ECO-TRAVELLERS: An Investigation into Fundamental Values, Demographic Aspects and Ecological Holiday Norms in Predicting Ecological Holiday Behaviour within the Dutch Population

L. Bausch, I. de Boer, F. Bonekamp, K. Coia, M. Rurai, and C. Snoyl
Wageningen University, March 2011

Ecological tourism is a trend and has been a subject of international focus. Various research has been conducted to identify influential factors that drive tourists to behave ecologically sound. Fundamental values, as being materialist or post materialist, ecological holiday norms and demographics are suggested to relate to an individual’s ecological holiday behaviour. This paper examines these relationships among the Dutch population. Our research shows that younger Dutch people, who more often have post materialist values, have more ecological holiday norms than older Dutch citizens who tend to be materialist; gender has no relation to their holiday norms. Dutch individuals with more ecologically focused holiday norms often also have more ecologically focused holiday behaviour.

Key words: Tourism, Ecological Holiday Behaviour, Ecological Holiday Norms, Post Materialism




Environmental awareness came into focus among tourists in the late twentieth century, when awareness of a common need for environmental protection increased rapidly. (Andereck, 2009: p. 489). Whether this has also led to an increase in sustainable holiday behaviour is widely questioned. Various factors of influence on sustainable holiday norms and behaviour have been identified, however conducted research often does not give clear evidence of their precise influence. Fundamental values, as being materialist or post materialist, as well as ecological holiday norms and demographics are suggested to relate to an individual’s eventual ecological holiday behaviour.

This paper firstly provides a review of existing literature regarding ecological holiday norms, ecological holiday behaviour, fundamental values, and demographics relating to sustainable holiday norms. These four topics are variables tested and discussed in this research project. The literature review concludes with the presentation of four hypotheses to be tested, which help answer the main research question of this paper; to what extent do fundamental values and demographic aspects predict sustainable holiday norms and behaviour

Results from this empirical research are presented in chapter four. Results are discussed in the following chapter, as well as possible limitations to, and errors in our data collection and methodology. We conclude with a discussion on areas for future research.




Norms can refer to what most people are doing (a descriptive norm) or what people ‘should’ or ‘ought to’ do (an injunctive norm) in a given situation (Vaske, 2008: p. 27) (Vaske cites Cialdini, Kallgren, & Reno, 1991). It is important to note that norms are different from attitudes, because of “the added dimension of obligation” (Vaske, 2008: p. 29). Norms consist of two components: normative beliefs and motivations to comply (Ajzen, 1991). The first concerns an individual’s belief about how important others would like him / her to behave, while the latter is about the willingness to comply to these norms. Norms often do not correspond with behaviour; various external as well as internal factors influence the eventual behaviour of a person, in which norms often become neglected.

Ecological holiday norms as well might not correspond with ecological holiday behaviour. A possible reason is, as Dolnicar (2010) indicates, that in daily life, people create an infrastructure fitting with the requirements of their values and norms to behave in a desired sustainable way. On holiday however, they need to adjust to the provided infrastructure, which might be a barrier to their intended pro-environmental behaviour.



Mehmetoglu (as cited in Andereck, 2009) developed a typology of ‘nature tourists’ based on their activities. The typology clusters nature-based tourists as culture and pleasure oriented, nature activity oriented, and low-activity oriented tourists. Cluster differences are found in holiday motives, demographic characteristics and holiday characteristics (Andereck, 2009: p.490). Value-based typologies are developed by measures of the NEP-scales, the New Environmental Paradigm. Many authors intend to classify tourists as either ‘environmentally caring’ or not (Crouch et al, 2005), but research shows differently. Distinctions are made by various researchers between core nature tourists and casual nature tourists. It is therefore suggested that it is the mind-set, not behaviour, that makes an individual an Eco tourist, which means that tourist’s sustainable behaviour is often coincidental and not directly comes forth of sustainable values and motives (Acott, LaTrobe and Howard 1998 in Andereck, 2009: p 490). We however do not agree with this statement since ultimately, sustainability comes down to behaviour and taken actions, not norms.

Crouch et al., (2005) have challenged the assumption that sustainable travel behaviour is necessarily related to environmentally protective attitudes. However at the same time, a relation between those aspects is often confirmed by research. Research conducted in 1999’s by Schultz and Zelezny showed a positive relationship between sustainable values and environment-responsible actions (Andereck, 2009: p 491). In the research of Dodds et al (2010) at Koh Phi Phi, 69% of 200 tourists appointed themselves as most responsible for ecological preservations, and indicated to feel the burden of responsibility for environmental degradation of their holiday destination. Sustainable behaviour is defined by Han et al (2009 in Kim, 2010) as “actions that diminish harmful impacts on the environment”. According to Kaiser et al (1999), such responsibility feelings are an important predictor for sustainable behaviour. Motives, norms and values are not sufficient predictors for behaviour since all these factors have an individual focus. Moral feelings such as responsibility feelings increasingly play a role in sustainable behaviour. Sustainable behaviour as well as sustainable norms often also come forth of cultural force; “people do things that better the situation of other [or the environment] at their own expense”. (Kaiser et al, 1999: p.60). Moral obligation thus plays an important role; according to Berenguer et al (2005), it has the strongest association with sustainable behaviour. Dolnicar’s study (2010: p. 729) agrees with Berenguer (2005) that environmental friendly individuals are usually also environmental friendly tourists. Behavioural changes between the home and holiday environment are generally unfavourable regarding sustainability. People have higher moral obligations to sustainable behaviour at home (92% indicated having these feelings) due to pressure of their social environment, than at the holiday destination (only 64%). According to Dolnicar (2010) however on the other hand, “pro-environment behaviour on vacation is a subset of pro-environmental behaviour in general.”


