The Effects Of Ecolabels On Tourism Markets

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Summary

In this paper, definition of eco certification is interpreted. According to the definition, the purpose that ecolabels is to motivate tourists or customers select the eco certification products (destination) and make market benefits for stakeholders. However, the effectiveness of eco labels is still unclear. Therefore, the impacts of ecolabels on tourism markets are discussed in this essay. Through reviewing the recent literatures, which related to eco certification in the context of tourism industry, the results show that the effect of ecolabels is not significant.

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Introduction

Eco labelling of tourism services has been studied extensively in the past. The literature reveals sustainable business continues to be the focus of considerable academic interest, as well as practical importance. Ecolabels are debated topics in tourism as there is no agreement on whether or not or to what extent eco certification influence the market competitiveness and tourist traveling demands and preferences. In this essay, the definition and benefits of ecolabels will be stated. And then, the impacts of eco certification on tourism market will be analysed based on the previous literatures. In the end, the conclusion, limitation of this essay and future study will be interpreted.

Eco Certification/Ecolabels

Tourism ecolabels and certifications were developed in the 1990s. Ecolabels stablished by individual companies, industry associations, voluntary organizations and government agencies and they included voluntary codes, awards, accreditation and certification schemes (Buckley, 2002). Gössling and Buckley (2014) defined eco labels were “communication systems intended to influence consumer behaviour towards greater consideration of environmental concerns”. By 2002, there were more than 100 eco certification schemes for tourism, hospitality and ecotourism throughout the world. According to the definition of ecolabels, one of aim is to allow tourists to favour and select sustainable companies or destinations.

Eco certification schemes were originally developed to assist providers of tourist services in adopting environmentally sustainable practices (Font, 2002). Although ecolabels are commonplace, and some ecolabels, such as the Blue Flag label for European beaches and marina sand and the Australian ECO Certification programme, have been successful, the degree to which they affect consumer purchasing decisions and corporate environmental performance is largely unknown (Buckley, 2002). It is currently not possible to promise tour operators any competitive advantages from being eco certified or to argue that they can expect a return on their investment for eco certification (Karlsson and Dolnicar, 2015). Therefore, the influences of ecolabels on tourism markets will be analysed in this essay.

Impacts of Ecolabels on Tourism Markets

According to the previous literatures, potential benefits for tourism providers to undergo ecolabels are: developing competitive advantage; cost saving; enhancing company image ( D’Souza, 2004; Harris, 2007); improving the relationships with local community and wider public relations benefits. Moreover, the reasons that advocate eco certification are also related to the aim of ecolabels. Medina (2005) stated that ecolabels “encourage consumers to buy goods and services from companies that adhere to high social and environment standards. This statement are consistent with Lynes and Andrachuk (2008) and Swarbrooke (1999), which identified that ecolabels provided the chance for greater destination marketing opportunities. Tepelus and Córdoba (2005) interpreted that eco certification would ensure the supply of high quality products and long-term business commitment to quality improvements. However, not all research supports claims for marketing.. From the company side, certification is expensive. It makes more challenging for smaller providers. Besides, it is lack of well-developed accreditation criteria and an effective assessment and audit procedures. For the market business benefits, it remains unclear what the return on investment is and whether eco labels have the potential to create a market competitiveness.

There are researches which have investigated the effectiveness of eco certifications in the tourism context. These studies were identified by reviewing articles published between 2005 and 2018 in two specialised journals in the area (Journal of Sustainable Tourism and Journal of Ecotourism) and four leading international generalist tourism journals (Annals of Tourism Research, Tourism Management, Journal of Hospitality Management, Journal of Hospitality and Tourism Management) using the following keywords: “ecolabel”, “ecolabels”, “eco label”, “eco labels”, “eco certification” and “eco certifications”. In addition, Scopus was used for a search of journal articles published containing any of the keywords in the article title and abstract from 2005 to now.

Among these fifteen articles, thirteen are working articles and two are comment paper refer to other existing analysis. Tourism ecolabels includes two types: environmental and culture. Ten articles are related to environment. Five focused on culture. As mentioned before, there are more than one hundred ecolabels all over the world. From the previous literatures, ten of them focused on Beach certification and Heritage certification, such as Blue Flag and UNESCO World Heritage. Two articles discussed Green Tourism Business Scheme and Green Practice. Other three analysed eco certification in general. Nine researches interpreted the influences of Eco certification in European countries: two in China, including one comment paper; two in Australia and New Zealand; one in Latin America and the Caribbean; one in USA (together with European countries); one in South Africa. Although these study countries separately located in Europe, Asia, America, Africa and Antarctic, only European countries paid enough attention on the eco certification. As Weaver (2009) stated the adoption rate of eco certification were low.

About the outcome variables, ten articles focused on tourists, such as tourist decision, tourist perception and tourist flow. The other four examined the economic impacts, sustainability, tourism development and technical efficiency. One deliberated in general. Among them, three researches depicted tourist willingness and perception as well as the perception benefits of ecolabels, thus, they did not analysed impacts of eco certification. Other twelve articles argued the influences of eco certification on tourism markets. Five researchers interpreted the positive influences of ecolabels on tourist flow, economy development, tourist satisfaction and loyalty. For example, Capacci (2015) stated that the econometric analysis developed in this study offers clear evidence on the effectiveness of quality certifications (for beaches) in attracting foreign tourists to seaside destinations and also the quality certification awarded to a province during the previous year has a positive effect on the current inbound flows. Six results showed there was no significant effect of eco certification on tourist flow, tourist motivation, tourist demand and decisions, tourism development and sustainability. A study of ecotourism operators in New Zealand echoed these findings. It concluded that the majority of businesses did not believe that GG21 gave them marketing advantage over competitors. Blackman and Rivern (2010) also supported these views. They did an empirical study on environmental and socioeconomic impacts of sustainable certification. The results showed that the impacts of eco certification is limited. One finding, Cuccia (2013) represented negative effect on technical efficiency.

Through reviewing these recent literatures, it can be concluded that the influences of eco certification on economy, environment, and society still not significant. In addition, some researchers argued that because the survey studies dominated this field of inquiry. The most frequently used measures are self-reported behavioural intention and self-reported past behaviour, the very two constructs which have been shown not to be particularly accurate in predicting actual behaviour. As a consequence, conclusions drawn from these studies can be seen as hypothesis-generating rather than as proven facts.

Conclusion

This essay discussed the effect of eco certification on tourism markets based on reviewing previous literatures. According to the above statement, the influences of eco certification on tourism markets are not significant. The true influence of certification is hard to ascertain. For future study, considering the majority articles explored developed western countries, which eco or sustainable certification or ecolabels originated from, such as European countries, the impacts of ecolabels on developing countries have not received equal attention by researchers. Therefore, researchers would pay more attention to developing countries. In addition, in terms of the low adoption rate of eco certification, how to promote ecolabels and improve the reputation of eco certification should be investigated in future. The limitation of this essay is the number of articles reviewed may not enough.

14 May 2021

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