Tourist Attitudes Towards the Environment

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  • This article was downloaded by: [the Bodleian Libraries of the University ofOxford]On: 16 October 2014, At: 07:36Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954Registered office: Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH,UK

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    Tourist Attitudes Towards theEnvironmentSimon Hudson a & Brent Ritchie ba University of Calgary , 2500 University Drive NW,Calgary, Alberta, Canada , T2N 1N4b World Tourism Education & Research Center ,University of Calgary , 2500 University Drive NW,Calgary, Alberta, Canada , T2N 1N4Published online: 14 Oct 2008.

    To cite this article: Simon Hudson & Brent Ritchie (2001) Tourist Attitudes Towardsthe Environment, Journal of Teaching in Travel & Tourism, 1:4, 1-18, DOI: 10.1300/J172v01n04_01

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  • Tourist Attitudes Towards the Environment:

    A Critique

    of the Contingent Valuation Method

    as a Research Tool

    for Measuring Willingness to Pay

    Simon HudsonBrent Ritchie

    ABSTRACT. This article evaluates the Contingent Valuation Method(CVM) as a tool for measuring the economic benefits of the provision ofnon-marketed tourism products. CVM was used to measure skiers will-ingness to pay (WTP) for an environmentally friendly ski destination.Skiers from three different nationalities were surveyed, and although theywere more likely to visit a resort that is environmentally responsible, notall of them would pay more for the privilege. Use of the CVM indicated astrong correlation between WTP and the cost of the holiday, level of in-come, and level of environmental conscience. The authors conclude that

    Simon Hudson is Associate Professor, University of Calgary, 2500 UniversityDrive NW, Calgary, Alberta, Canada T2N 1N4 (E-mail: shudson@mgmt.ucalgary.ca).

    Brent Ritchie is Chair of the World Tourism Education & Research Center, Univer-sity of Calgary, 2500 University Drive NW, Calgary, Alberta, Canada T2N 1N4(E-mail: britchie@mgmt.ucalgary.ca).

    Journal of Teaching in Travel & Tourism, Vol. 1(4) 2001 2001 by The Haworth Press, Inc. All rights reserved. 1

    ARTICLES

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  • although CVM can provide useful data for tourism decision-makers, itdoes have its limitations. [Article copies available for a fee from The HaworthDocument Delivery Service: 1-800-342-9678. E-mail address: Website: 2001 by TheHaworth Press, Inc. All rights reserved.]

    KEYWORDS. Contingent valuation, willingness-to-pay, skiing, envi-ronment, tourism

    INTRODUCTION

    Conflicts between environmentalists and ski resort developers can befound around the world, and there is no better example than in the BanffNational Park in Alberta, Canada. The dilemma of balancing the protec-tion of National Park values while making provision for their enjoy-ment is a longstanding one, which has become progressively moredifficult with the continued increase in recreation and tourist demand(Sadler, 1983). Commercial skiing in Banff/Lake Louise evolved in cir-cumstances, and was guided by attitudes, that are quite different tothose that apply today when primary importance is attached to heritageand preservation. At the time of writing, Lake Louise and three other skiareas in Alberta were pursuing legal action against Parks Canada andthe Heritage Minister, Sheila Copps, over a new policy that would cutback ski area operations, cap daily skier capacity, and restrict future ex-pansions in Banff and Jasper National Parks.

    It has been argued that there could be an opportunity for resorts togain a competitive advantage by positioning themselves as environ-mentally responsible (Hudson, 1996), and there is evidence of a newmanagement style and new commitment to have skiing co-exist withthe environment (Castle, 1999). However, little is known about skiersenvironmental knowledge and awareness, or their willingness to payfor greener tourism products. With a proposed cap on the number ofskiers permitted to visit the Banff National Park, and the huge increasein tourist numbers predicted by the World Tourism Organization(McDowell, 1999), it is inevitable that prices will have to rise (Urquhart,1998). It is therefore critical that tourism providers understand howmuch skiers are willing to pay to preserve the environment in the Na-tional Park.

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  • WILLINGNESS TO PAY FOR ENVIRONMENTALLYFRIENDLY TOURISM PRODUCTS

    International leisure travelers are increasingly motivated by the qualityof destination landscapes, in terms of environmental health and of the di-versity and integrity of natural and cultural resources. Studies of Germanand American travel markets indicate that environmental considerationsare now a significant element of travelers destination-choosing process,down toin the case of the Germansthe environmental programs oper-ated by individual hotels (Ayala, 1996). It has been suggested 40 per centof Canadians consider the environmental track record of both holidaycompany and destination when booking a holiday (Kiernan, 1992). Inter-national travelers also share willingness to contribute to the preservationand enhancement of natural environments (Ayala, 1996). The EuropeanTourism Institute claim that more than half of all travelers are willing topay up to 20 per cent more for a holiday in a natural preserved environ-ment. Certainly in the US, the growth in special interest nature-orien-tated travel reflects the increasing concern for the environment.

