INVESTIGATING THE RESPONSIBLE TOURIST BEHAVIOUR IN EGYPT’S ECOTOURISM DESTINATIONS: A CASE STUDY OF SIWA

 

Heba M. Said

Tourism Department, Faculty of Tourism and Hotels, Alexandria University 

 

 

ABSTRACT:

Siwa has always been considered an ecotourism destination due to the uniqueness of its cultural attractions and the fragility of its diverse ecosystems. In spite of the rich literature about Siwa , its attractions, sustainable tourism development in it, and conserving its assets, little literature deals with the responsible tourist behaviour approach. Tourists who go to ecotourism destinations is supposed to have high environmental awareness and responsible behaviour. While tourists go to ecological areas because they are attracted by the natural resources, not all of them engage in positive environmental behaviour.

This study aims to investigate the ecological responsible behaviour of tourists in Siwa using a quantitative approach. It proposed three research questions: How far tourists in Siwa are committed to a responsible behaviour paradigm? Is there a correlation between age and responsible tourist behaviour? Is there a difference between international and domestic tourists in their commitment to responsible tourist behaviour?

To answer these questions, a questionnaire was designed to measure the most common attributes of responsible behaviour. The questionnaire was composed of 21 responsible tourist behaviour attributes before, during and after the trip . It was handed to tourists on site. The measurement of the behaviour was through a three- points scale (always, rarely, never).

The questionnaires were administered to tourists in Siwa during the period between January -May 2018. 460 questionnaires were distributed based on random sampling technique, 392 questionnaires were valid for analyzing using SPSS 22.0 was used for descriptive statistical analysis and correlation analysis. The results showed a moderate tourist responsible behaviour in Siwa. Anova test proved the correlation between age and responsible tourism behaviour . While Pearson chi square showed there is differences between domestic tourists and international tourist regarding the different attributes of tourist responsible behaviour.

 Keywords: Responsible, tourist, behaviour, Siwa.

 

 

INTRODUCTION:

Tourists significantly contribute to the degradation of the environment in destinations such as the gas emissions associated with traveling, picking flowers, carrying seeds on clothes, collecting flora and fauna specimens, disturbing the wildlife habitats, polluting the environment, overcrowding and any behaviour that impact the environment directly or indirectly (Lee et al., 2013).

Such intentional and unintentional behaviours of tourists have risen the issue of environmental responsible behaviour in tourism (ERB) emphasizing that realizing sustainability in tourism cannot be done only through the efforts of the public and private sectors to attain different approaches in tourism development such as sustainable tourism, alternative tourism, ethical tourism, but also through the alteration of tourist behaviour itself.

Responsible tourism has risen as an answer to increasing international pressure on the tourism sector to address issues of global warming, social inequality and diminishing natural resources. Thus, the term responsible tourism focuses on fostering the sense of responsibility of the traveler towards the visited place. It is not a separate, isolated form, but it intertwines with all forms of human activity and evolves with the changing needs and attitudes of people (Weeden, 2014).

Responsible tourism is not a type of tourism per se. It is a paradigm in which responsibility towards the destination's ecology, culture, and communities is a priority. The notion of responsibility can be a component of existing product segments such as nature-based, cultural and community-based, volunteer and educational, backpackers and youth, adventure and high-end tourism (Mody et al., 2014); segments that are compatible with the nature of tourism activities in Siwa. Given this understanding, it is appropriate to examine the literature that has addressed this concept of responsibility from a tourist's perspective.

 

LITERATURE REVIEW

Scholars have adopted various terminologies to describe behaviour that protects the environment. ‘Environmental responsible behaviour’ is also labelled as Green behaviour, ‘eco-friendly behaviour’, ‘environmental behaviour’, ‘conservation behaviour’, ‘pro-environmental behaviour’, ‘environmentally friendly behaviour’ and ‘being sustainable and green’ (Wang et al., 2018).

This pro-environmental behaviour (PEB) was defined as actions taken by an individual or a group that benefit the natural environment, enhance environmental quality, or promote the sustainable use of natural resources (Larson et al., 2015). These actions encompass a range of dimensions from conservation lifestyle behaviours in the private sphere (e.g. recycling, energy conservation) to public sphere activities such as environmental citizenship (e.g. voting for pro-environmental policies, donating to support conservation), social environmentalism (e.g. participating in conservation organizations), and land-stewardship (e.g. working to enhance wildlife habitat) (Larson et al., 2018).

