Research project is (co)funded by the Slovenian Research and Innovation Agency


Member of University of Ljubljana

School of Economics and Business




Pro-enviromental behavior in tourism


1. 7. 2019 – 30. 6. 2022

Range on year

1,06 FTE


Ljubica Knežević Cvelbar

Research activity

Social sciences/Economics

Research organisation

University of primorska Faculty of tourism studies Portoož - Turistica


Environmental sustainability is a key challenge of humanity. Tourism is one of the activities contributing significantly to the problem of environmental damage. The United Nations Environment Program states that “uncontrolled conventional tourism poses potential threats to many natural areas around the world. It can put enormous pressure on an area and lead to impacts such as soil erosion, increased pollution, discharges into the sea, natural habitat loss, increased pressure on endangered species and heightened vulnerability to forest fires”. Cruise ships in the Caribbean, for example, generate more than 70,000 tons of waste annually; and the development of tourism infrastructure in Yosemite National Park in the US has caused habitat loss and significant pollution, including "smog so thick that Yosemite Valley could not be seen from airplanes". Closer to home, one single room clean in a Slovenian four star hotel uses 35 L of water, 1.5 kWh of electricity and 100 mL of chemicals.

It is critical – both at the global and the local destination level – to find effective ways to reduce the environmental harm caused by tourism activities. The proposed research project will achieve that by changing tourist behavior. With more than six billion tourists going on holiday every single year, even the smallest changes in tourist behavior could collectively achieve material change for the better. Such small behavioral changes include renting an electric car instead of a petrol operated car, turning the air-conditioning off when leaving the room, and not wasting food at the breakfast buffet.

The starting point for this project are recent findings reported in the journal Nature Climate Change about the effectiveness of pro-environmental appeals in making human behavior more environmentally friendly. These studies have been conducted in people’s everyday living contexts. But vacations are – by definition – the very opposite of people’s everyday context. The purpose of vacations is pleasure and enjoyment, not behaving responsibly for the benefit of humanity. It cannot, therefore, be assumed that findings relating to everyday behaviors will generalize to the vacation context. The legitimacy of generalizing these results needs to be rigorously investigated. This is what the proposed project aims to do. Specifically, we ask two key questions: Can pro-environmental appeals induce pro-environmental behavior by tourists? If so, what are the key characteristics of the most successful appeals in this specific context which is defined by pleasure seeking?

The research questions will be answered by designing a series of pro-environmental appeals, informed directly by a range of theories of human behavior; some general in nature, others specifically developed to explain human pro-environmental behaviors. The effectiveness of the newly designed pro-environmental appeals will then be experimentally tested across a range of real tourism businesses using as dependent variables physical measures, such as actual electricity and water use, or observed actual behavior, such as towel reuse (as opposed to stated behavior or behavioral intentions which are prone to biases). We will target the following behavioral changes: less water use, less electricity use and more towel reuse in hotel rooms; less uneaten food left on the plate after eating at a buffet; more ordering of locally produced menu items in restaurants; and more use of electric and sharing car rentals.

Findings resulting from this project have major theoretical implications: they either confirm or challenge current theory. If pro-environmental appeals prove to be effective in tourism, the practical outcomes of the project are equally significant: the direct availability of pro-environmental measures for tourism industry to adopt. Adoption of these measures will immediately reduce the environmental harm caused by the tourism industry in Slovenia and beyond. If, however, pro-environmental appeals prove to be ineffective in pleasure-seeking contexts such as tourism, new theories for this context need to be developed and empirically tested.


The phases of the project and their realization

Citations for bibliographic records

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