made by local artists? Consciously avoid using services of international chains? Make donations to local schools, temples, or foundations for disadvantaged groups? Total 499 495 496 497 496 495 162 258 27 368 306 273 Yes 32.5 52.1 5.4 74 61.7 55.2 337 237 469 129 190 222 No 67.5 47.9 94.6 26 38.3 44.8 Table 7 shows mean scores of overall sustainable behavior as well as socio-cultural, economic, environmental sustainability. On the 15-point scale the average sustainable behavior score was 11.5 with slightly higher scores on socio-cultural sustainable and economic behavior than environmental behavior (Table 7). Table 7. Mean Scores of sustainable behavioral Total Socio-cultural Environmental Economic Overall score 455 481 489 439 Minimum 0.5 0 1 5 Maximum 5 5 5 15 Mean 4.0 3.5 3.9 11.5 Std. Deviation 0.74 0.98 0.92 1.91 Coefficient of Variation (%) 18.4 27.6 23.3 16.5 4.3. Factors associated with behavioral differences Factors associated with above average overall sustainable behavior scores were compared to those for below average scores using binary-logit regression. The set of candidate predictor variables covered area of residence, trip and personal characteristics (Table 8). There were several significant relationships after adjustment for mutual confounding. Independent tourists were more likely to have high sustainable behavior scores than group-tour members. Visitors from Asia and Australia & New Zealand tend to have higher sustainable behavior scores than those from other regions, compared to the reference group of Arab & Africa. Visitors from higher-income countries are also more likely to have higher sustainable behavior scores than from lower-income sources. The longer time a visitor spends in Thailand, the more likely he or she is to have a high level of sustainable behavior. Visitors to the North with its ecological and cultural emphasis have more sustainable behavior than those visiting 3S tourism areas in the South. Visitors in several categories of professions have a higher chance of having high sustainable behavior than students. After adjustment for these other variables gender, age and education level were not significantly associated with sustainable behavior. Table 8. Binary-Logit Regression Analysis Variables Country/region of resident Income level of country of origin Region Americas Europe Australia & New Zealand Asia Trip Characteristics B 0.89*** 1.17 0.79 2.13*** 1.24* S.E. 0.30 0.75 0.72 0.82 0.76 Odds ratio/multipliers 2.43 3.24 2.21 8.45 3.46 Variables Country/region of resident First-time international tourist First-time in Thailand Group size Tourism preference Member of group tour Region in Thailand currently visited Duration of stay in Thailand Proportion of number of days spent on tourism to 365 days Proportion of number of days spent on tourism in Thailand to number of days spent on tourism in one year Personal characteristics Age group Gender Level of education Technical/vocational/associate Bachelor's Post graduate Profession Executives & professionals Technical/skilled/trades Unskilled Self-employed Look after home Retired Unemployed Constant N=417, R squared = 0.19, Log Likelihood = 513.34 Accuracy of prediction: 0 = 63.1%, 1= 65.5%, Overall = 64.3%. Dependent variable= high and low sustainable behavior Note: ***Significant at less than 0.01 **Significant at less than 0.05. *Significant at less than 0.10. B -0.02 0.24 0.021 -0.67** -0.88*** 0.01* -0.005 -0.23 0.08 0.21 0.19 0.52 0.08 1.24*** 0.77 1.14 1.50*** 1.58** 1.18* -0.09 -5.21 S.E. 0.38 0.24 0.06 0.34 0.31 0.009 0.005 0.27 0.09 0.23 0.34 0.36 0.38 0.44 0.51 0.77 0.55 0.83 0.67 1.40 1.29 Odds ratio/multipliers 0.97 1.27 1.02 0.51 0.41 1.01 0.99 0.79 1.08 1.23 1.21 1.69 1.08 3.48 2.16 3.13 4.51 4.86 3.28 0.91 0.005 5. Discussion This section discusses possible reasons why and how those ten variables are associated with tourist behavior, followed by policy implication of the findings. Type of tourism. Tourists visiting cultural tourism in the North have higher chance of having higher sustainable behavior than those visiting the 3S tourism in the South. At least three reasons explain how types of tourism may exert influence over sustainable behavior. First, the nature of tourism shapes visitors' awareness of sustainability. Visitors who visit cultural tourist attractions may learn local culture, customs and traditions in advance, making them accept local code of conduct and familiar with local culture even before arriving at the destination. Or, even if they have not learned those at the travel planning stage, they are likely to learn partially from tour guides, whose duties include imparting local code of conduct to visitors. In the case of ecotourism, visitors not only enjoy richness of the nature, e.g. rain forest and mountain, but they also get a chance to interact with local residents. This interaction may stimulate visitors' appreciation of local way of life. The above reasons can be substantiated by the study of Bimonte (2008, 112) which showed that nature-based tourists visiting Italy showed greater interest in local products. Nature-based tourists also declared that certification of local, environmental-friendly and organic products would influence their choice of buying local goods and stimulated their expenditure in the local community. While the uniqueness of cultural tourism and ecotourism found in northern Thailand may create visitors' awareness of sustainability, 3S tourism in the South may not. Sea-sand-sun tourism offers much less local uniqueness. Most 3S tourist attractions in any part of the world offer common activities such as swimming, sunbathing, jet-ski riding, and night life entertainment. Visitors don't need to learn about local culture, traditions or customs in order to experience these attractions. 