In the tourism context, there is several studies that tried to define the responsible behaviour as the behaviour that reflects tourists’ understanding of the impact of their behaviour on the environment and their acting by the norms in the destination (Steg &Vlek, 2009; Puhakka, 2011; Kim &Thapa, 2018; Wang et al., 2018). Also, Kang and Moscardo (2006) see environmentally responsible behaviour as a consequence of environmental attitudes, measured by behavioural norms such as collecting information on destinations before travel and following behavioural norms. The Taiwan Ecotourism Association (2011) stated that responsible behaviours of tourists at a destination should include appreciating the life-styles and cultures of host residents, improving the welfare of residents, conserving the natural environment, and being environmentally responsible for the destination (Chiu et al., 2014).

Lee (2011) adopted the same approach when he defined ERB for a specific destination. Meanwhile, Halpenny (2010) indicated that pro-environmental behaviour ranges from volunteer behaviour to site-specific best practices, including voluntarily visiting a destination less or not at all when the area is recovering from environmental damage.

All the above definitions related tourist responsible behaviour to their respect to the natural and cultural attributes in the destinations and how far they are aware to the impact they make. Thapa (2010) adopted more active approach by adding political action, education, recycling community activism, and green consumption to the context of responsible behaviour. It also includes support environmental policy, respecting local customs and values, participating in local activities and protecting natural habitat (Larson et al., 2015).

Environmentally responsible behaviour may depend on an individual's environmental commitment, concern, and knowledge (Aragon-Correa et al., 2015). Wang et al. (2018) considered the key components of responsible behaviour the pro-environmental lifestyle and conservation lifestyle actions (e.g. recycling plastic and paper, reusing linen and towels, energy/ water conservation). Everyday behaviours, such as selecting the garbage, dispensing with plastic bags or care about the origin of food products reflects an environmental responsibility towards destinations, thus  a responsible tourist is the one who conduct a responsible behaviour .

Therefore, Debicka & Oniszczuk-Jastrzabek (2014) point out that the “responsible tourist” aims to enjoy the culture, the customs, the gastronomical offer and the tradition of the local population in a respectful way and always tries to contribute to the development of responsible and sustainable tourism. Lee et al. (2013) added that a tourist who strives to reduce environmental impacts, contributes to environmental preservation and/or conservation efforts, and does not disturb the ecosystem and biosphere of a destination during recreation/tourism activities.

From all the above definitions the common traits of responsible tourist behaviour could be summed as: Understanding the impact of his behaviour, acting by the destination norms, collecting information before travel, appreciating the lifestyle and culture of the host community, improving the welfare of residents, conserving the natural environment, adopting conservation lifestyle actions, political pro-environmental actions and education, and supporting environmental policies.

In order to study ERB in tourism, some researchers have developed uni-dimensional instruments for a specific purpose, such as determining behaviours in intertidal zones, determining the intention to pick flowers, choosing eco-label products and protecting marine resources, determining the behaviours in dormitories, understanding wild land preservation voting intentions, recycling, and evaluating public transportation (Chang, 2010; Chao& Lam, 2011). Meanwhile, several scholars have developed scales on a uni-dimension for general purposes (Han et al., 2010; Kim & Han, 2010; Park & Boo, 2010; Lee et al., 2013).  This study will adopt the second approach that consider general responsible behaviour scale uni-dimensional.

 

TOURISM IN SIWA

Although the oasis of the Western Desert have much in common, Siwa is still the most fascinating of all the oasis, not only for its history, but because of its natural beauty and its people's culture and traditions.

Siwa potentialities rely mainly on its distinctiveness from other parts of Egypt or even of the surrounding North African countries. Its reputation as a distant and isolated oasis, where tourists can have different experiences from those they can have in other parts of Egypt. It is the only authentic oasis in Egypt where people live as their ancestors did. Its history has been formed by many civilizations.

Tourism in Siwa provides travellers with a chance to experience the unique qualities of the desert and its human activities and lifestyles (Boumedine, 2008).