Fundamental values are generally concerned to be of importance in studies for sustainable tourist behaviour. Fundamental values can result in corresponding interests and behaviour. Inglehart (1971, in Hansen, 2003), distinguishes between materialistic and post materialistic fundamental values. Inglehart stated that older people tend to accord to economic security and thus have materialistic views, whereas younger people tend towards self-expression and quality of life; or post materialistic values.

The pre-World War II generation grew up with social welfare programs and satisfying material needs as a priority. The later generation has been more concerned with social equality, nature protection and quality of life, which shapes them to have post-materialistic views (Blamey and Braithwaite, 1997). This is supported by the Generational Theory (Inglehart and Welzel, 2005: 94) which states that each new birth cohort that enters the survey of Inglehart was more post materialistic than the previous one and remains so producing a shift toward post materialist values as younger cohorts replace older ones.

Inglehart (2005) examined the trends in eight West European countries; using regression analysis, he demonstrated that seven of the eight countries show large and statistically significant long-term shifts from materialistic to post-materialistic values during the period 1970-1994. The ‘Intergenerational Value Change thesis’ predicts a shift from materialistic toward post materialist values among the population of those countries (Inglehart and Welzel; 2005;94). According to Hines’ model of Responsible Environmental Behaviour, increased environmental knowledge leads to favourable attitudes and norms and in the long term to more favourable fundamental values, which leads to increased sustainable behaviour (Hines et al, 1987). Post materialistic youth, according to Inglehart, have more environmental knowledge. Inglehart later, in 1977, acknowledged the existence of “mixed types” (mixed post-materialist or mixed materialist) and stated that people swing to either sides. 

However the distinction is sensitive to short term influences. (Hansen, 2003).

As indicated by Blamey and Braithewait (1997, after Ingelart), younger people are relatively more post materialistic. The table also shows that the largest value segment is the ‘mixed materialist’. According to Blamey and Braithewait (1997) “the fact that the majority of potential Eco tourists do not have either pure or mixed post materialistic values suggests that overall, Eco tourists may not be as environmentally aware and socially conscious as often thought.” This study uses Inglehart’s and Jackson’s theory of the influence of fundamental values on sustainable holiday norms and behaviour. We would however criticize the assumption made that materialistic oriented people are by definition not environmentally aware or socially conscious; rather, we would argue that they are but simply in a different way than people with post materialist fundamental values.

We expect our data will yield the same results and reveal a majority of people with mixed materialist and post materialistic values, and a higher degree of sustainable holiday behaviour among the post materialistic group.



According to research by Van Liere and Dunlap (1980 in Andereck, 2009) as well as Samdahl and Robertson (1990 in Andereck, 2009) and Leisch (2007) and Dolnicar (2008), demographics are not consistent predictors for environmental attitudes. It is also indicated that among the demographic features, gender and education relate the most to environmental attitudes and awareness. (Jurowski 1993 in Andereck, 2009: p. 491). Jurowski (1993) also made a distinction between consumptive and conservationist tourist types and the latter were found to be younger and had a larger acceptability for limits on touristic developments for environmental preservation purposes (Andereck, 2009: p 492). Age is included in most research, but conclusions are quite contradictory. (Dolnicar, 2010). According to Dolnicar, half of the conducted studies find Eco tourists to be middle-aged, and only one fifth finds that they are younger. (Dolnicar, 2010: p.719). According to research of Courch et al (2005) among 1053 Australian respondents, the ‘ECT’ or Environmentally Caring Tourist, is 46-55 years old. Dodd’s research among 200 tourists in Thailand shows a relation between sustainable norms and age. The older the tourists are, the more they expressed their desire for holiday destinations and other environmental practices. (Dodds et al, 2010). This relationship is often explained by the fact that older generations have been more exposed to environmental issues than younger(Andereck, 2009: p 497). A possible explanation for the higher valuation of sustainability by older tourists lies in their general more materialistic fundamental values. As Dodds et al (2010) propose, the older generation may value environmental practices such as cleanliness for the own experience more than for the destination’s wellbeing or the actual sake of sustainability. The majority of research however proves that instead of the older, it is the younger people who tend to value environmentally responsible practices to a greater extend. Andereck’s research for instance among 852 tourists in Northeast Arizona shows a negative correlation between sustainable behaviour and age, which indicates that young people value environmental friendly behaviour more than older people. (Andereck, 2009: p.497).

