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Sustainable Tourism: Socio-Cultural, Environmental and Economics Impact, pp. 279-294, 2011 L.


UDC 338.486:504

Linda A. Piper
Michael YeO

Received 15 March 2011

Revised 22 December 2011 13
January 2011

In recent years, ecolabelling has proliferated in virtually all economic sectors of society, including the
tourism industry. Ecolabels are intended to provide reliable information to consumers about the
environmental impact of products or services in the expectation that this information will influence their
purchasing decisions. The idea is that to win consumers with positive environmental values to their products
and services, providers will ensure that these products and services meet the standards necessary to qualify
for the use of ecolabels in their marketing, thus having a positive impact on the preservation of the
environment. However, given the proliferation of ecolabels and the variability of ecocertification programs,
nomenclatures and standards, the field is immensely complex. It can be difficult for researchers, let alone
consumers, to determine precisely what the use of a given label means or warrants. Some recent reports put
the number of international ecolabels near 340 with almost 40 dealing specifically with tourism related
products and services. The aim of this paper is to provide an overview of the use of ecolabels and
ecocertification programs in tourism products and to identify gaps in our knowledge about ecolabels and
ecocertification programs specifically geared to the growing area of ecotourism.
Keywords Ecolabels, Ecocertification, Green travel, Ecotourism

As of 2010, there were more than 340 international ecolabels recognized by the World Resources
Institute1, with at least 40 geared toward tourists and the travel industry. Some authors claim that
the number of tourism related labels is closer to 60 (McRandle, 2006), or even as high as 100
(Fairweather, Maslin and Simmons, 2005).
The increase in tourism ecolabels has occurred together with an increase in ecotourism.
However, it is difficult to know whether an increase in ecotourism has led to more labels or the
other way around. As Ion & Zamfir (2008) have suggested, this is something of a "chicken or
egg" issue. If providers of ecotourism experiences are to go to the trouble and expense of
becoming certified, they want to see palpable consumer demand for their product. However, if
consumers seek certified ecotourism products and cannot find them, they may never exhibit
"proof' of that demand to providers.

The World Resources Institute is an internationally recognized organization committed to sustainability and
the preservation of ecosystems and the natural environment. Their key goals include climate protection,
economic and environmentally responsible development, reversal of harm to ecosystems, and equitable
treatment of people.

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There is a considerable academic and popular press literature (e.g., travel

magazines such as National Geographic Traveler or travel sections of
newspapers such as USA Today) on the efficacy of ecolabels in the
"green market" generally, but very little has been written about the
effects of ecolabels on tourists. And to date there has been only one fullscale academic study -- Fairweather, Maslin, and Simmons (2005)
--investigating the effects of ecolabels on ecotourists specifically, and a
few partial studies (Bjork 2004; Reiser and Simmons 2005).
In this paper, we will examine the nature and scope of the "green travel
market", providing context and background on ecocertification and
ecolabels and distinguishing the types of ecocertification typically
employed in the travel industry. Following this, we will review the
literature on the impact of ecolabels in general on consumer attitudes and
behaviour, and the much more limited literature that exists on the impact
on tourists, and on ecotourists in particular. Based on this analysis and
literature review, we identify gaps in knowledge for which research and
analysis is needed in this rapidly evolving area to inform consumer,
provider and government decision-making.
Ecocertification or accreditation to a recognized environmental standard
of performance is used to provide information to consumers and to sell
green products or services. The "green market", consisting of consumers
motivated to buy green products or services, is growing. The 2010
Global Ecolabel Monitor reports on a 2009 study showing that "the
green market outperformed the US economy as a whole in 2009 and
grew by over 40% from 2004 to 2009." The study claims that over a
third of US consumers say they are willing to pay more for eco-friendly
products and that 44 percent of UK consumers seek more information on
the green policies of companies from which they wish to purchase
products (Global Ecolabel Monitor 2010, 3).
The green travel market has also been growing. According to TIES (The
International Ecotourism Society), since the early 1990's ecotourism has
been growing between 20 and 34 percent annually. Internationally,
"nature" tourism has been growing at an annual rate of about 10 percent
and experts predict that sustainable travel could grow to 25% of the
world's travel market with a value of approximately UKS$473.6 billion.
In Europe between 10 and 20 percent of travelers seek green travel
options (TIES, Global Ecotourism Fact Sheet 2006, 3-4). According to
the National Geographic Traveler, in a 2003 survey conducted by the
Travel Industry Association of America, 71 percent of American
travelers reported that it is important not to damage the environment
travelling (Tourtellot, 2003).
Ecolabels can signal to the potential consumer or observer the degree to
which tourism businesses are operating sustainably or consistently with
their values concerning the protection of the environment (Fairweather,
Maislin and Simmons 2005, 2). According to Font and Buckley (2001),
since the mid-1980's about one hundred ecolabels have been adopted 2by
the tourism industry along with generic certification systems such as the
ISO 14000 environmental management series. Some examples of the
most recognized international ecolabels touted by the travel industry
include: Audubon

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International; Blue Flag; David Bellamy Conservation Award; Nordic Swan; Ecotel; Nature's
Best Ecotourism; Steinbock; and the Sustainable Travel Eco-Certification Program (STEP).