It is situated 120 km east of the Libyan border and 300 km south of the Mediterranean coast in the western desert. The oasis stretches in an east–west direction along a depression 17 m below sea level. One can get to Siwa either by motor coach or private cars. (Abdel Ghani,2012; Rady,2011)

The oasis is renowned for its beautiful scenery, irrigated fields, millions of palm groves, Acacia groves, olive trees, as well as large lakes, The sand dunes, water streams, mountains, Water springs, where the hot water coming from springs includes ordinary and sulfurous water, Dry climate that helps curing respiratory system diseases, Rays that have curative characteristics for skin diseases, ancient monuments and archeological sites. Old Siwa Oasis is famous for its traditional way of life, Traditional communities with unique culture of Berber and Bedouin descent, Interesting customs , Local handcrafts (pottery, sewing and embroidery, jewelry).(IUCN,2007)

Siwa Protected Area was established as a natural protectorate, under the provisions of Law 102 of 1983, with Prime Ministerial decree no. 1219/2002. Siwa’s natural reserve is characterized by its biological diversity presented in a variety of flora and fauna species in addition to its natural and cultural heritage importance which recommends it as one of the World Heritage sites. The area is also characterized by its unique geological compositions. Since the establishment of the Siwa Protected Area (PA), the development of sustainable forms of tourism had been identified as one of the main opportunities in the region that could provide sustained economic benefits to both the local community and the nation (IUCN, 2007).Given the specific character of desert, the rich cultural and natural resources of the region, cultural and nature-based eco-tourism are the main tourism types developed in the oasis.

Siwa tourism development witnessed two phases: Phase 1, in which all of the hotels were 1-2 stars in the down-town of Siwa with number of rooms which does not exceed 25 rooms per hotel and in this phase the visitors were small groups coming to Siwa for adventure or cultural tourism. Phase 2 started in the 2000’s with the opening of Adrere Amellal Hotel which was a genuine eco-lodge rebuilt from using the remains of a group of old Siwi houses. It offers a diverse range of tours, each emphasizing a specific aspect of the safari experience (history and archaeology, nature and landscape, wildlife, physical challenges) marketable to a wide range of target audience (Abdel Ghani, 2012).

Starting from the 2000’s tourists, especially Europeans and Arabs have been willing to pay high prices for a high-level service and to enjoy the unique local characteristics of the oasis (Rady, 2011).

Tourists in the oasis are divided into three categories as shown in table (1) independent travellers, tourists on tour packages, daily visitors (IUCN, 2007; Rady,2011).

                                               Table (1): categories of tourists in Siwa

Category

Description

Individual tourists

often backpackers, young, have less money to spend, stay longer time in the area often visiting all parts of the oasis, including the desert, and are more likely to have contact with the local community and patronize Siwan businesses. Most independents visit Siwa as part of countrywide tour, often travelling to other destinations in the Middle East.

Mass tourists

Most tourists on package tours are European, older, have more money to spend, stay two or three nights in the area, have less contact with Siwans. Tours are mainly organized by foreign tour operators with local arrangements made through Egyptian tourist companies.

 

Daily visitors

Another type of organized trips is the daily tours from resorts on the North coast. After a 5-hour bus trip, visitors have a whistle-stop tour lasting approximately 5 hours to ‘sightsee’, before returning to the resorts on the Mediterranean coast on the same day.

Tourism to Siwa is highly seasonal due to climatic factors, with visitors avoiding the hotter summer months. First-May through mid-September is the low season in Siwa. The high season in Siwa extend from November to the first week of March. The most popular months for tourism in Siwa have historically been December and January because of the favourable weather conditions (Abdel Ghany, 2012).

Tourism in Siwa has witnessed a large drawback after the 25th January 2011 Revolution. This drawback happened to all the Egyptian tourist destinations. Since then the number of tourists increased gradually till 2017 when the international tourists has just reached approximately the number as 2011. The same happened with the domestic tourists visiting Siwa except for the year 2016. The number of Egyptian tourists in Siwa jumped to 41,8% from 6351 tourists to 15164 tourists. Table (2) shows that Domestic tourism is a key segment of demand in Siwa. 

Table (2) : Number of tourists in Siwa

Source : Egyptian Tourist Authority, Siwa office.