    The limited research on skiers and their environmental commitmenthas produced contradictory results. A Roper survey discovered that ski-ers, more than many other groups of tourists, were especially worriedabout the environmental results of development and growth (NSAA,1994). Also, SKI Magazine say they have conducted numerous inde-pendent surveys over the past decade that show skiers are more con-cerned about the environment than all other sportsmen (Bigford, 1999).However, Fry (1995) found that skiers dont have strong views about theenvironment, and more experienced skiers actually favor expansion ofski areas. And at a recent meeting of the Environmental ProtectionAgency (EPA) in Denver (November, 1999), delegates agreed that it wasunlikely consumers would make mountain resort vacation decisionsbased on how environmentally friendly the resort was (Harbaugh, 1999).

    In a recent environmental awareness study in Austria, the majority ofskiers (59%) said they were prepared to pay an environmental tax if itwould mean that something constructive would be done for the environ-ment in their chosen holiday resort (Weiss et al., 1998). The authorssuggest that the fact that skiers predominantly come from higher socio-economic groups in society may explain the high degree of willingnessto cover any environmental disturbance, caused by their leisure pur-suits, by paying taxes. Although the skiers in the Austrian study showeda high degree of environmental awareness, they were not prepared to re-

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  • strict their skiing to protect the countryside, and did not agree with lim-ited sale of lift tickets.

    OBJECTIVES OF STUDY

    The hypothesis that tourists will pay more for environmentallyfriendly tourism products lacks empirical verification. Are skiers reallyworried about the environmental impacts of skiing, and if so, how muchare they willing to pay for a deeper environmental commitment from skidestinations, whether it be enforced or not? These questions drove themain objectives of this research project, which were:

    to review the Contingent Valuation Method (CVM) as a tool formeasuring Willingness-to-Pay (WTP).

    to clarify how much exactly, skiers are willing-to-pay for a moreenvironmentally friendly skiing product.

    to make theoretical and practical recommendations based on theresearch findings.

    THE CONTINGENT VALUATION METHOD

    Price is a potentially powerful tool to move towards greater effi-ciency, fairness and environmentally sustainable management, but iscurrently underutilized (Laarman and Gregerson, 1996). Most studiesof WTP rely on one of two analytical methods: travel cost and contin-gent valuation. In practice, however, the travel-cost approach is em-ployed more often to value and defend nature-based tourism as a landuse rather than to guide pricing. While the travel-cost method isgrounded in observed market behavior, CVM poses hypothetical whatif questions about how individuals would respond to specified pricesfor tourism productsin this case, how much they are willing to pay forspecific improvements in the environment they are skiing in. Individ-uals are asked about their contingent valuation (if this happens,what would you be willing to pay?).

    CVM first came into use in the early 1960s, and is closely associatedwith Davis, who explored the potential of a survey design to simulate amarket that would put the interviewer in the position of seller who elic-its the highest possible bid from the user for the services being offered(Davis, 1963, pp. 245). There are now over 2,000 papers and studies

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  • dealing with CV (Carson, 2000), and representative tourism applica-tions include a study by Cicchetti and Smith (1973) who examined thevalue of reducing crowding on wilderness trails in Spain, CVM studiesat Nairobi National Park (Abala, 1987), and studies in several parks inCosta Rica (Baldares and Laarman, 1991; Hanrahan et al., 1992). Anumber of studies have also successfully used CVM to value recreationgoods (Cobbing and Slee, 1993; Benson and Willis, 1991; Bishop andWelsh, 1992; Bennett et al., 1995; Christie, 1999).

    Over the years, more and more scholars have entered the debate as tothe efficacy of CVM, in real and potential terms, as a means for valuingpublic goods. Table 1 summarizes the divergent thinking of both criticsand proponents of CVM.

    Critics of CVM

    According to Cummings et al. (1986) in their book assessing CVM,the criticisms of CVM point to a disarray and confusion amongst CVMresearchers attributable to two central facts. First, there has been a lackof consensus amongst researchers as to the priority issues and hypothe-ses that warrant empirical focus. Secondly, CVM researchers have beenapologetic, or defensive, due to the pervasive feeling that interrogatedresponses by individuals to hypothetical propositions must be, at best,inferior to hard market data.

