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Submit a Manuscript to the Journal
Journal of Sustainable Tourism

For a Special Issue on
Real behavior in sustainable tourism. A methodological shift

Abstract deadline
31 October 2022

Manuscript deadline
30 April 2023

Cover image - Journal of Sustainable Tourism

Special Issue Editor(s)

Giampaolo Viglia, University of Portsmouth, UK and University of Aosta Valley, Italy
[email protected]

Diletta Acuti, University of Portsmouth, UK
[email protected]

Juan Luis Nicolau, Virginia Tech University, US
[email protected]

Sara Dolnicar, UQ Business School, The University of Queensland, Australia
[email protected]

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Real behavior in sustainable tourism. A methodological shift

The literature on sustainable behaviour widely acknowledges a discrepancy between what consumers say and what they actually do – the so called ‘intention behavior gap’ or ‘attitude-behaviour gap’. Although consumers express favorable attitudes toward sustainable behaviour, they often subsequently fail to translate this into environmentally sustainable vacation choices (Shaw, 2016). This inconsistency represents one of the biggest challenges for destination marketers, policy makers, and nonprofit organizations aiming to promote sustainable behavior (White et al., 2019).

The intention behavior gap is particularly prominent in sustainable tourism, as consumers declare that they do not wish to harm the environment or local communities, but they hardly renounce the pleasure of less sustainable choices (Aga et al., 2020). For instance, consumers who express a ‘carbon conscience’ in approaching air travel decisions are yet reluctant to actually take fewer holidays to reduce personal carbon impact (Cohen et al., 2013). In fact, many factors can impede the actual realisation of consumers' intention to behave more sustainably, such as the absence of available alternatives to current vacation options (Higham et al., 2016), the willingness to escape and relax disregarding environmental considerations (Juvan & Dolnicar, 2014), and the plurality of contextual self-identities that obstacles the translation of sustainable everyday behaviours into travel choices (Hibbert et al., 2013).

To overcome this gap between intentions and behaviour, some scholars have suggested incorporating behavioural measures in sustainable consumption instead of just relying on consumer judgments (Essiz & Mandrik, 2022). This stream of literature recognises some methodological issues of the current empirical approaches such as ‘the overreliance on quantitative survey formats that encourage rational answers rather than delving into everyday hedonistic shopping responses’ and ‘the desire for respondents to provide socially desirable answers and appear to be good citizens’ (Caruana et al., 2016, p. 216).

The limitations of self-reported measures, the risk of distortions caused by social desirability, and the liability of studies conducted in controlled settings shed light on the need of a shift to research with higher behavioural realism. Given the acknowledged divergence between consumers’ talk and walk in sustainable tourism we cannot entirely rely on research based on respondents' claims if we want to examine how people behave, what affects their preferences and choices, or how behaviours evolve over time (Gneezy, 2017). Although the advantages – and disadvantages - of field investigations are evident (Viglia & Dolnicar, 2020), only a few studies employ fieldwork that directly observes the actual behaviour of consumers in tourism. For instance, if we look at the research on sustainable consumption in tourism published in the last 5 years and available online (as of April 27, 2022), only 2.5% of the papers use the keyword “field study” in the abstract. Therefore, with the purpose of providing more reliable and generalisable findings and improving the ecology of research (Van Heerde et al., 2021), we encourage field-based studies that investigate sustainable consumption decisions, behaviors, and reactions in their natural setting. In particular, we are looking for qualitative, quantitative, and mixed-method contributions such as field experiments (Grazzini et al., 2018), field observation (Minton et al., 2020), (n)ethnography (Canavan, 2018), or secondary data (D’Lima et al., 2018). We welcome also methodological and conceptual papers that advance our understanding of how to conduct field studies in the context of sustainable tourism.

Potential topics include but are not limited to:

  • Longitudinal fieldworks on sustainable behaviour’s evolution and transformation over time
  • Secondary data on tourist visiting, booking, purchasing, and sharing behaviour
  • Secondary data on firm’s sustainability-related decisions and their effect on performance metrics
  • Quasi-experiments or field experiments with behavioral outcomes, such as actual purchase behavior or naturalistic consumer choice
  • Qualitative studies that provide more nuanced insights on co-created and interactive service experiences in sustainable tourism
  • Traditional and visual ethnographies that investigate sustainable or unsustainable consumer behaviour in tourism
  • Nethnographies that explore consumers' patterns of online behaviour and shed light on experiences, desires and expectations
  • Unobtrusive direct field observation of consumers during vacation and events
  • Review articles that discuss advantages and disadvantages of field studies in tourism
  • Methodological articles that offer guidance to researchers on field research design and execution
  • Conceptual or review articles that advance the theoretical understanding of the attitude-behavior gap in sustainable tourism

Submission Instructions

All full paper submissions will be subject to the normal peer review processes of the Journal of Sustainable Tourism.

Expressions of interest are welcome till 31 October 2022 in the form of a structured abstract (250-350 words, excluding references) and should be sent to the managing co-editor, Giampaolo Viglia ([email protected]). Abstracts should also include the title, authorship, author affiliation(s), contact information of all authors and four to six keywords.

Key dates:

Submission open: 1 March, 2023

Deadline for full papers: 30 April, 2023

Expected completion of the Special Issue: July, 2024

Instructions for AuthorsSubmit an Article

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