ECOCLUB

ISSN 1108-8931

INTERNATIONAL ECOTOURISM MONTHLY

Year 6 - Issue 67

Sponsored by: Zante Feast Discovery Holidays, Purple Valley Yoga Centre, Hana Maui Botanical Gardens, Jorth Consult Limited, Pacuare Lodge

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Consumer Attitudes to Ecocertification: The Case of Lake Plastira in Karditsa, Greece. (Summary of M.Sc. Thesis)

by Fiona Bakas, M.Sc. Ecotourism, University of Portsmouth, UK

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Overview

Fiona Bakas' research study among tourism businesses in the fast developing Lake Plastira area in a mountainous, subalpine area of central Greece, which is already a hub for adventure tourism (kayaking), found a high level of consumer awareness of ecotourism and eco-certification. However, the author notes that this awareness was at a superficial level. One would add here that adventure tourism in Greece mostly involves domestic tourists, and indeed upwardly mobile young professionals, during corporate team-bonding weekends.

Dream-like Lake Plastira: The water from the Lake powers the Public Power Corporation’s hydroelectric plant. The lake also provides water for the town of Karditsa and a large part of the Plain of Thessaly, the granary of Greece. Since the 1990s, used for low-impact Tourism too: not bad for a fifty year old artificial lake?

The author found, expectedly, the relationship between levels of knowledge of ecotourism and ecocertification at a significant level (99%). Possible (rather than actualised) consumer demand, indicated by willingness to pay more for eco-certified accommodation, was found higher than expected, with 64% of the questionnaire sample responding positively to this notion. Possible demand levels were found to be related to the environmental knowledge base of the respondent: the more educated, the higher their stated willingness to pay more. Again one should note that these tourists tend to be young and affluent, and as previously said, some could have been on freebie weekend trips with their companies.

In order to further analyse consumer demand the author recommends that similar studies are conducted focusing to a greater extent in defining willingness to pay more for environmentally-sensitive products, by analysing respondents' preference levels for widely available consumables such as "Fair Trade products". The author accepts consumers as the best evaluators of any certification programme and recognises that consumer attitudes to existing eco-certification schemes should be evaluated by actual preference rates for certified versus to non-certified businesses. Indeed, a comparison of someone's questionnaire replies is not always an accurate reflection of his past or future behaviour, especially when respondents feel that there is an "ethical" issue involved. (Megan Epler Wood has notably found evidence of a green market gap).

Beyond consumers, Ms Bakas also makes the important recommendation that further research should be undertaken into analysing the attitudes of tourism employees, who will apparently have to perform the certified norms and procedures, in order to gain a better indication of how effective a future ecocertification scheme can be. Hopefully future researchers will do exactly that.

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