Even before I started my career in academia, I have worked to try to make the tourism industry more sustainable. It is for these reasons that my aim has always been to do practical, applied research that is relevant to the stakeholders in industry and communities rather than just solely for the gain of academic publication. I aim to provide information that will help make change, whether it be for policy makers, communities, or businesses.
Not all my work has been marvellous and not all of my work has resulted in the changes I hoped for. Not all of my work that I spent the most time on has been the most widely cited either. What I am most proud of, is the work that has resulted in change, and it will be these insights that I share with you.
I first started examining how policy is much more difficult to implement than we may think. There are relatively few studies of actual policy implementation or solutions as most work is prescriptive. I am proud that my PhD work in both Spain and Malta (Dodds, 2007 a & b) was used to inform future tourism development policies in those destinations. Although my work in Spain; Dodds (2007b) has also been widely cited, I am most proud that it was rewritten for the UNWTO to help inform policy makers and is still being used today as an example of the need for a multi-stakeholder approach. I have since done a number of studies for a variety of stakeholders in Canada (Dodds, 2012; Dodds & Ko, 2012; Dodds, 2020) and Norway (Aall, Dodds, Sælensminde & Brendehaug, 2015) and a book written with my colleague (Graci & Dodds, 2010) that is still being used to inform sustainability in island policy.
I then realised that businesses sometimes need real evidence, not just policy, in order to shift behaviour or make change. Font & McCabe (2017), Font, Elgammal & Lamond (2017), Juvan & Dolnicar (2014) and others have done much work in these areas which has helped not only shift behaviour but change beliefs. In Thailand research with tourists about their willingness to pay a conservation tax (Dodds, 2013; Dodds, Graci & Holmes, 2010), helped business on Koh Phi Phi island in Thailand implement the tax which helped fund many initiatives. I love working with industry groups as well as businesses to assess how they could, or couldn’t become more sustainable and there have been some rewarding positive changes from this work. Both Canada and New Zealand made some industry shifts in sustainability practices within their wine industries (Berghoef & Dodds, 2011; Dodds, Graci, Ko & Walker, 2013) and the hotel sector saw how they could reap competitive advantage through sustainability practices that often were low hanging fruit that just needed to be highlighted in order to be taken advantage of (Walsh & Dodds, 2017). On a larger scale, business globally has to recognize the opportunity to look more responsible by realising their decisions on business travel can impact sustainability behaviour on a personal level (Walsh, Dodds, Priskin, Day & Belozerova, 2021).
I also realised that sometimes people need to be shown the way towards more sustainable behaviour. People behave in the ways that they are comfortable and businesses often do things the same way they have in the past so offering a solution which benefits everyone often needs to be proven. One of my favourite studies (and also the hardest to actually do) was an experimental study done which offered three different types of festival t-shirts to festival goers determine what would influence more sustainable choices. Results showed that when given the choice, consumers chose Canadian made t-shirts over the cheap and cheerful version but that the festival made more profit when they offered organic, Fair Trade t-shirts. What may not only be better for the planet can also be better for the festival financially (Dodds, Jenkins, Smith, & Pitts, 2019).
I often come full circle in my research because I realise humans do not often want to tackle the insurmountable problems. For example, overtourism is a concern which is quickly turning into an unstoppable wave. Overtourism became a buzzword around 2016 but the issues of crowding, inequity, resident resentment, and unsustainable development were around long before that. In recent years, however, there have been many enablers of overtourism which have aggregated the negative issues of tourism including the increase of low-cost airlines, social media (or instagrammable tourism), increased middle class and lack of equal power by stakeholders (Dodds & Butler, 2019a). The phenomena of overtourism (Dodds & Butler, 2019b) have highlighted, and not to everyone’s appreciation, that unless political will shifts and we move beyond solely profit and growth, the problems will only increase.
There is always more to do although I have not contributed much to theoretical debate or statistical modelling, I do truly believe that we make the most impact when we make a somehow make the world a better place and hope you will too.