    Simon Hudson and Brent Ritchie 5

    TABLE 1. The Divergent Views of the Contingent Valuation Method

    Critics of CVM Proponents of CVM

    Respondents will engage in strategicbehavior (Bohm, 1972; Scott, 1965; Abala,1987; Knestch and Davis, 1974; Posavac,1998).

    Strategic bias is not a significant problemfor CV studies under most conditions(Mitchell and Carson, 1989; Smith, 1977;Brookshire et al., 1976).

    Respondents will not give meaningfulanswers (Kahneman, 1986; Freeman, 1979;Feenburg and Mills, 1980; Cummings et al.,1986).

    WTP surveys provide meaningfulevaluations (Cummings et al., 1995;Knetsch and Davis, 1974; Mitchell andCarson, 1989).

    Opinions or attitudes may be poorpredictors of actual behavior (Bishop andHeberlein, 1986; Feenberg and Mills, 1980;Loomis et al., 1996; Byrnes and Goodman,1999).

    There is strong support for the ability ofsurveys to predict behavior (Randall et al.,1983; Cummings et al., 1995; Mitchell andCarson, 1989).

    Biases arise from the framing of WTPquestions in the CVM questionnaire(Tversky and Kahneman, 1981).

    Careful questionnaire design can controlpotential biases (Hanemann, 1994; Smith,1994; Bateman and Langford, 1997; Arrowet al., 1993; Christie, 1999).

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  • Economists have raised four main objections to the use of CVM.Firstly, some believe that survey respondents will engage in strategicbehavior by giving answers deliberately calculated to influence policymakers (Bohm, 1972; Scott, 1965). Abala (1987) suggests that consum-ers may understate their preference for the good as they may escape be-ing charged as much as they are willing to pay. On the other hand,Knestch and Davis (1974) argue that recreationists may intentionallybid up their apparent benefits in order to make a case for preserving theenvironment in question. Posavac (1998) also provides evidence ofstrategic overbidding in contingent valuation.

    Secondly, critics suggest that those surveyed will not be motivatedto search their preferences with sufficient care to give meaningful an-swers. They believe crucial contrary-to-fact questions are unlikely tobe answered accurately, because of peoples lack of incentive andability (Kahneman 1986; Freeman, 1979; Feenburg and Mills, 1980).Cummings et al. (1986) suggest that there is little evidence from the lit-erature to support the notion that subjects, during the relatively brief pe-riod of the CVM interview, could define their preferences for a new,unfamiliar commodity in any meaningful way.

    The third major criticism, coming from both psychologists and econ-omists, is that opinions or attitudes (expressions of WTP) may be poorpredictors of actual behavior (buying or selling goods). Critics likeBishop and Heberlein (1986) warn that one should not assume automat-ically that people will actually pay what they say they will pay in a sur-vey. Feenberg and Mills (1980) also refer to a lack of empirical researchthat tests the accuracy of surveys predicting behavior. And Loomis et al.(1993) have been joined by Byrnes and Goodman (1999) in suggestingthat hypothetical payments overestimate the payments that people areactually prepared to make due to free-riding behavior.

    Finally, critics suggest that potential biases arise from the framing ofWTP questions in the CVM questionnaire; thus for any given public/en-vironmental commodity to be valued via the CVM, different descrip-tions of the same basic commodity could yield different estimates ofvalues of the commodity (Tversky and Kahneman, 1981).

    Proponents of CVM

    Mitchell and Carson (1989) in their book devoted to CVM have ad-dressed all of the objections above, and have drawn on a wide range ofmaterials from several disciplines to consider the fundamental ques-tions of whether respondents in CV surveys will answer honestly and

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  • whether they can answer meaningfully. Their analysis and evidence ledthem to conclude that there is no valid basis for dismissing the methodout of hand on these grounds. They conclude that CV is a powerful andversatile tool for measuring the economic benefits of the provision ofnon-marketed goods.

    They point out that those who are critical of the ability of surveys toprovide meaningful valuation information frequently compare the hy-pothetical market in CV surveys unfavorably to a private goods mar-ket model where consumers make informed purchases of familiargoods. Cummings et al. (1995) agree that evidence from comparativeand experimental studies suggest that minimal biases in CVM mea-sures may result from hypothetical payment. The CV literature alsooffers evidence that the WTP amounts given in CV surveys are notrandom opinions. Beginning with Daviss original study (Knetsch andDavis, 1974), CV researchers have customarily reported the results ofregression equations where respondents WTP values are regressed onvariables which theory predicts should be associated with this type ofpreference.