According to the American Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), environmental labeling:
"...is defined as making relevant environmental information available to the appropriate
consumers. Environmental labeling is the practice of labeling products based on a wide range of
environmental considerations (e.g., hazard warnings, certified marketing claims, and information
disclosure labels). Labeling contributes to the decision-making process inherent in product
selection, purchasing, use and disposal, or retirement" (EPA 1998, 5).
Environmental labeling or ecolabelling is not uniformly regulated. Some labels are created by
individual businesses with little or no third party oversight. Often, tourism establishments or tour
providers create their own label or self-description, such as "ecoresort", which they use in their
advertising and marketing. The label may be elaborated by a statement of philosophy or
description of the sorts of supposedly environmentally-friendly measures in place, but there is no
third party oversight.
It is important to distinguish these sorts of "first-party" labels from "third-party" labels that occur
in the context of certification programs that regulate the use of ecolabels. Different labels are
regulated by different programs, of which there are many. The basic idea is that in order to
qualify to use a given label for their products and services, providers must meet specified
program conditions and standards, which will be different for different programs. That a product
or service bears a label means that the provider has met those conditions and standards, or at least
claims to have met them.
In idea at least, consumers inclined to factor environmental impacts into their purchasing
decisions should be able to rely upon a label and information about the meaning of the label to
determine whether or how well a given product or service matches the environmental values they
wish to promote. However, navigating the maze of ecolabels can be difficult. Consumers may not
appreciate the difference between first-party and third-party labels. In either case, it can be
difficult to determine just what a given label means or warrants.
The regulatory framework for certification programs is complex and diverse. Even the language
relevant to ecolabels and certification programs is complex and is not used consistently. The
World Trade Organization (WTO, 2010) prescribes a useful glossary of terms dealing with
ecolabelling and certification, as outlined below:

Accreditation The evaluation and formal recognition of a certification programme by

an authoritative body.
Certification A procedure by which a third party gives written assurance that a
product, process or service is in conformity with certain standards.

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Certification body An organization performing certification. Sometimes referred to as the

certifier or the certification agency. The certification body may use an existing standard or
may set its own standard, perhaps based on an international and/or normative standard.
Certification label A label or symbol indicating that compliance with specific standards has
been verified. Use of the label is usually controlled by the standard-setting body.
Certification programme A system of rules, procedures and management for carrying out
certification. Sometimes referred to as a certification system. One certification body may
execute several different certification programmes.
Standards Documented agreements containing technical specifications or other precise
criteria to be used consistently as rules, guidelines or definitions, to ensure that materials,
products, processes and services are fit for their purpose. Standards include environmental
standards; organic standards; labour standards; social standards; and normative standards.
Environmental standards are standards for materials, products and production processes to
ensure that negative impacts on the environment are minimal or kept within certain limits.

This nomenclature has the merit of being reasonably clear about important distinctions, but it is
by no means universally employed. Moreover, even following this nomenclature, what a given
third-party label means, or attests to, will vary depending on a variety of factors: the nature of the
certification body, the program and the standards it specifies, and how and whether the program
is accredited, and by whom.
Obviously, technical standards will be different for different types of products and services.
Technical standards for water usage will naturally be different than technical standards for
recycling. However, even for the same product or services, standards may be different if
regulated by more than one label, certification program and certification body.
If an environmental product or service is certified by an independent third-party the use of an
ecolabel is typically awarded by the third party. Two main sorts of programs can be
distinguished: seal of approval programs and report cards. Seal of approval programs license the
use of a logo to products or services that the program ascertains is "less environmentally harmful
than comparable products" (EPA 1998, 11) based on a specified set of award criteria.
Periodically, audits or reviews will be performed to ensure that the product or service still merits
the use of the logo. Typically, a central decision-making board comprised of academics,
scientists, and industry, consumer and governmental representatives render decisions regarding
the environmental merit of the product or service to be labeled.
Report card labels employ a standardized format to judge the environmental impact of a product
or service. Measures that are employed include consistent information allowing comparison
between labeled products or services. In the ecotourism category, for example, a measure of
energy consumption is often used.

