Tourists in a Fragile Ecosystem: Identifying Intention to Practice Guidelines and Behavioral Compliance



Read, John Basil IV

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Antarctica, considered to be one of the last pristine environments on the planet, has seen tourism increase by 32% over the last ten years. The adoption of the General Guideline for Visitors to the Antarctic (GGVA) by the Antarctic Treaty System in 2011 outlined the best-practices to mitigate impacts to the Antarctic environment. With over 43,000 tourists visiting the continent during the 2017-2018 season and visitation numbers expected to continue to rise, it is imperative that visitors are motivated to practice the GGVA to keep the Antarctic pristine. After a thorough literature analysis, this study identified that compliance with the GGVA in Antarctica has seen, to date, little research investigating the intersection of tourists’ intention to practice guidelines and the GGVA. To isolate this intersection, tourists’ attitudes (AT), subjective norms (SN), perceived behavioral controls (PBC), and Level of Knowledge of the GGVA must be understood. The ability of the Theory of Planned Behavior to elicit intention from these variables makes it the ideal framework to examine tourists’ motivations to practice the GGVA. Using mixed methods, this research assessed tourists’ intention to practice the GGVA and the performed behaviors of tourists in the Antarctic through the use of a questionnaire and participant observation. Presented as a case study, the researcher found that SN is the most significant mediator of tourists’ intentions to practice the guidelines followed by AT and PBC. The research additionally found that while non-compliance rates appear low, instances of non-compliance could range as high as 111.64 per hour. While Level of Knowledge of the GGVA was found to have no significant effect on intention to practice the GGVA, the results of this study found that a significant effect does exist between Level of Knowledge and the predicted actual behaviors of tourists’ practicing the GGVA. This research concluded that the TPB is an effective framework for assessing tourist compliance in the Antarctic, and that the questionnaire could have the potential to be a good predictor of how attitudes correspond to the most frequently occurring non-compliant behaviors. If expanded, future research using the TPB may help inform the decisions of stakeholders on the development of best-practices that reduce human impacts in the Antarctic.



Antarctica, Theory of Planned Behavior, Polar, Tourism, General Guidelines for Visitors to the Antarctic, Compliance