    Also, the theoretical and experimental evidence Mitchell and Car-son examined, supports the view that strategic behavior is not nearlyas severe as many economists had feared. They conclude that strategicbias is not a significant problem for CV studies under most conditions,and that the potential threat posed by respondents deliberately givinguntruthful WTP values is likely to be much less serious than the possi-bility that they will give meaningless values (Mitchell and Carson,1989, pp. 170). Other researchers whose empirical studies found littleevidence of strategic bias, include Smith (1977) and Brookshire et al.(1976).

    In response to the criticism that answers to hypothetical questionscannot predict behavior, CVM supporters have indicated that sinceCVM questions ask for intended behavior rather than attitudes, prob-lems of correspondence between attitudes and behavior were likelyminimized (Randall et al., 1983; Cummings et al., 1995). Mitchell andCarson (1989) also counter this criticism by referring to numeroustests that provide strong support for the ability of surveys to predictbehavior.

    CVM techniques have many other supporters who argue that biasescan be traced to inadequate survey design (Hanemann, 1994; Smith,1994). The view that careful study design can control potential biaseshas been supported by tacit endorsement of the technique by the UKDepartment of Environment, and a blue ribbon panel examining the

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  • CV method for the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administra-tion (Bateman and Langford, 1997).

    Finally, there are those who believe that CVM warrants continued in-terest and research, given the apparent lack of apparent alternatives for asurvey method that measures environmental goods (Burness et al.,1983). Even the strongest of CVM critics have been surprised howwell CVM does work (Bishop and Heberlein, 1986, pp. 146). Al-though CVM is subject to controversy regarding its reliability, guide-lines of good practice are available (Arrow et al., 1993), and it isgenerally agreed that a well-designed and thoroughly piloted CV ques-tionnaire can produce accurate value estimations (Christie, 1999).

    The debate surrounding the use of CVM is, according to Carson(2000), simply a reflection of the large sums at stake in major environ-mental decisions involving passive-use and the general distrust thatsome economists have for information collected from surveys. How-ever, the spotlight placed upon CVM has ensured that its theoreticalfoundations and limitations are now better understood.

    METHODOLOGY

    A research instrument in the form of a survey was developed basedon the literature reviewed above, and in-depth interviews with officialsfrom Parks Canada, ski resort operators, and environmental groups. Thesurvey was designed to discover whether or not skiers would pay morefor environmentally friendly skiing products, and if so, how much. Amodel was adopted that Mitchell and Carson (1989) recommend for CVsurveys. According to this model visitors are presented with material, inthe form of a questionnaire consisting of three parts.

    Questions About the Respondents Characteristics,and Their Preferences Relevant to the Goods Being Valued

    The first part of the questionnaire was designed to elicit responsesfrom participants related to their awareness of environmental issues inthe mountains. Respondents were asked to indicate their agreement to anumber of statements on a five-point Likert scale. These statementssought to elicit skiers knowledge and perceptions about the environ-mental impacts of skiing.

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  • A Detailed Description of the Tourism Product Being Valued(in This Case an Environmentally Friendly Ski Destination)and the Hypothetical Circumstance Under Which It Is MadeAvailable to the Respondent

    It was made very clear to respondents what a green ski resort wouldactually entail. Fourteen environmental policies that could be imple-mented by ski resorts were listed (see Table 2). Respondents were asked

    Simon Hudson and Brent Ritchie 9

    TABLE 2. Summary of Responses to the Statements Based on Likelihood ofVisiting and Paying More for Greener Ski Resorts

    LIKELIHOOD OF (a) VISITING and(b) PAYING MORE

    FOR A SKI RESORT THAT:

    More Likely toVisit

    More Likely toPay More

    was sensitive to impacts to wildlife populations andhabitats resulting from development

    74.3% 35.6%

    adopted sustainability principles for watermanagement

    64.2% 31.6%

    instigated environmental education programs 62.6% 29.1%

    monitored the number of skiers to minimize negativeenvironmental impacts

    62.5% 34.7%

    was traffic free and had an efficient public transportsystem

    80.6% 53.2%

    had environmentally friendly hotels 75.6% 37.6%

    encouraged and provided recycling facilities 77.9% 29.9%

    based development on sound ecological knowledgerather than just economic considerations

    74.8% 35.5%

    restricted or eliminated certain forms of combustionto reduce air pollution

    75.3% 37.6%

    communicated its role to the public as responsible,environmental stewards

    70.5% 30.2%

    positioned and marketed itself as the first truegreen ski resort

    62.5% 34.8%

    restricted access to some ski areas to protectwildlife, shrubs and trees

    66% 32.4%

    provided incentives to tourists arriving bypublic transport (e.g., cheaper lift tickets)

    79.9% 42.9%

    prohibit night skiing to avoid disrupting wildlifemovement

    45.3% 21.1%

    n = 332

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  • about their likelihood of choosing a green ski destination over another,and whether or not they would pay more for the privilege.