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If an ecolabel is verified by an independent third party, the labeling programs can be described as
"positive, negative, or neutral" (EPA 1998, 9). According to the EPA, a positive labeling program
certifies that a product or service has one or more environmentally preferable characteristic. This
is the sort of ecolabel used by tourism operators to highlight their claims of enhanced
environmental responsibility compared to competing operations. A negative labeling program
alerts consumers to a harmful or hazardous ingredient found in a product, while neutral labeling
programs summarize environmental information about products or services. Negative labeling
and neutral labeling would not be typically used by tourism operations. Tourism-based
ecolabeling programs would be voluntary and most likely would use either a seal-of-approval or
a report card format.
It is important to note that the methodology used to evaluate a product or service's environmental
attributes does not rely on universally accepted standards. For example, in the ecotourism
industry, a Nordic Swan seal of approval (used by Scandinavian countries and Iceland) would not
necessarily equate with a Butterfly report-card ranking (used in the Caribbean).
The plethora of certification infrastructures and standards for ecolabels, even for the same
products or services, complicates decision-making for consumers trying to make informed
purchase decisions. The standardization of ecolabels has been considered by the World Trade
Organization (WTO), the International Standards Organization (ISO), and the Global
Environmental Labeling Network (GEN) among others. GEN was established in 1994 as a nonprofit association of third-party environmental performance labeling organizations. Its stated
objective is to "improve, promote, and develop the 'ecolabelling' of products and services"
(http://globalecolabelling.net/about/). Its mission includes fostering cooperation, information
exchange and harmonization with regard to ecolabelling and encouraging more environmentally
responsible goods and services. GEN members also set criteria for the certification of products
and services with lower environmental impact than comparable products and services and
provide information and technical assistance to interested parties. GEN members must meet the
following criteria:

run by not-for-profit organizations without commercial interests;

exhibit independence from undue commercial interests;
the source of funding shall not create a conflict of interest;
seek advice from, and consult with, stakeholder interests;
legally protected logo;
determination of criteria based on an assessment of the overall life of a product category;
open access to potential licensees from all countries;
criteria levels established to encourage the production and use of products and services that
are significantly less damaging to the environment than other products.

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GEN quotes the ISO's definitions of voluntary environmental performance labeling on its website
and uses their categories of Type I, II, or III designations. According to the ISO, Type I is a
voluntary, multiple-criteria based, third party program that awards a license authorizing the use
of an environmental label indicating environmental preferability of a product within a product
category based on life cycle analysis (LCA). A Type II is an informative self-declaration of
environmental claims, while a Type III is a voluntary program providing quantified
environmental data with pre-established parameters set by a "qualified" third party based on
LCA. Regardless of the Type I, II, or III designation, the ISO claims that these labels share a
common goal ". . .through communication of verifiable and accurate information, that is not
misleading, on environmental aspects of products and services, to encourage the demand for and
supply of those products and services that cause less stress on the environment, thereby
stimulating the potential for market-driven continuous environmental improvement."
Notwithstanding that some providers will be strongly motivated to participate in labeling
programs because of their environmental values, and willing in some measure to absorb the costs
of securing an environmental label in terms of reduced profit, costs are of paramount importance.
They include both the costs associated with the administration of the label (application, testing,
auditing and promotion) and the costs associated with meeting the standards. Obviously, the
higher these combined costs are, the less likely that the label will be attractive to the provider in
cost-benefit terms. Whether the cost-benefit ratio is favourable will of course also depend on
projections on the revenue side about the added benefit that can be achieved from the use of the
label. Such projections, taking into account the willingness of potential consumers to choose
products or services thus labeled and to offset the costs by paying more, may be very uncertain.
In some cases, government subsidies to providers can make the difference between a favourable
and an unfavourable cost-benefit analysis.


Peer-reviewed research into the use of ecolabels to attract tourist attention and influence
ecotourist behaviour is scant. A search of the literature in tourism and leisure, marketing,
advertising, economics and corporate strategy reveals that much of the research on
ecocertification and ecolabels is limited to understanding the influence on the attitudes and
behaviour of consumers of some "green" products; very little exists on the impact on tourist
behaviour specifically, and almost none on ecotourist behaviour.
Several studies examine the perception of ecolabels among consumers and some seek to uncover
what is distinct about consumers who use ecolabeled products, often at higher prices. For
example, Beretti, Grolleau and Mzhoughi (2009) study how specific cognitive biases affect
consumer acceptance of ecolabels and how ecolabels affect consumer decisions; Grolleau, Ibanez
and Mzhoughi (2009) discuss "altruistic" consumers' willingness to pay more for ecolabeled
products and the impact of their decisions on "egotistic" consumers and pricing strategies; and
Schumacher (2010) contends that that "conscious" consumers (defined as someone with a
stronger green attitude or quality concerns) demand more ecolabeled goods whereas "priceoriented"

