Fostering Innovation in Sustainable Tourism

Lea Thuot, Nicole Vaugeois, Patrick Maher


Sustainable tourism development has been a topic of considerable research and policy reflection across Canada for the past two decades. Sustainability is especially important to people in rural areas, since tourism products often rely on sensitive natural and cultural resources. In order to encourage the adoption of sustainable tourism practices among operators, research was conducted by a collaboration of four tertiary institutions in the Fostering Innovation in Sustainable Tourism Project. The team conducted a study in the spring of 2009 to (a) determine attitudes of tourism operators toward sustainability; (b) assess the extent and type of sustainable tourism practices adopted by operators; (c) understand the influences on the adoption of sustainability practices, including motivators and barriers; and (d) determine ways to support the adoption of sustainability practices among tourism operators. An online survey was administered and interviews were conducted with rural operators throughout the Canadian province of British Columbia. Results showed an overall strong ?pro-sustainability? attitude among respondents. Dominant barriers identified were lack of available money to invest, lack of incentive programs, other business priorities, and limited access to suppliers of sustainable products, with the most common recommendation being the need for incentive programs to encourage businesses to become more sustainable. The results also indicate differences in adoption behaviour among three groups of operators: those who have fully committed, those who have piloted a few strategies, and those who have not. Understanding differences in adoption of sustainable practices using innovation theory may help to support the development of programs and policies that can be used as incentives to create behaviour change among tourism operators, thereby furthering collective efforts toward sustainable tourism development.

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The Journal of Rural and Community Development is supported by SSHRC.