3S tourists hardly mingle with locals or experience local ways of life; instead, they stick together on the beach and visit nightlife entertainment. Second, tourist education shapes visitors' awareness of sustainability. One way visitors can be educated while visiting tourist attractions is through code of conduct declared by tourism sites. Based on observation in the study of Shamsub (2010, 211), most cultural tourism and ecotourism sites in northern Thailand declared code of conduct or how they expected visitors to behave. In contrast codes on proper visiting practices were hardly seen at 3S tourist attractions in the South. Most signs educating visitors in Phuket instructed visitors on safety. This may be due to the fact that, as mentioned earlier, behavior of 3S tourists are common worldwide, causing 3S visitors to behave less sustainably than cultural and eco-tourists. Third, the image of the place attracts different types of visitors who behave accordingly. Tourism image is considered a medium of matching the demand and supply of a particular type of tourism. Cultural-and-ecotourism oriented visitors are likely to be drawn and spend more time in the northern region of Thailand. On the contrary, 3S-oriented tourists are likely to be attracted and spend more time in Phuket and its surrounding areas. Group tour members. The results of the analysis show that group tour members are likely to behave less sustainably than independent tourists. This may be attributable to two reasons. First, group tour members face many constraints and have relatively tight and fixed schedules of activities. The entire group travels together with little private time to interact with locals, to shop and to comprehend local traditions, customs and culture. Group tour members have little or no choice on facilities provided by local operators. This may result in smaller local economic contributions. Laesser (2006, 397) found that travellers on group tour to Victoria spent 10% less than average. Second, group tour members tend to be dependent on tour guides. This makes them susceptible to overlooking and violating local code of conduct if tour guides fail to perform their duties properly. Group tour members may not learn local way of life and code of conduct before arriving at the destination because they expect that any necessary local information will be provided by tour guides. However, according to our interview with tour operators in Chiang Mai, it is not possible for tour guides to pass on all information within limited time because they have many other duties to perform simultaneously. Region of residence. The region where visitors reside is associated with their sustainable behavior. Visitors from Asia and Australia & New Zealand were significantly more likely to have high sustainability scores (Table 8). This can be explained by the influence of distance on behavior (Debbage 1991, 251). Shorter distance may imply visitors' familiarity with the destination. Carr (2002, 321) study of visitors at Cala Millor in Britain and Touquay in Spain showed that as distance from place of origin to destination increased, the tendency for tourists to behave in a "passive" manner also increased. In this study "passive" referred to activities such as going into bars and nightclubs with hedonistic behavior, whereas, "active" included activities such as walking around the area and visiting places of interest. Countries in close proximity may share similar cultures or have better understanding of local cultures due to regional ties. Many Asian countries, to some extent, share similar values and cultures such as believing in Buddhism and eating similar type of food. Australia and New Zealand, despite racial difference, are geographically tied to Asian countries. People in those countries may understand the Thai culture better than people from other parts of the world. Income level of the country of origin. The higher the incomes level of the country of origin, the better the chance of the visitor having high sustainable behavior. This can be explained by quality of life and stage of economic development. Visitors from high-income economies are likely to have better quality of life than those from lower-income economies. As a country has passed through several stages of development, it is likely to improve its environmental performance. The study by the World Bank (1992, 126) endorses this view: environmental quality declines with economic growth at the first stage; then, increases as economic growth continues and per capita income rises. The level of economic development of a country may influence residents' behavior toward the environment. Duration of stay. The longer the visitor stays in Thailand, the higher the chance of having high sustainable behavior. As more vacation time is spent in Thailand, tourists familiarize themselves with the local culture, traditions, and way of life. Conformity to those aspects of the host community may enhance cultural and economic sustainability as longer-stay visitors may start to comprehend local code of conduct, eat local food, and buy locally-made goods. Profession. Visitors whose professions are executive, professional and self-employed are