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consumers demand fewer ecolabeled goods. Sullivan (2010) argues that consumers are willing to
pay more for ecocertified products.
Some studies examine how consumer expectations and reactions to specific attributes of
ecolabels affect consumer decisions. For example, Hamilton and Zilberman (2006) study how the
consumer's "rational expectations" regarding the veracity of green product claims affect decisions
and a firm's profitability while Esther, Fryxell and Chow (2004) argue that visual communication
through ecolabels can affect the purchase of products. Brecard, Hlaimi, Lucas, Perraudeau, and
Salladarre, (2009) provide a consumer profile of purchasers of ecocertified seafood products and
Sammer and Wiistenhagen (2006) provide information on the purchasing decisions of consumers
of ecolabeled washing machines.
As concerns tourism in particular, Amendah and Park (2008) dealt with the willingness of tourists
to pay more for "eco-friendly destinations" based on their self-esteem, but did not specifically
consider the impact of ecolabels on ecotourist attitudes or behaviour. A study by Barnes, Schier
and van Rooy (1999) also looked at tourists' willingness to pay more. This study, conducted at a
wildlife-viewing site in Namibia, also did not consider the impact of ecolabels on this type of
consumer behaviour.
There are even fewer studies dealing with the impact of ecolabels specifically in tourism. Some
of this research delves into the possibility of the use of ecolabels to attract tourists or the
feasibility of ecolabeling programs (Font and Tribe 2001; Ion and Zamfir 2008; Mycoo 2006;
Christiana 2008; Buultjens, Gale and White 2010), but does not actually research the tourists,
instead focusing on the tourism operators or secondary research calling for the use of ecolabels.
Our search only yielded three studies specifically examining the reactions of tourists or potential
tourists to ecolabels: Bjork (2004), Reiser and Simmons (2005), and Fairweather, Maslin and
Simmons (2005).
Bjork (2004) looks at the reactions of potential tourists to Finland to a Swedish ecolabel (Nature's
Best) using content analysis. This study found that ecolabels are effective when they are
recognized by the intended market. Finnish tourists were of the opinion that Swedish ecolabels
"only partially represented a high quality travel arrangement, local anchorage, protection of
nature, environmentally friendly traveling, and a responsibility for nature and culture." A content
analysis of the associations the eco-label generated resulted in the following four main
knowledge categories, "parents playing with their children", "poverty", "Vikings", and
"environmentally friendly", not all of which are relevant in eco-tourism. Another finding was that
many respondents believed that it is not suitable for Finnish eco-tourism firms to use the Swedish
eco-tourism label without modifications. The study concludes that reactions are positive if the
intended audience is reached and that ecolabels should be utilized by marketers in the same
manner as brands since branding is a well-studied activity in the field of marketing. As the author
himself points out, one of the study's limitations is that it was performed on "potential" tourists.

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Reiser and Simmons (2005) test the effectiveness of ecolabel promotion to visitors to New
Zealand. Again, the focus was not on ecotourists, but rather any visitors to the Christchurch
Information Centre. The authors examined the tourists' attitudes toward ecolabels and Green
Globe 21 ecolabelled products. They concluded that positive attitudes toward ecolabels "are an
unreliable predictor" of tourist behaviour. This study did not attempt to differentiate between the
types of tourists visiting the information centre and thus could draw no significant conclusions
regarding potential differences amongst ecotourists or other tourists. The authors conclude that
reactions are only marginally positive but that the ecolabel is only partially visible amongst many
other competing types of information the visitors see.
The study by Fairweather, Reiser and Simmons (2005) is of particular note as it is the only
research on the impact of ecolabels discovered in our literature review which differentiated
tourists based on their environmental values. Like Reiser & Simmons (2005), Fairweather,
Maslin, and Simmons (2005) study visitors to Christchurch, New Zealand and their reactions to
the Green Globe 21 ecolabel. The researchers gauge different attitudes and reactions to the Green
Globe 21 ecolabel by two types of tourists: "anthropocentric and/or ambivalents" and
"biocentrics" (Fairweather, Maslin and Simmons 2005,86). Reactions to the ecolabel by
"ambivalents" (i.e. "regular" tourists without any particular predisposition to environmental
concerns) and "biocentrics" (tourists with a strong predisposition to environmental concerns)
were compared. Not surprisingly, the "bios" reacted more positively than the "ambis" but what
was perhaps surprising was that the "ambis" also reacted positively (although less so than the
"bios"). The authors report that they held interviews with 295 visitors and found that only 20
percent recalled any place with an ecolabel and 13 percent had never heard of an ecolabel. After
employing cluster analysis, the researchers found that 61 percent held biocentric values and were
concerned with the environments in which they travelled, believed that ecolabels were necessary
and would choose accommodation with an ecolabel. According to the authors, these visitors'
reports of their actions were consistent with their values.
This finding is significant in that other studies (Bjork, 2004; Reiser and Simmons, 2005; and
Christiana, 2008) claim that ecolabels have low or minimal impact on tourist behaviour or
attitudes. Fairweather, Reiser and Simmons (2005) suggest that the reason these other studies
turn up a "lukewarm" response may be because they assume "uniform environmental attitudes"
among different types of tourists, or at least fail to differentiate among categories of tourists
whose environmental attitudes could be quite different. They argue that the researchers should
take into account the possibility that tourists with strong environmental values are more disposed
to ecolabels (Fairweather, Reiser and Simmons 2005, 5). As Mehmetoglu (2005) points out,
"many studies dealing with nature/eco tourists appear to be based on a sample of general tourists
instead of those who can be specifically designated as nature tourists." Mehmetoglu's research
does, in fact, concentrate on nature-based ecotourists, but does not address the issue of

