SF State News {University Communications}

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Study finds SF tourists growing green

March 22, 2010 -- Tourists in San Francisco prefer to do business with service providers and companies who have adopted green practices, according to a study conducted by recreation, parks and tourism faculty.

A photo of tourists riding a San Francisco cable car.

According to a study conducted by faculty, tourists in San Francisco are seeking ways to go green while traveling.

In a survey of visitors to the California Visitor Center at Pier 39 in San Francisco, more than 83 percent of the respondents agreed that it was "imperative" that the travel industry adopt green practices and more than half wanted travel companies to adhere to sustainable practices.

"Businesses and tourists are beginning to recognize that resources need to be protected," said Professor of Hospitality Management and Chair of the Recreation, Parks and Tourism Department Patrick Tierney. "Coastlines like ours are at the top of the list of most threatened environments on Earth and people seem motivated to do the right thing." He added that both travel businesses and consumers are starting to believe that such sustainable practices as energy and water conservation could save them money.

Almost two-thirds of the respondents said they have changed their consumer practices. About one in four respondents said they selected a travel service primarily because it used green practices.  
"We were very surprised to find that nearly half of our respondents said that they would be willing to pay 10 percent more for green services or products," said Assistant Professor Pavlina Latkova, co-author of the study.

Latkova said a lack of knowledge about what constitutes green or eco-friendly travel and business seemed to fuel some skepticism among the respondents. One in three said they felt that claims of businesses being eco-friendly were of little substance and largely "greenwashing," or public relations campaigns. Nearly a quarter of the respondents "agreed" or "strongly agreed" that global warming is not nearly as great as the media and politicians contend.

"In some ways the industry is ahead of the consumer in adopting green practices," Latkova said. "But, the bottom line is that travelers need to be better informed and they need to be assured that any additional funds and efforts on their part are being well spent to achieve the goals of true, eco-friendly sustainable tourism."

"Our research shows that state agencies and private businesses in California could play an important role in facilitating a global movement toward green practices in travel," Tierney said. He believes that both the government and the private sector must make a substantial commitment to becoming credible sources of information about viable green travel options.

The survey tapped responses from almost 300 national and international visitors between the ages of 25 and 54. Results of the study, conducted last spring, were presented at the inaugural California Sustainable Tourism Summit last fall. Latkova expects to expand the research to include seasonal surveys at all 14 California Visitor Centers throughout the state.

-- Denize Springer


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