likely to have high sustainable behavior. This may be attributable to the fact that those people are more interested in naturebased and cultural tourism. Visitors interested in nature-based and cultural tourism are likely to have high sustainable behavior because nature-based tourism with good interpretation strategy influences behavioral attitude toward the environment (Powell 2008, 467) and visitors interested in culture and heritage elements have high level of knowledge of the place (Espelt 2006, 442). This view is substantiated by the studies of Bimonte (2008, 112), and Ryan (2000, 53). In the study of park visitors in Italy Bimonte (2008, 112) found that park visitors who were in professional occupations were more sensitive to environmental quality and created more positive socio-economic impact such as buying eco-friendly and locally-made products. In the study of tourism in Northern Australia, Ryan (2000, 53) found that most tourists that were classified into the cluster of intellectual seekers were in professional occupations. Tourists in this cluster tended to have passive activities such as bush walking and outback tours, having high level of interest in National Parks, and learning about Aboriginal culture. There are many possible reasons to explain why visitors whose full-time duties are to look-after home/children may have high sustainable behavior. People who look after others at home already show they have concern for others and this may be easily shifted to caring about the communities they visit. Skourtis (2010, 1) found that among Chinese and Japanese visitors to Greece, housewife respondents considered knowledge seeking a more important motive than rest or relaxation. Knowledge seeking motives included seeing how other people lived and to experience cultures that were different from their own. As most housewives travel with family and make purchasing decisions for the family during the trip - such as buying souvenirs (Trisuwan 2010, 232) their behavior reinforces economic contributions to local communities. It should be emphasized that in this study the association was significant (Table 8) even after adjustment for the gender of respondent. High sustainable behavior of retirees may be explained by the fact that most retirees have had travel experience and have been engaged in many travels for various purposes. Upon retirement, they have more freedom to pursue leisure activities. They could spend longer periods of time, live in the place, get to know, and learn various aspects of the place (Nimrod 2008, 859). The average length of stay of retirees in this study was longer than that of visitors from other professions. Policy implications. If a priority on the national tourism policy agenda was to increase the number of tourists with high levels of sustainable behavior, then visitors of those aforementioned characteristics should be targeted. In other words, tourism policy should promote long duration of stay, increase the number of independent visitors relative to those coming on group tours, and place more emphasis on promoting the country as a destination for cultural- and eco-tourism. In addition, the markets should also be segmented by profession of visitors, in addition to by geographic region or income levels. Nevertheless, one should realize that it is not practical to have only visitors with high sustainable behavior to visit the country no matter how well behavioral segmentation is implemented. Therefore, policy regarding visitor behavior should also aim at improving visitor behavior, especially among those with low sustainable behavior. To achieve this, visitor education programs should be implemented. Marion (2007, 5) proposed to use programs such as `leave no traces', code of conduct, and environmental guidelines for tourists to encourage visitors to adopt low-impact behaviors. Shamsub (2010, 211) proposed that hotels located in culturally sensitive areas post positive cultural messages in guestrooms in addition to current practice of posting environmental messages. Conclusion This study proposed a set of indicators of sustainable behavior and then measured them for a sample of international tourists visiting Thailand. Relationships between self-reported sustainable behaviors and other characteristics of visitors were explored using binary-logit regression. Visitors from regions in close proximity and from countries of higher levels of income tend to have higher sustainable behavior than others. By profession, executives & professionals, self-employed persons, retirees and housewives are likely to have high sustainable behavior. With regards to tourism preferences, visitors with long duration of stay in the country and those who visit natural and cultural tourist attractions are found to have high levels of sustainable behavior. In addition, independent tourists have higher chance of behaving more sustainably than group tour counterparts. The findings imply that, to attract visitors with high sustainable behavior into the country, the tourism policy should promote long duration of stay, increase the number of independent visitors, and place more emphasis on promoting the country as a destination for cultural and ecotourism. In addition, tourist education programs should be put in place to improve the sustainability of visitor behaviors where these are low.

Journal

Journal of Environmental Management and Tourismde Gruyter

Published: Jun 1, 2012

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