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It seems reasonable to suppose that tourist response to ecolabels will vary depending on the
values that they hold with respect to the environment. Therefore studies should segment tourists
accordingly if significant differences are to be captured. One important segment to consider is
that consisting of people who might be called 'ecotourists". What is the reaction of ecotourists to
ecolabels and are those reactions different than those of other tourists? To answer this question it
is necessary to select out from among tourists those who might be called ecotourists and
therefore might reasonably be expected to respond differently than tourists in general to
Over the past quarter century or so, ecotourism has grown to the point that, according to several
authorities, "it is now widely considered the fastest growing sub-component" of tourism
(Donohoe and Needham, 2006). Nothwithstanding the considerable growth of ecotourism, and of
the research and certification infrastructures that have developed parallel to it, lack of agreement,
and in some measure active disagreement, with respect to an embarrassingly fundamental
question surrounds ecotourism in all of its aspects: what is ecotourism? For example, the claim
that ecotourism is "the fastest growing sub-component" is open to dispute depending on how
ecotourism is defined. De Vincente (2004, 5) reports that a 2002 World Tourism Organization
(WTO) study of US tourists found that growth is less than generally believed, and about the same
as tourism in general. However, the experts he interviewed for his study all agreed that the proxy
"definition used by [the] WTO is too narrow and that the ecotourism market is the fastest
growing segment of the tourism industry" (de Vincente 2004, 5). Such claims are open to debate
since as de Vincente (2004, 4) himself notes, "The absence of [a] widely accepted definition of
ecotourism has in turn led to a lack of both current and reliable statistics." The lesson to be drawn
here, and it is not a trivial one, is that the count of ecotourists that you get will depend on what
you count as ecotourism.
According to Fennell and Weaver (2005), ecotourism "is primarily nature-based in terms of its
attractions and products, with associated cultural influences -contemporary, historic and
archaeological - constituting a significant ancillary component." (Fennell and Weaver 2005, 374).
Other notable definitions consistent with Fennell and Weaver's description are those provided by
the International Ecotourism Society (TIES) and the United Nations Environment Programme
(UNEP). TIES defines ecotourism as "...responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the
environment and sustains the well-being of local people" and UNEP defines ecotourism (from
the Quebec Declaration on Ecotourism) as follows:

Embraces the principles of sustainable tourism...and the following principles which

distinguish it from the wider concept of sustainable tourism:
- Contributes actively to the conservation of natural and cultural heritage;
- Includes local and indigenous communities in its planning, development and
operation, contributing to their well-being;
- Interprets the natural and cultural heritage of the destination to the visitor;

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- Lends itself better to independent travelers, as well as to organized tours for small
size groups.2
Yeo and Piper (2011) argue that definitions of ecotourism which purport to say what ecotourism
is tend to incorporate ethical and political beliefs about what ecotourism should be. One
noteworthy thing about the TIES definition is that it is explicitly normative or prescriptive,
meaning that it reflects the views of TIES about what ecotourism should be. One of the reasons
for lack of agreement among definitions of ecotourism is that those advancing definitions are
often doing so in the hope of shaping the industry, expressing their ethical and political views of
what should count as ecotourism. This is often tied to concerns about "greenwashing" - the
propensity of providers to exploit such marketing advantage as may come from being perceived
as environmentally friendly without incurring such costs as might attend really being so. This is a
legitimate concern, but from the standpoint of researching the impact of ecolabels on tourist
behaviour it would not make sense to exclude tourists who participate in what some might
consider to be pseudo-ecotourism since whether and to what extent impact exists is a different
question than whether a label is bona fide or not.
A review of ecotourism literature reveals that the terms "nature tourist", "ecotourist",
"geotourist," and "adventure tourist" are often used interchangeably. Further, the way to approach
defining an "ecotourist" varies considerably in the literature, with some researchers looking at
environmental values, some at the kind of tourist activities undertaken, some at products and
services consumed, and some at destination choice, to only name a few. 3 Dolincar, Crouch, and
Long (2008) review the literature on ecotourists and claim that researchers have little consensus
about who "environmentally-friendly tourists" actually are and suggest that at times it is not even
clear that ecotourists (as opposed to other types of tourists) are being profiled. For the purposes
of this paper, we chose the following approaches that reflected only the most recent (2003-2010)
attempts at ecotourist definition and profiling.
Fennell and Weaver (2005) discuss "hard" and "soft" ecotourism as a type of continuum or what
they refer to as a "spectrum" where a tourist's "strong" environmental commitment is compared
with a "superficial" environmental commitment. Like Fairweather, Reiser and Simmons (2005),
Fenell and Weaver (2005) distinguish regular tourists and ecotourists. Fennell and Weaver
suggest that an ecotourist's strong environmental values consist of the following characteristics:

The World Ecotourism Summit, was held in Quebec City in 2002. This was the principal event to mark
2002 as the International Year of Ecotourism. The Summit was an initiative of the World Tourism
Organisation (WTO) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). It was hosted by Tourisme
Quebec and the Canadian Tourism Commission. The purpose of the Summit was to bring together
governments, international agencies, NGOs, tourism enterprises, representatives of local and indigenous
communities, academic institutions and individuals with an interest in ecotourism, and enable them to learn
from each other and identify some agreed principles and priorities for the future development and
management of ecotourism.
In preparation for this paper, we scanned over 400 articles pertaining to ecotourism and almost all peerreviewed articles spend time attempting to define ecotourism and ecotourist. There is considerable debate
amongst scholars as to the best way to define ecotourist and therefore we have selected only a few
approaches to discuss here.


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specialized visits, longer trips and smaller groups, physically active and challenging, few services
expected, a deep interaction with nature, an emphasis on personal experience, and making one's
own travel arrangements. (378). This "hard" ecotourist type is contrasted with the "softer" type of
commitment characteristics of non-ecotourists such as multi-purpose and shorter visits with
larger groups, an emphasis on physical comfort with services expected and reliance on tour
guides and agents. A "shallow commitment" to nature is in evidence along with "an emphasis on
interpretation" rather than "personal experience." Fennell and Weaver's (2005) typology of the
ecotourist is somewhat consistent with other descriptions of ecotourists or "geotourists" such as
the typology of travelers offered by Tourtellot (2003). Joseph Tourtellot , the geotourism writer
for National Geographic Traveler magazine, writes of a major study conducted in 2002 on
geotourism 4 by the Travel Industry Association of America (TIA) which yielded 3,300 responses
by different types of travelers. The survey compared attitudes toward travel with respondents'
feelings about environmental and cultural "quality" in an attempt to measure how much the
travelers would support sustainable travel policies. The survey results indicate that 71 percent
want to avoid damage to the environment when travelling and 61 percent want the destination to
preserve its natural, cultural and historic sites. Tourtellot (2003) provides the following list of
descriptions of the characteristics of different kinds of American travelers based on the TIA
survey data:

Wishful Thinkers are the largest of the eight groups (22 million adults), youngest (average
age 32), least wealthy (U.S. $53,000 household income), and least traveled (fewer than nine
trips in three years). These parents, country folks, and students all yearn to travel more, if
only they had the time and money.
Traditionalsabout 16 million of themtravel conservatively. Lots of older folks here,
especially women, not too wealthy, some of whom might take the occasional church-group
Apathetics20 million inert bodiesjust aren't interested in anything about travel, but do
it from time to time anyway. Probably pried off the sofa by a spouse or a boss.
Outdoor Sportsmen21 million, most rural of the groupstravel mainly domestically,
often for hunting and fishing. They like backcountry, not cultural events.
Good Citizens18 million, household incomes averaging U.S. $71,000, and well-educated
are civic-minded at home. They recycle, vote, serve on committees, but aren't yet notably
activist when traveling, perhaps because they haven't really thought about it.
Self-Indulgents20 million, almost as well-heeledtravel with an eye to pampering
themselves, not the destination. They agree with such statements as "plants and animals
exist primarily to be used by people."
Urban Sophisticates21 million and the wealthiest group, at U.S. $77,000 average
household incomeare environmentally inclined culture-seekers, traveling to experience
everything from London plays to Zulu dances.

Tourtellot claims that the term "geotourism" is one that he developed in 1997. He defines it as "tourism that
sustains or enhances the geographical character of a place- its environment, heritage, aesthetics, culture, and
the well-being of its residents." (Tourtellot 2003)


Sustainable Tourism: Socio-Cultural, Environmental and Economics Impact, pp. 279-294, 2011 L.

Geo-Savvys16 millionare similar to Urban Sophisticates, but

more middle-income and outdoorsy, and very environmentalist.
Expect lots of Sierra Club

