Sociological barriers to developing sustainable discretionary air travel behaviour

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Publication details

Cohen, SA, Higham, JES & Reis, AC 2013, 'Sociological barriers to developing sustainable discretionary air travel behaviour', Journal of Sustainable Tourism, vol. 21, no. 7, pp. 982-998.

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Encouraging positive public behaviour change has been touted as a pathway for mitigating the climate impacts of air travel. There is, however, growing evidence that two gaps, one between attitudes and behaviour, and the other between practices of “home” and “away”, pose significant barriers to changing discretionary air travel behaviour. This paper uses both modern sociological theory on tourism as liminoid space, and postmodern theory that views identities as contextual, to provide a deeper understanding of why these gaps occur in the context of tourism spaces. Based on 50 in-depth consumer interviews in Australia, Norway and the United Kingdom, our findings confirm that tourism spaces are often subject to lower levels of environmental concern than daily domestic contexts. The majority of participants reduced, suppressed or abandoned their climate concern when in tourism spaces, and rationalised their resulting behavioural contradictions. Only a minority held there was no difference between the environmental sustainability of their practices in domestic situations versus those on holiday. These findings suggest that scope for voluntary positive behaviour change in the air travel context is limited and will not come without stronger intervention, which is a key finding for policy makers seeking reductions in air travel's climate impacts.

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