International tourists value sustainability and respecting the environment

International visitors to New Zealand value sustainability and protecting the environment.


A new study shedding light on tourist’s sustainability practices, suggests that international tourists mainly values sustainability and protecting the environment. The research tells more about how much importance international visitors gives on sustainability.

Moreover, it also gives local tourism service providers a chance to understand their perceptions of sustainability practices in the region and promote eco-friendly practices.

Conducted by scientists from the University of Canterbury, the study analyzed more than 750,000 visitor reviews on websites like Trip Advisor and Expedia. They then checked if, unprompted, visitors acknowledged or commented on sustainability practices.

Associate Professor Girish Prayag, Associate Head of the Management, Marketing and Entrepreneurship department at UC’s Business School said, “We found that visitors rarely commented on sustainability practices unprompted, and also identified there might be gaps in the market to promote more sustainability options. For example, there may be an opportunity for more carbon-offsetting options or to promote the use of electric vehicles or offer more eco-friendly options. There’s an opportunity for the local tourism industry and related service providers to raise awareness of any sustainable features of their product or service.”

They also analyzed four years’ of data from the International Visitor Survey to see if international visitors’ perceptions of New Zealand’s environmental practices had changed over time. This analysis found very little change in opinions over the four years.

Surveying 600 international visitors to Canterbury to ask what they thought of the sustainability practices and products they encountered on their visit to the region, scientists got visitors’ positive responses- attitude and a willingness to adopt sustainable practices.

ChristchurchNZ Senior Economist Peter Fieger says, “Visitors have a generally positive attitude and a willingness to adopt sustainable practices. However, Canterbury tourism businesses may need to provide or promote options for visitors to be more sustainable to enable them to align their attitude and beliefs with their behavior.”

Scientists found:

  • International visitors perceive themselves as placing a high value on protecting and respecting the environment.
  • Visitors tended to adopt environmentally friendly practices that were accessible or easy to do, such as using energy-saving products, switching off electrical equipment, reducing consumption of non-essential items, recycling, purchasing local food, and engaging with tourist attractions that support endangered plants and animals.
  • Practices that were less likely to be adopted included taking part in a carbon-offset scheme, using electric vehicles or other eco-friendly transport such as bikes, or buying eco-friendly products.
  • Overall, international visitors had favorable perceptions of Canterbury’s sustainability practices, including the encouragement of clean rubbish-free spaces, availability of public toilets, and recycling and waste management.


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