THE ROLE OF DESTINATION IMAGE IN INFLUENCING ENVIRONMENTALLY SUSTAINABLE PURCHASING BEHAVIOUR OF TOURISTS
A large proportion of typical holiday activities are directly dependent on the natural resources at the destination and as these natural areas represent the main resource for many tourism destinations (Dolnicar & Leisch, 2007), destinations are under pressure to protect it. Current efforts to promote pro-environmental behaviors by tourists found largely ineffective. This is partly because the travel context of tourists is often ignored when studying environmentally sustainable behaviors despite the significant impact it can have on tourists’ behavior. Current literature looking at destination image offers limited insight into how (or if) destination image influences environmentally sustainable behavior of tourists outside of product-specific contexts such as eco-tour experiences or green accommodations. To fill this research gap, this thesis examines the role of destination image in influencing tourists' environmentally sustainable (tourism-related) purchasing behavior in New Zealand.
This thesis adopted a qualitative approach. The data collection consisted of 25 semi-structured in-depth interviews with international tourists in New Zealand. Data were then analyzed using the framework analysis technique. The analysis focused on three things: (1) how New Zealand is perceived by tourists, (2) tourists’ intentions of behaving environmentally sustainable, and (3) identifying aspects of the destination image that evoke or trigger pro-environmental intentions by tourists.
The findings revealed that destination image does play a role in influencing environmentally sustainable purchasing behavior by not only evoking pro-environmental intentions but also providing an encouraging and enabling environment. The characteristics and qualities of New Zealand that were found particularly influential in evoking a sense of responsibility and/or connection towards nature were the fragile environment appeal, dependence on nature, aesthetically pleasing, and unique landscape. Other factors contributing to this were also identified providing a more comprehensive understanding of how the relationship is moderated. These factors were personal factors, habit and routine, contextual factors, personal capabilities, and attitudinal factors.
The outcome of this research carries important implications particularly for destination managers and destination marketers wanting to promote environmentally sustainable (tourism-related) purchasing behavior. The complexity of environmentally sustainable behavior and the subjective nature of destination image however require further research, especially in identifying the applicability of this study to other (types of) destinations.
Keywords: destination image, environmentally sustainable purchasing behavior, New Zealand