Written by Rachel Dodds, Ryerson University, Canada
Read Rachel’s letter to future generations of tourism researchers
Aall, C., Dodds, R., Sælensminde, I., & Brendehaug, B. (2015). Introducing the concept of environmental policy integration into the discourse on sustainable tourism: A way to improve policymaking? Journal of Sustainable Tourism, 23(7), 977-989.
Berghoef, N., & Dodds, R. (2011). Potential for sustainability eco-labeling in Ontario’s wine industry. International Journal of Wine Business Research, 23(4), 298-317.
Dodds, R. (2007a). Malta’s tourism policy – Standing still or advancing towards sustainability? Island Studies Journal, 2(1), 44-66.
Dodds, R. (2007b). Sustainable tourism & policy implementation: lessons from the case of Calviá, Spain. Current Issues in Tourism, 10(1), 296-322.
Dodds, R. (2012). Sustainable tourism: A hope or a necessity? The case of Tofino, British Columbia, Canada. Journal of Sustainable Development, 5(5), 54-64.
Dodds, R., & Ko, S. (2012). Assessing stakeholders’ views of tourism policy in Prince Edward County. Environmental Management and Sustainable Development, 1(1), 52-70.
Dodds, R. (2013). Will tourists pay for a healthy environment? Assessing visitors’ perceptions and willingness to pay for conservation and preservation in the island of Koh Phi Phi, Thailand. International Journal of Tourism Anthropology (IJTA), 3(1), 28-42.
Dodds, R. (2020). Using a Participatory Integrated Watershed Management Approach for Tourism. Tourism Planning & Development, 17(1), 1-16.
Dodds, R., Graci, S., & Holmes, M. (2010). Does the tourist care? A comparison of visitors to Koh Phi Phi, Thailand and Gili Trawangan, Indonesia. Journal of Sustainable Tourism, 19(2), 207-222.
Dodds, R., Graci, S., Ko, S., & Walker, L. (2013). What drives environmental sustainability in the New Zealand wine industry? An examination of driving factors and practices. International Journal of Wine Business Research, 25(3), 164-184.
Dodds, R., Jenkins, B., Smith, W., & Pitts, R. E. (2019). They do pay! Event merchandise attributes that affect sales and profits at a folk festival. International Journal of Hospitality and Event Management. Vol 2(2): 95-108.
Dodds, R., & Butler, R. W. (Eds.). (2019a). Overtourism: Issues, realities, and solutions. (Vol. 1). Walter de Gruyter GmbH & Co KG.
Dodds, R., & Butler, R. W. (Eds.). (2019b). The phenomena of overtourism: a review. Butler Richard (éd.). International Journal of Tourism Cities, 5(4), 519-528.
Graci, S.R., & Dodds, R. (2010). Sustainable Tourism in Islands. Earthscan Press.
Juvan, E., & Dolnicar, S. (2014). The attitude–behaviour gap in sustainable tourism. Annals of Tourism Research, 48, 76-95.
Font, X., & McCabe, S. (2017). Sustainability and marketing in tourism: Its contexts, paradoxes, approaches, challenges and potential. Journal of Sustainable Tourism, 25(7), 869-883.
Font, X., Elgammal, I., & Lamond, I. (2017). Greenhushing: The deliberate under communicating of sustainability practices by tourism businesses. Journal of Sustainable Tourism, 25(7), 1007-1023.
Walsh, P., & Dodds, R. (2017). Measuring the choice of environmental sustainability strategies in creating a competitive advantage. Business Strategy and the Environment, 26(5), 672-687.
Walsh, P. R., Dodds, R., Priskin, J., Day, J., & Belozerova, O. (2021). The Corporate Responsibility Paradox: A Multi-National Investigation of Business Traveller Attitudes and Their Sustainable Travel Behaviour. Sustainability, 13(8), 4343.