    Closed-Ended Questions That Elicit the Respondents Willingnessto Pay for the Product Being Valued

    In previous CV studies both open-ended and closed-ended question-naires have been used (Han et al., 1997). Open-ended questionnairesask people directly how much would you be willing to pay for. . . . Butin recent years, referendum procedures have tended to replaceopen-ended elicitations, because they circumvent a relatively high inci-dence of non-response found in open-ended studies (McFadden, 1994).Also in open-ended surveys, respondents can engage in strategic behav-ior by giving answers deliberately calculated to influence policy mak-ers. Mitchell and Carson (1989) argue that the closed-ended method isconsidered easier for respondents to answer than any other elicitationformats that use the open-ended questions.

    Due to the limitations connected to the inadequate design of surveys,considerable time and effort was invested in designing this question-naire, which was piloted on a sample of 50 skiers before the surveyproper.

    The Sample

    The quota sampling method was used to ensure that a representativesample was collected from 3 nationalities, to allow cross-cultural com-parisons. A target of 300 skiers, divided evenly between visitors fromCanada, the United States and the United Kingdom was set. These threenationalities are the largest visitor segments in the skiing season. In us-ing representative random samples, one can avoid the errors of manyculture-based studies in which sampling is inadequately representative(Clark, 1990). Respondents were interviewed over a period of 4 weeksin February and March 2000. Skiers were approached on the buses asthey traveled to the different ski areas in the National Park, and also atthe base lodges as they rested. Critics of CVM tend to prefer in-personinterviews rather than mail and telephone surveys, as they facilitate re-spondent understanding (Carson, 2000). The number of useable surveysreturned was 332, and the data was analyzed using SPSS statisticalpackage for Windows.

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  • RESULTS

    Frequencies

    Of the sample of 332, 111 were Canadians, 116 were Americans andthe remaining 105 were British skiers. Skiers outnumbered boarders by3 to 1, and the gender split was about 60% male and 40% female. Themajority of skiers were in the 25-34 age bracket, held professional occu-pations and were educated at University level. These demographics areconsistent with previous consumer behavior studies related to skiers(see Hudson, 2000). Across cultures there were some significant differ-ences between the samples. Not surprisingly, univariate analysis ofvariance between the groups showed that skiers from the UK and Amer-ica spent significantly more on their skiing holiday than the Canadians(df = 2/331, F = 26.83, p < .001). Americans said their skiing holidaywas costing them $376 per day, British skiers $340 per day, and Canadi-ans $128 (all Canadian dollars). American skiers were also significantlyolder than the Canadians or British with 56% being above the 25-34 age

    bracket (2 = 16.09, df = 4, p < .01). The Americans too were more qual-ified than their counterparts, with 77% claiming to have been educatedat University level or above, compared to about 50% of the Canadiansand British.

    Environmental Awareness

    Respondents were asked to indicate their level of agreement on anumber of statements that sought to elicit skiers knowledge and per-ceptions about the environmental impacts of skiing. It appears that 70%of the sample believe skiing and snowboarding to be environmentallyfriendly, but 65% say ski terrain should be limited because it disturbswildlife habitat and migratory paths. This is despite a large number(64%) agreeing that ski terrain does not harm the environment as muchas the real estate that accompanies it. These findings are consistent withjust one of the previous studies measuring skiers attitudes towards theenvironment in the US (Fry, 1995). Only 17% take into account how en-vironmentally friendly a resort is before making their resort vacationdecision, which contradicts the findings of previous studies referred toearlier in this article (Ayala, 1996; Kiernan, 1992).

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  • Willingness-To-Pay

    Respondents were asked about their likelihood of choosing a greenski destination over another, and whether or not they would pay morefor ski resorts that instigated sound environmental policies. Alpha esti-mates of reliability were calculated for these statements, and an alphacoefficient of .93 suggests that they are internally reliable.

    The overall results have been listed in Table 2. Skiers indicated thatthey would be more likely to visit a resort that instigated all of the poli-cies except for one. Skiers (especially those from the UK and America)would not be pleased if night skiing was prohibited to avoid disruptingwildlife movement. The only individual policy that the majority of ski-ers said they would pay for was for a traffic free resort that had an effi-cient public transport system; and this was only 53% of the sample.There were some differences in the responses from the three nationali-ties. Significantly more Canadians would pay more for environmentallyfriendly hotels (47%) than Americans or British (2 = .21, df = 2, p

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