Table (2) shows that the number of international tourists in Siwa was quite close to the number of domestic tourists, till 2016 and 2017, as a large rebound (44.8%) happened in the number of Egyptians visiting Siwa, which means that Siwa has been depending more on domestic tourism.

The uniqueness of Siwa and the fragility of its ecosystem means that tourism development there must be based on principles of precaution and effectiveness. In her study, Amara (2010) confirmed that it is important to promote visitors’ codes of conduct in such areas.

 Incoming tourists to Siwa go there to enjoy its attractions knowing how unique and fragile it is, they are supposed to know the need to conserve its natural and cultural attractions. Normally tourist who visit to protected area are supposed to be environmentally responsible.  Amara (2010) found that the majority of Siwa’s visitors in addition to experts perceived Siwa as a natural asset that need to be preserved. Both parties agreed that the priority goes to improve Siwa’s local community’s way of life, as well as, its visitors’ experience. But does that mean that tourists in Siwa behave responsibly?

 

 EMPIRICAL STUDY

       The study was conducted in Siwa as one of the most well-known eco -tourism destinations in Egypt. As stated by Weeden,2008 ecotourists are supposed to be committed to ERB in the destinations they visit as they share the same profile as responsible tourist, Yet ecotourists should not be regarded as an homogenous group, tourism researchers continue to treat them as such, preferring to

develop a range of typologies rather than a deep understanding of what motivates their behaviour (Priskin, 2003). That is why it is important to investigate the tourist ‘s behaviour in tourist ecotourism destinations to assure that the tourism development in these fragile eco-systems will not have a destructive impact on them. Therefore, This research aims to find an answer the following questions:

Q1: How far tourists in Siwa are committed to a responsible behaviour paradigm?

  Q2: Is there a correlation between age and responsible tourist behaviour?

Q3: Is there a difference between international and domestic tourists in their commitment to responsible tourist behaviour?

In order to answer these questions, a questionnaire was designed to measure the most common attributes of responsible behaviour before, during and after the trip to Siwa. The questionnaire is composed of 21 items trying to make it a quiet short questionnaire (To encourage the tourists to answer it, as it was handed to them on site), but reliable to give an indication to the degree of their responsible behaviour.

  The responsible tourist behaviour items were mainly collected from the results of a qualitative study conducted by Weeden ,2008 to identify the values of ethical and responsible tourists. She identified 24 attributes of responsible tourist behaviour, these attributes were revised and compared with other studies in related papers (obtained using keywords such responsible tourist, responsible behaviour, environmental responsible behaviour, green behaviour, environmental behaviour), and were modified by the researcher to be more compatible with the nature of Siwa as a destination.

 Attributes were classified by the researcher into pre-trip, during the trip and post trip attributes. Pre- trip attributes included gathering information about the destination before travelling, supporting eco-friendly tourism organizations (having a responsible attitude), the preparations to the trip that include; preference to travel alone, dealing with eco-friendly travel agencies and reserving in eco-friendly hotels. During the trip attributes included; dealing with locals, supporting the local economy, respecting local regulations and customs, limiting gas emissions by preferring to walk over car use, supporting natural environment conservation, energy saving behaviour, being aware of the impact he causes as a tourist. As for the post trip, the researcher asked about the tourists’ predisposition to support the destination even after returning home.

  To measure the degree of commitment to the responsible tourist behaviour a three- points scale was used (always, rarely, never).

The questionnaire was originally written in English and it was translated into Arabic by the researcher and revised by an Egyptian professional English professor. the questionnaire was developed and given to tourism experts to ensure the consistency of the questions. The items were objects to reliability and validity analyses. Reliabilities were assessed using Cronbach's Alpha coefficients, which ranged from 0.810 to 0.850 and were therefore all considered acceptable.

The survey was administered in Siwa during the period between January -May 2018. Each tourist was given the two versions of the questionnaire (Arabic-English). In total, 460 questionnaires were distributed based on random sampling technique, 392 valid questionnaires were retrieved excluding the uncompleted questionnaires. SPSS 22.0 was used for descriptive statistical analysis, Anova T test was used to find the correlation between age and responsible tourist behaviour (Q2) , and a chi square of each responsible tourist behaviour attribute was used to reveal the differences between domestic and international tourist’s responsible behaviour in Siwa

 

RESULTS &DISCUSSION

    The profile of the respondents shown in table (3) was dominated by males (71.2%) while females were28.8%. Most of the respondents were in the age group between 30-50 (34.6% from 30 to 39,25.4% from 40-50).  The response rate is balanced between domestic and international tourists with a higher percentage of Egyptians 52.5% ,47.5% are foreigners from various nationalities (European -Arab-Far east- Russian).