This tourist typology is consistent with the "spectrum" of environmental

commitment provided by Fennell and Weaver (2005), especially when
comparing "self-indulgents" to "soft" ecotourists and "urban
sophisticates" and "geo-savvys" to "hard" ecotourists. Interestingly,
Tourtellot (2003) goes on to report that the TIA survey also asked
tourists if they would be willing to pay more to a travel company if it
protected natural or historic sites and over half of the "urban
sophisticates" and "geo-savvys" responded positively. This finding is in
keeping with the claims mentioned earlier in this paper by Amendah and
Park (2008) and Barnes, Schier and van Rooy (1999) regarding tourists'
willingness to pay more for sustainable travel destinations.
Mehmetoglu (2005) refers to "nature/eco tourists" and argues for
defining these tourists as either generalists or specialists. He says,
"Specialists require little infrastructure and interpretive or management
facilities, and their presence is absorbed by existing support systems. On
the other hand, generalists are less ambitious, have little special interest
in a site's attraction, rely heavily on infrastructure and visit in high
numbers." ( 359). This description bears a significant resemblance to the
"hard" and "soft" ecotourist typology offered by Fennell and Weaver
(2005). Mehmetoglu maintains that nature-based tourists are a separate
market consisting of several segments and that can be classified along a
continuum based on travel motives or "psychographic attributes,"
whereby specialists travel mainly for nature and generalists travel not
only for nature but also for other reasons. In another study by
Mehmetoglu (2006), the author suggests that the nature-based tourist
market should be segmented on the basis of travel mode choice - either
"package" or "independent". In this study of tourists in Norway, the
author collected information from visitors to two nature attractions and
concluded that there were significant differences based on gender, age,
income, trip expenditures and trip length, and activities and motivations.
This kind of market segmentation is similar to the suggestions of
Arnegger, Woltering and Job (2010) who discuss the difficulty of
developing nature tourist typologies and argue for a "product-based"
typology instead. They suggest that nature-based product types and the
choices tourists make around these product types may be a better way to
nature tourists. Another similar approach in the recent literature
is that of Dolincar and Matus (2008) who claim that the lack of
is a what
and multifaceted
a "green
tourist" is should
lead marketers
to avoida
and policyofinfrastructures.
can be
on the operations
a green tourist Itbusiness
let alone and
to know
just what
a given label
of those
means or warrants. Uniformity of definitions and standards would
certainly make it easier to research ecolabeling in the tourism industry.
However, although there are movements toward uniformity and common
standards, there are also countervailing factors that lead to even greater

Sustainable Tourism: Socio-Cultural, Environmental and Economics Impact, pp. 279-294, 2011 L.

diversity. Ecolabeling in tourism, as in other sectors, is part of a political process in which

different stakeholders have different and sometimes conflicting interests as concerns definitions,
standards and certification programs.
To date, the meaning and impact ecolabels have for tourists and potential tourists has not been
studied much; such research as has been done is inconclusive about a number of issues.
Definitional variation and the complexity of the phenomenon pose a considerable challenge to
research in this area. Future research would benefit from careful segmentation of tourists with
respect to the environmental values they hold and their willingness to act on those values.
However, there is lack of consensus about such fundamental things as what ecotourism is and
what the characteristics of an ecotourist are. Such lack of consensus about these things among
researchers may be due in part to the relative newness of ecotourism. As Weaver and Lawton
(2007) assert in their assessment of ecotourism research, "...ecotourism, as a field of academic
inquiry, is still in a state of adolescence" (Weaver and Lawton 2007,1168). 5 However, in some
measure the lack of consensus about definitions, even among researchers, is a function of ethical
and political differences as concerns not simply what ecotourism is, but about what, normatively
speaking, it should be. Researchers, as concerned human beings or citizens, may have their own
ethical and political views about ecotourism, and how the tourism industry should develop or be
shaped in view of the ethical and political values they hold. However, the question of how
ecolabels impact tourist behaviour is quite distinct from such questions as whether the labels are
genuine or not, or whether someone counted or counting his or herself as an ecotourist is
authentic or not.

Amendah, E., and Park, J. (2008),"Consumer involvement and psychological antecedents on eco-friendly
destinations: Willingness to pay more", Journal of Hospitality Marketing & Management, Vol. 17
No. 3/4, pp. 262-283. Retrieved from Business Source Complete database. Arnegger, J.,
Woltering, M., and Job, H. (2010), "Toward a product-based typology for nature-based tourism:
a conceptual framework", Journal of Sustainable Tourism, Vol. 18 No. 7, pp. 915-928.
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willingness to pay for wildlife viewing and wildlife
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(2009), How cognitive biases can affect the performance of ecolabeling schemes, Journal of Agricultural & Food Industrial Organization, Vol. 7, pp. 1-11.
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elicit amongst customers, Scandinavian Journal of Hospitality &Tourism, Vol. 4, No.1, pp. 25-41.
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Interestingly, Weaver and Lawton argue that "the ecotourism literature is focused on market segmentation,
ecological impacts of wildlife viewing, and community-based ecotourism, but there has been minimal
attention to critical areas such as quality control, the industry, external environments or institutions even as
the components and parameters of ecotourism are being extended." (1168). We believe that more research on
ecolabels and their impact on ecotourist attitudes and behaviour could yield critical information on quality
control and industry practices, since ecolabeling and ecocertification is integrally related to quality control
and industry practices. However, contra Weaver and Lawton we think that this requires even greater attention
to segmentation of consumers according to the environmental values that they hold.


