Connecting through cultural values - Glocal strategies for eco-tourism
While culture research is extensive, there are still areas that have not yet been thoroughly explored. One such area is the connection between culture and environmental sustainability as drivers for purchase intention. Both cultural values and environmental sustainability values have been identified as antecedents of attitude formation and purchase behaviour towards eco-friendly products, however few studies have investigated the relationship between the two. Moreover there is currently no research that has investigated this phenomenon within the context of the New Zealand eco-tourism industry. A clear understanding of how to market eco-tourism on a cultural level will have positive impacts for both international and domestic tourism providers.
The cultural conceptual framework of interdependent versus independent self-construal guides the development of this research. The research addresses the following research questions: RQ1: Which of the two self-construals, interdependent or independent, is associated with stronger environmental sustainability attitudes? And RQ2: Do cultural self-construal and sustainability attitudes prompt more positive attitudes towards eco-tourism, and in turn, increase purchase likelihood for eco-tourism products?
To answer these questions, a bi-cultural study within New Zealand was constructed. Based on the culture and environmental sustainability literatures, the following hypotheses were presented: • H1 – Individuals with an interdependent self-construal (vs. independent self-construal) are more likely (less likely) to purchase eco-tourism products; • H2 – Individuals with an interdependent self-construal (vs. independent self-construal) respond more positively (less positively) to eco-tourism advertising material that includes environmental messages; • H3 – The positive effect of interdependent self-construal on purchase intention for eco-tourism products is mediated by sustainability attitudes; • H3a – Individuals with strong interdependent self-construal who have weak environmental sustainability attitudes are less likely to purchase eco-tourism products. An online experiment was conducted with a sample consisting of 100 Māori, who represented interdependent self-construal, and 100 New Zealand European who represented independent self-construal. Experimental subjects were exposed to cultural priming, then asked to evaluate a series of non-eco and eco-tourism advertisements. Following this, scales were used to measure cultural orientation and environmental sustainability attitudes. Data was then analysed using ANOVA and regression analysis.
The results show support for both H1 and H2 however H3 and H3a are rejected. The findings establish that a causal relationship does in fact exist within New Zealand between interdependent self-construal and eco-tourism attitudes. Furthermore, a trend was shown in which subjects with both interdependent self-construal and those with independent self-construal are likely to purchase eco-tourism products. The relationship observed between cultural orientation and environmental sustainability provides insight for firms that are considering positioning themselves as eco-conscious within competitive markets. Target groups who present with an interdependent self-construal are more likely to show positive attitudes towards a brand that communicates this message. Therefore firms that integrate an environmental sustainability stance might perform comparatively better in markets that consist of groups with this cultural orientation. Furthermore, as consumers with both independent and interdependent self-construals are likely to purchase eco-tourism products, it is suggested that the New Zealand eco-tourism market is a profitable market in which to trade.
This research adds to both the culture and environmental sustainability literatures by providing further understanding of the connection between cultural orientation and environmental values.