Table (3) Respondents profile

 

 

Frequency

Percentage%

Gender

 

 

Male

249

71.2

Female

119

28.8

Age

 

 

20-29

102

24.7

30-39

143

34.6

40-50

105

25.4

50-60

63

15.3

Nationality

 

 

Egyptian

217

52.5

Foreigners

169

47.5

As for the responsible tourist behaviour before the trip, 47.5% rarely get historical and cultural information about Siwa before going, but 32.7% never do. While 39.7% don’t get any information about the natural environment. 50.8% support hotels, airlines and tour operators that employ responsible environmental practices, whereas 36.3% don’t prefer to travel independently and 34.1% rarely prefer the independent travel. 47.9% don’t prefer to travel with an eco-friendly tour operator and 40% rarely do. And 54% prefer staying in eco-hotels and locally-owned hostels.

Table (3) Responsible tourism behaviour aspects

Mean of ERB attributes measured on 3points scale with: always =1, rarely=2,never=3

During the trip, 44.8% prefer to communicate with the local community, but 51.1% don’t eat local food or drink local brands and brews. The results revealed that 47.5% follow local regulations. Furthermore, 42.6% rarely respect local dress codes, whereas 33.4% always do. Also, 57.9% support locally- owned businesses, and 42.1% buy locally-made souvenirs and crafts. Additionally, 60.3% do not like to visit places less known to tourists.43.8% do not participate in local festivals/events for cultural exchange but 34.4 % participate rarely in them. Moreover, 60% of the respondents rarely participate in outdoor activities, while 24.2% never do. 73.8% do not prefer walking over car use. In addition, 64.2 % do rarely buy products made from endangered animals and plants but 44.1% and 48.7% always conserve in both water and electricity consumption consecutively. Finally, 56.2% of the respondents think rarely about their impact as tourists on Siwa, while only 34.4% always think about it.

After the trip, 50.2% do not ever think how they can support programs and organizations that are working to protect the welfare, culture and environment of Siwa, but 37% of them rarely think about it.

 In general, the results provide an answer for the first research question as it show that the tourist responsible behaviour in Siwa is moderate (Average mean =2.03, 2< 2.03 >3) overall answers to responsible tourist behaviour attributes was closer to rarely (rarely=2)  , tourists in Siwa rarely collect information about the historical and cultural aspects of the oasis more than the natural aspects. This may due to the reputation of Siwa as a unique heritage and cultural destination. Respondents generally support hotels, airlines and tour operators that employ responsible environmental practices. This support is reflected into their preference to stay in eco-hotels and locally- owned establishments in, but it is not the case when it comes to dealing with eco-responsible tour operators, especially that most of them do not like the independent travel. Furthermore, Tourists like to communicate with local people, and rarely respect their regulations and dress codes. They support their business, buy the locally made souvenirs, but they do not like to consume their food or beverages and do not prefer to attend their cultural festivals. They rarely participate in outdoor activities, but they don’t prefer walking over using car may be because of the hot weather and as well as, the diverse impacts caused by the cars on the environment (gas emission). Moreover, most of the respondents do not prefer to buy products made from endangered animals and plants, but they are fully aware of energy conservation. Sometimes, they rarely are aware of the impacts they cause as tourists in the oasis. In sum, tourists’ responsible behaviour in Siwa is higher during the trip (Average Mean=1.9 ,1> 1.9 <2) than before (Mean=2.1) and after the trip. They are not very interested in supporting the oasis after their return at home. (Mean=2.38).

    As for the second research question, the correlation between age and environment responsible behaviour was tested using an ANOVA t-test (table 4). a significant correlation was proved as (p=0.000) (f=21.9). Age is inversely correlated with responsible tourist behaviour as

 (β= -062, t= -4.614) which mean that the answers of younger age groups was closer to the minimal value(always=1), than older age group’s answers .Thus, they behave responsibly towards the environment more than elder age groups.(table 5)

Table (4) Anova  test for the correlation between age and responsible behaviour

 

 

Model

Sum of Squares

df

Mean Square

F

Sig.

