The sustainability–profitability trade-off in tourism: can it be overcome?



Publication Details

Moeller, T., Dolnicar, S. & Leisch, F. (2011). The sustainability–profitability trade-off in tourism: can it be overcome?. Journal of Sustainable Tourism, 19 (2), 155-169.


This paper answers key questions about personal and industry decision-making in implementing sustainable tourism. Being environmentally friendly is typically associated with sacrifice, including sacrifice of comfort (e.g. walking rather than driving), sacrifice of time (e.g. recycling garbage) or sacrifice of money (e.g. buying more expensive locally grown vegetables). Consequently, the tourism industry perceives sustainable tourism as a sacrificial touristic niche, one that is associated with additional cost but appears to attract customers who do not spend enough money to compensate for the extra effort. This paper explores a perceived trade-off between minimising environmental damage and maximising revenue, by finding market segments that are environmentally friendly and have high expenditures. An online survey was made of 1003 Australian domestic tourists. Results indicate that tourist segments vary significantly in terms of their environmental impacts and vacation expenditure. Six segments were identified. Two market segments, containing 40% of the total market, that leave small environmental footprints while maintaining high expenditure were found, indicating that market segmentation when coupled with marketing/demarketing policies can be used as a strategy complementary to the development of destination-based initiatives to reduce the environmental impact of tourism.

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