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Participation and retention in a green tourism certification scheme

Dunk, RM and Gillespie, SA and MacLeod, D (2016) Participation and retention in a green tourism certification scheme. Journal of Sustainable Tourism. ISSN 1747-7646

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Abstract

Tourism certification schemes offer a transitional procedure to a more transparent and sustainable tourism product. Engaging current and previous Green Tourism Business Scheme (GTBS) members in Scotland, this research addresses issues of retention affecting progression of sustainable tourism supply. Quantitative analysis tracking GTBS members over three time points reveals 2% growth but conceals significant flux in membership. Retention was calculated at 66%, where business type analysis discloses distinct issues among accommodation providers with 42% departing the scheme. Decline is greatest among B&B and guesthouses (61%), where poor and falling recruitment coincides with very poor retention (33%). Our analysis demonstrates that slow growth in membership is primarily a result of enterprises choosing to leave the scheme, rather than poor recruitment. Questionnaires from past and present GTBS members (n = 109) confirm the importance of personal proenvironmental philosophies and perceived business benefits in attracting members, yet anticipated benefits do not always materialise. The main reasons for leaving the GTBS relate to membership cost and unrealised benefits. Lack of scheme awareness, management, criteria, bureaucracy and time commitment were further departure factors. The paper offers some suggestions to address issues and enhance retention leading to sustainable growth among tourism certification schemes.

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