 

1

Regression

1.615

1

1.615

21.290

.000b

 

Residual

29.507

389

.076

 

 

 

Total

31.122

390

 

 

 

 

a. Dependent Variable: Av_RB

 

b. Predictors: (Constant), السن

 

 

Table (5) regression coefficients between the age and environment responsible behaviour

 

Model

Unstandardized Coefficients

Standardized Coefficients

t

Sig.

B

Std. Error

Beta

1

(Constant)

2.158

.034

 

62.777

.000

age

-.062

.014

-.228

-4.614

.000

                         

   This result mean that younger respondents are more committed to the ERB than older respondents this finding is different of Diamantopoulos et al. (2003) who concluded that while sociodemographic variables were useful in profiling UK consumers in terms of environmental knowledge and attitudes, they were not conclusive with regard of behaviour, but it is consistent with the findings of Mintel,2001 who  concluded that responsible behaviour is affected by age as  more ethical group were likely to be aged 25-44 .

The third research question was tested by calculating Pearson’s Chi square for each question to find out if there is a correlation between responsible tourist behaviour and whether the tourists are domestic or international. There were significant differences between the domestic and international traveller responsible tourist behaviour (p=0.000). This is consistent with the findings of Mody et al.,2014 who found significant differences between the domestic and international traveller. Table (6) shows the difference between domestic and international tourists in pre-trip responsible tourist behaviour

Table (6) domestic and international tourists in pre-trip responsible tourist behaviour

*p=0.000 significant relation, n domestic=217, n international=169

 

     The main differences between domestic and international tourists in pre-trip responsible behaviour is in the search of information 40%of international tourist get information about culture and history, 63.9% of them get information about the nature versus 0.9% in both attributes for domestics. international tourists also support hotels, airlines and tour operators that employ responsible environmental practices, such as energy conservation and recycling, and prefer to travel with eco-responsible tour operators more than domestic tourists.

    As for the responsible behaviour during the trip (table7) the major difference between international tourists and domestic tourists is that domestic people follow the regulations (always 49%) more than international tourists (never 46.7%), domestic tourist prefer to attend to local festivals (52.9%)  more than international tourists  , who  prefer walking over using cars(31%)            

Table (7): domestic and international tourists during the trip responsible behaviour

*p=0.000 significant relation, n domestic=217, n international=169

 

    Table (8) shows that international tourists are more concerned about supporting the oasis after returning home(20.7%) more than domestic tourism (7.3%) .

    The weak responsible behaviour of domestic tourists before and after the trip reflects a lack of awareness of the aspects of environmental responsibility, and a weak degree of commitment to ERB

Table (8) domestic and international tourists in post-trip responsible  behaviour

*p=0.000 significant relation, n domestic=217, n international=169

 

CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATIONS

The basic elements of responsible tourism include responding to the needs of both tourists and host communities, as well as protecting and enhancing the attractiveness of tourism destinations through conserving the environment which is the biggest tourist attraction that must be protected, nurtured and preserved for future generations.

The results indicate that knowledge and awareness does not necessarily translate to changes in practices. There is therefore a need for more information dissemination about how to be more environmentally responsible as a tourist. This requires that the tourist industry provides more options and awareness campaigns. The tourist ought to be aware of the fact that every tourist destination does not only consist of earth, water, air, flora and fauna, but also has a specific history, culture and heritage. Responsible tourists should be fully informed about the place to which they are going, to have the ability to adapt to its social, cultural and environmental differences. Education on these aspects is particularly important, in order to strengthen tourist’s cognition regarding the environment. An interpretation strategy must be followed using relevant themes, interpretation brochures, pro-environmental corners and eco-tours. An ecological-oriented homepage on internet about the oasis should focus on the constructs of Responsible behaviour expected from the tourist.

On the other hand, the enhancement of the quality of ecological attractions and facilities can encourage tourists to comply with the responsible conducts. Raising tourist satisfaction is also important to gain their loyalty, which is important to their commitment to the preservation of the oasis’ assets and will encourage them to participate in initiatives to support the oasis even after their return home. (Kim&Thapa,2018)

 

 

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