An emotional connection can be used to inspire visitors to protect the places they visit for future generations, according to the research, undertaken by University of Otago tourism researcher Dr Julia Albrecht and social enterprise GOOD Travel co-founder Eliza Raymond.
Initiatives that inspire visitors to commit to responsible behaviours when they travel have become increasingly common.
The Icelandic Pledge was introduced in June 2017, followed by the Palau Pledge in December 2017, New Zealand’s Tiaki in November last year and the Sustainable Finland Pledge in August this year.
Seven key New Zealand organisations joined forces to conceive and develop Tiaki – Care for New Zealand. It was developed in part as a response to negative tourist behaviours and seeks to inspire greater respect for the natural environment and local cultures as well as ensure visitor safety, by actively encouraging travellers and residents to act as guardians of New Zealand.
There is now a dedicated Tiaki channel on Air New Zealand flights and the stakeholders – Air New Zealand, Tourism New Zealand, Department of Conservation, Tourism Industry Aotearoa, Local Government New Zealand, New Zealand Ma¬Åori Tourism and Tourism Holdings – promote the key messages of the Tiaki Promise to their customers, trade partners and staff.
Dr Albrecht says while the traditional visitor code of conduct might have effectively communicated how to protect a destination, pledges are able to appeal to visitors’ emotions and thus more likely to encourage the formation of desired behaviours as visitors are more likely to protect places to which they feel an emotional connection.
"We interviewed 19 experts involved in the development and implementation of destination pledges in Iceland, Palau, Hawaii, New Zealand and Finland. We repeatedly heard that communicating why visitors should protect destinations was a key goal for the destination managers involved in the pledges. For example, the co-founders of the Palau Pledge described how they used the winning sales and marketing formula used by companies like Apple and applied the same principles to the Palau Pledge to inspire and connect with visitors," Dr Albrecht says.
Eliza says a common approach used among these pledges to communicate why visitors should adopt certain behaviours was ensuring that the pledges appropriately represented a destination’s culture. The language, symbolism and stories being used were all described as important elements of communicating local culture to engage and inspire visitors.
"Interviewees frequently talked about the importance of accurately and appropriately representing local cultures and languages in the pledges. This was described as important to communicate the cultural significance behind the pledges, represent the uniqueness of a destination and add weight to the vision behind the pledges," she says.
In general, the researchers found the pledges have been well received by visitors, industry and residents. However, the question of whether the pledges are serving as an effective visitor management tool and positively influencing visitor behaviour remains.
Destination managers in Palau and New Zealand are developing a range of impact measurement tools and it is hoped that data will soon be available to assess whether understanding why destinations deserve to be protected is translating into behavioural changes.