As the number of travelers around the world grows, the importance of managing tourism destinations in a sustainable manner becomes increasingly important. Sustainable tourism has long been discussed as necessary for managing tourism responsibly, yet adoption of sustainable strategies and operationalization has been slow. Initiatives and programs often focus on environmental components of sustainability and the role of large companies. Certification programs are one way in which destinations are operationalizing community-wide sustainable tourism and small businesses are engaging in sustainability initiatives and recognition.
Using social cognitive theory as the research framework, this study examined internal and external motives and their influence on small business participation in sustainable tourism certification and sustainability practices. Incentives for behavior, modeling of other businesses, company values, and self-efficacy were examined as motives and barriers. Regression analysis and independent samples t-tests were used to examine statistical relationships.
This study partnered with the Alaska Travel Industry Association (ATIA) to study businesses that hold Adventure Green Alaska sustainable tourism certification or are viewed as prospects for certification. From a list of 77, 44 Alaska tourism businesses responded to an online questionnaire to participate in this study. Businesses were categorized into those with certification (n = 31) and those without (n=13). Results indicated participation in sustainability practices to be higher among certified businesses than non-certified. Internal motives indicated to be more significant than external motives for participation in sustainable practices and certification. Company values were of high importance to both certified and non-certified businesses in implementing sustainable practices and certification. Consumer interest and marketing benefits were important incentives for participation in sustainability strategies. These findings have implications for tourism industry associations and organizations interested in the operationalization and development of sustainable tourism. This study is expected to aid in marketing and retention efforts for sustainable tourism certification programs, as well as future direction for development of sustainable tourism certification.