New governance models for behaviour change in tourism mobilities: a research agenda

S. Gössling, PM Peeters, J.E.S. Higham, S.A. Cohen

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterScientificpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


There is a groundswell of opinion in tourism, transport and cognate academic fields, that the travel and tourism industry is profoundly environmentally flawed (Gössling et al., 2010; Wheeller, 2012). Deeply embedded in neoliberal consumer society and entrenched in the structures of late-capitalism (Harvey, 2011), efforts to address the environmental failures of global tourism have, for the time being, rested largely with the consumer. This edited book has interrogated the behavioural and psychological dimensions of (tourist) mobility consumption, highlighted the complexity of consumer decision-making and drawn into question the efficacy of a consumer-led industry response to the climate crisis. The chapters in the first part of the book explored psychological understandings of climate change and tourism mobilities. These chapters unpack some of the key barriers to behaviour change in sustainable mobility, focusing on the attitude-behaviour gap as a significant hurdle to actualising behavioural change, the importance of identity and emotions to consumer decision-making in tourism and transport contexts, and how the hedonic and affective representations surrounding tourism spaces make them particular tricky settings for enacting sustained positive behaviour change. The chapters show that the barriers to unlocking behavioural change amongst consumers are considerable, and that the travelling public is unlikely to change “spontaneously” on the basis of environmental awareness alone. The socio-psychological insights in this part instead point towards increased governance as paramount in developing more sustainable mobility practices, if these changes are to be significant and in line with global climate policy. Part II of the book turned to behavioural aspects of climate change and tourism mobilities, and dealt with issues such as how carbon offsetting can ironically induce more travel rather than deter it, and the multiple ways in which time and distance are implicated in mobility decisions, including how changing information technologies can redefine these concepts. Longer-term planning horizons, and the impacts of individual lifestyles on demand modelling are explored, as well as how public transport can be promoted to visitors in urban destinations. The chapters in this part span a range of behavioural issues as they relate to (un)sustainable mobility, from localised ground transport and real-time travel information, to mega-events and the perceived cultural value of longdistance travel. The final part of the book focused on governance and policies based upon psychological, behavioural and social mechanisms. It commences with a comprehensive review of the cognitive, experiential and normative approaches to climate change communication before proposing an integrative conceptual framework for enhanced communication interventions. This aims to narrow the gap between awareness and attitudes on one hand, and behaviour on the other, that is evidenced in many of the other chapters. The part concludes with a challenge to move beyond socio/psychological approaches that attempt to foster sustainable mobility behaviour, such as nudging and social marketing, and question more seriously the systems of provision that perpetuate these practices. Significant structural change will require more radical approaches to governance, but the wheels of change turn slowly and in the case of anthropogenic climate change time is in limited supply. Overall, the chapters support earlier insights that increasing climate awareness and environmental concern has little bearing upon tourism consumption (Cohen et al., 2011; Eijgelaar et al., 2010; Hares et al., 2010; Higham and Cohen, 2011; McKercher et al., 2010), but they provide new perspectives as to why this might be the case. Travel decisions, the book shows, are deeply embedded socially and culturally, and intimately related to emotions, identity, time, happiness, performances of self or the attainment (or avoidance) of “possible selves”, all of which represent subconscious and little investigated psychological factors that bear upon travel decisions. The wide disparities that are apparent in domestic (“home”) and tourism (“away”) decision-making and behavioural contexts (Barr et al., 2010) cement the conclusion that the autonomy of individual pro-environmental response, when set within the systems of provision in latecapitalist consumer society, is fraught with challenge.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationUnderstanding and governing sustainable tourism mobility: psychological and behavioural approaches
EditorsS. Gössling, J.E.S. Higham, P. Peeters, S.A. Cohen
Place of PublicationAbingdon
Number of pages6
ISBN (Print)9780415839372, 9780203771501
Publication statusPublished - 2014

Publication series

NameContemporary geographies of leisure, tourism and mobility


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