Responsible tourism Qualmark accreditation: a comparative evaluation of tourism businesses and tourists' perceptions
The Responsible Tourism Qualmark (RTQ) scheme is part of the Ministry of Tourism’s efforts to improve the sustainability of tourism industry practices. This research seeks to understand why businesses incorporate sustainable practices through RTQ, and how tourists respond to the concept of responsible tourism. Accordingly, this research has the following objectives: • To study how and why businesses incorporate RTQ accreditations into their business practices, and to evaluate how they perceive RTQ delivers the promised quadruple bottom line outcomes. • To study the ways in which tourists respond to the new RTQ accreditation, and whether this enhances their experience. • To make recommendations for improved implementation of RTQ. To elicit this information the research comprised two elements: (1) semi-structured interviews conducted with senior management of the New Zealand Responsible Tourism Qualmark scheme accredited businesses (N=24); (2) self-administered surveys completed by tourists staying at RTQ accredited businesses (N=66). Results indicate that both businesses and tourists have confidence in the RTQ’s ability to deliver responsible practices. A large range of motivations and drivers instigated businesses to engage in responsible tourism practices. Likewise, tourists demonstrated their support for the responsible tourism concept, in principle. However, this support has not yet translated into actual pressure. In addition to identifying the motivations and drivers, businesses’ environmental commitment was measured by classifying businesses according to the extent respondents expressed their belief in the importance of environmental protection. Data analysis involved identifying the degree of commonality in the motivations and drivers in light of the relative level of environmental commitment. Businesses holding a high level of environmental commitment are motivated by altruistic values with no linkages to external drives; the businesses holding low levels, or even no environmental commitment, are motivated by legitimacy and competitiveness values with association primarily to the supply-chain or economic advantage drives. Additionally, the unique constraints associated with the different levels of environmental commitment were revealed. Consequently, by better understanding the drivers of change, while acknowledging businesses’ constraints, operator engagement in responsible tourism practices could be increased. This research therefore recommends: (1) attracting more businesses into the Endorse/Star Qualmark schemes; (2) attracting more businesses into the RTQ schemes; and (3) raising the standards of the RTQ as a way of further improving the sustainability of tourism industry practices. This can be achieved with the following nine initiatives: • Improving Qualmark’s role as a marketing tool (e.g., by introducing the Qualmark symbol into all Tourism New Zealand advertising campaigns). • Forming a significant point of difference between Qualmark’s accredited businesses and nonaccredited ones (e.g., offering free workshops to help raise business standards in the area of customer service and business management). • Increasing businesses’ return on investment ( i.e., upfront payments made to Qualmark could be made closer to time of inspection, or when the auditing process is over, thus giving businesses an instant return on their investment). Attracting businesses driven by a legitimacy value by maintaining the Tourism New Zealand requirement for Qualmark accreditation as a benchmark for businesses who wish to participate in its marketing campaigns. • Maintaining responsible tourism as part of the Endorse/Star Qualmark assessment as a first stage of increasing businesses’ awareness of sustainable tourism. • Attracting businesses driven by a competitiveness value by emphasising the RTQ benefits (i.e., helping tourism providers to maintain a viable business, improving their business performance, and giving business owners peace of mind). • Referring businesses to the economic benefits responsible tourism will bring them. This would be likely to help eliminate the antagonism and constraints associated with implementing the RTQ scheme. • Maintaining the three levels of accreditation as a way to encourage businesses to improve their performances in all five areas of responsible tourism. • Aligning the RTQ requirements with international standards.... [Show full abstract]
KeywordsResponsible Tourism Qualmark (RTQ); tourists' perceptions; responsible tourism; tourism businesses
Fields of Research1506 Tourism
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