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Buultjens, J., Gale, D., & White, N. (2010), Synergies between Australian indigenous tourism and
ecotourism: possibilities and problems for future development, Journal of Sustainable Tourism,
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importance of certification schemes in sustainable development of tourism, Annals
of the University of Oradea, Economic Science Series, Vol. 17, No. 2, pp. 340-343. Retrieved
from Business Source Complete database. De Vincete, J. (2004), Demand for certification: tourist
industry and marketing experts. Centre on
Ecotourism and Sustainable Development, The International Ecotourism Society. Retrieved from:
Dolnicar, S., Crouch, G., and Long, P. (2008), Environment-friendly tourists: What do we really know about
them? Journal of Sustainable Tourism, Vol. 16, No. 2, pp. 197-210. Retrieved from Business
Source Complete database.
Dolincar, S. and Matus, K. (2008), Are green tourists a managerially useful target segment? Journal of
Hospitality Marketing & Management, Vol.17, No. 3/4, pp. 314-334. Retrieved from Business
Source Complete database.
Donohoe, Holly M., & Needham, Roger D. (2006), Ecotourism: The evolving contemporary definition,
Journal of Ecotourism, Vol. 5, No. 3, pp. 192-210.
Esther, T., Fryxell, G., & Chow, C. (2004), Visual and verbal communication in the design of eco-labels for
green consumer products, Journal of International Consumer Marketing, Vol. 16, No. 4, pp. 85105. doi:10.1300/J046v16n04_05.
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and Toxic Substances December 1998 Agency (7409), "Environmental Label Issues, Policies, and
Practices Worldwide".
Fairweather, J., Maslin, C., and Simmons, D. (2005), Environmental values and response to ecolabels among
international visitors to New Zealand, Journal of Sustainable Tourism, Vol. 13, No. 1, pp. 82-98.
Retrieved from Business Source Complete database. Fennell, David and Weaver, David. (2005),
The 'Ecotourium' concept and tourism-conservation symbiosis,
Journal of Sustainable Tourism, Vol. 13, No. 4, pp. 373-390. Retrieved from Business Source
Complete database.
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Management, Wallingford: CAB International. Font, X., and Tribe, J. (2001), Promoting green
tourism: the future of environmental Awards, International
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http://www.ecolabelindex.com/downloads/Global_Ecolabel_Monitor2010.pdf Grolleau, G.,
Ibanez, L., and Mzoughi, N. (2009), Too much of a good thing? Why altruism can harm the
environment?, Ecological Economics, Vol. 68, No. 7, pp. 2145-2149.
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Environmental Economics & Management, Vol. 52, No. 3, pp. 627-644.
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ecotourism certification Program, Annals of the
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study of Barbados, Journal of Sustainable Tourism, Vol. 14, No. 5, pp. 489-411.
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promotion, Journal of Sustainable Tourism, Vol. 13, No. 6, pp. 590-616. Retrieved from Business
Source Complete database.


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GEN's List of Members

Third-Party Environmental Labelling Programs By Country of Origin
Australia (The Australian Ecolabel Program) Brazil (Brazilian
Ecolabelling) Croatia (Environmental Label)
China Environmental United Certification Center (China Environmental Labelling)
Czech Republic (Environmental Choice)
EU (EU Ecolabelling)
Germany (Blue Angel)
Hong Kong (Green Label Scheme)
Hong Kong (Hong Kong Federation of Environmental Protection)
India (Ecomark)
Indonesia (Indonesian Eco-label Program)
Japan (Eco Mark)
Korea (Environmental Labelling)
North America (Canada' s Environmental Choice, Canada' s Ecologo)
Nordic Countries (Nordic Swan) includes Denmark, Iceland, Finland, Norway, Sweden
New Zealand (Environmental Choice New Zealand)
Chinese Taipei (Green Mark)
Sweden (Good Green Buy)
Singapore (Green Label)
Sweden (TCO)
Spain (AENOR-Medio Ambiente)
Thailand (Thai Green Label) Ukraine
(Living Planet)
USA (Green Seal)
S ource: http://globalecolabelling.net/about/


Sustainable Tourism: Socio-Cultural, Environmental and Economics Impact, pp. 279-294, 2011 L.

Linda A. Piper, MBA, PhD Candidate Assistant

Professor, School of Business Faculty of Applied
and Professional Studies Nipissing University
100 College Drive North Bay, ON, Canada P1B
Office: 705-474-3450, ext. 4902 email: lindap@nipissingu.ca
Michael Yeo, PhD, Associate Professor
Department of Philosophy
Parker Bldg. L735
Laurentian University
Ramsey Lake Road
Sudbury, ON, Canada
P3E 2C6
Office: 705-675-1151, ext. 3704
Fax: 705-675-4863
e-mail: myeo@laurentian.ca