Literature on gender indicates that no consistent conclusions can be drawn about gender and ecological holiday norms. However according to Dolnicar, two third of the research characterizes ‘the Eco tourist’ as female. Women are more often seen as more pro-environmental than men (Andereck, 2009 p. 497; Dolnicar, 2010: p.719).



By using the above theoretical foundation, the following hypotheses were tested:

  • Hypothesis 1: Ecological holiday norms positively correlate to ecological holiday behaviour.
  • Hypothesis 2: People with post materialistic values are more likely to have more ecological holiday norms than people with materialistic values
  • Hypothesis 3: Young Dutch people have more ecological holiday norms than older Dutch people. Hypothesis 4: Women relate more to ecological holiday norms than men in the Dutch population.

We will address these hypotheses in order to answer our research question: To what extent do fundamental values and demographic aspects predict sustainable holiday norms and behaviour?






This quantitative research project investigates the relationship between four variables: fundamental values, demographics, ecological norms, and sustainable tourism behaviour. In order to gather substantial data, approximately 350 questionnaires were distributed among the Dutch population. Questionnaires could only be filled in by Dutch citizens with English reading and writing abilities, as the survey was written in English. This method of sampling, convenience sampling, was used in order to gather information efficiently, while still adhering to time and money constraints. A random sample was not necessary because the research question only concerns the relationship between the variable set, not differences within the population.

Nevertheless, there was a considerable variability in demographic frequencies among respondents. The table shows us the amount of female and male respondents is nearly equal (52% - 48%), as well is the education level by gender (45% - 55%). There is a wide range of respondents’ ages (15 to 68 years old). However, the population is not spread equally within this range; half of all respondents (50%) are younger than 27.





Questionnaire respondents were asked to write their exact age in the survey; this initially gave us a continuous variable to use for statistical testing. In order to test the Inglehart´s generation theory (2005) we divide the variable age into three categories; they are: 1. Age<30, 2. Age 30-40, 3. Age>40. Thus allowing age to be used as independent categorical variable.


The variable gender is an independent dichotomous variable. While we acknowledge and respect a continuum of gender identities, this survey employed a dichotomous, biologically rooted (similar to a “sex” demographic variable) definition of gender. Respondents self-identified as either men (0) or women. We have an almost equal spread of men and women in our sample.


The questions from the survey regarding fundamental values are based on Inglehart’s theory of post-materialistic and materialistic values. Respondents were asked to express their agreement or disagreement with various statements of preferences. We computed two new variables, ‘’post-materialistic’’ and ‘’materialistic’’ from the responses given in the questionnaire. All responses of 1 and 2 are recoded into 1, and responses of 3 and 4 are recoded into 0. By making a sum of all the responses, we got a total for each respondent on a scale between post-materialistic and materialistic, which we could use to run a frequency analysis to check the dispersion. After that we ran a regression analysis to check whether there is a statistically significant relationship between fundamental and ecological holiday norms.




The questionnaire asks respondents to state their agreement or disagreement with fourteen injunctive ecological holiday norms. To simplify the data for our research we did an explanatory factor analysis to check whether and how we could compute new variables. We used an explanatory factor analysis because we did not have a theory about a relation between the fourteen variables. Based on this analysis two clear components could be distinguished, labelled ‘ecological holiday norms’ and ‘social holiday norms’. However for our research we only need ecological holiday norms. The reliability test showed it was appropriate to compute this new variable. (Cronbach Alpha of 0.86).


To test for ecological holiday behaviour, the questionnaire contains again fourteen variable ecological behaviour norms. For each of the variables respondents had to either choose yes or no. According to our theory, sustainable holiday behaviour is a dependent variable and might be influenced by ecological holiday norms. To simplify the data we made a sum of all the fourteen behaviour-variables and computed these into one new variable labelled ‘Behaviour’. The reliability analysis shows us a Cronbach Alpha of 0.66. Therefore we can conclude that putting the data into one variable is reliable. However by computing this new variable, the variable changed from dichotomous into a continuous variable because we created a scale on which respondents could now score high or low for having ecological holiday behaviour.



To test the relation between the four variables a frequency analysis will be used. For all the variables, running a frequency analysis is necessary to get a general picture about frequency distribution and percentages. Measures of central tendency, measures of distribution and measures of dispersion are also useful to check whether we had to make any changes because the data might be filled in incorrect or because of outliers, and to check which test statistic is appropriate for testing the hypothesis we used (Vaske, pg. 89).



A regression analysis is used to see if there is a significant relationship between the variables “Age” and “Ecological Holiday Norms.” The hypothesis is tested by showing if there is significant difference between the different age categories. To check Inglehart’s Generation Theory (2005) with our empirical data, a one-way analysis of variance test is conducted between the variables “Age” and “Ecological Holiday Norms.”


To test to what extent the variable “Gender,” a dichotomous independent variable, relates with “Ecological Holiday Norms,” a dependent continuous variable, we conduct an independent samples T-test.


Using the recoded value, “Post materialistic Values,” a regression analysis is used to test the extent to which fundamental values influence ecological holiday norms.


According to Vaske (2008), it is appropriate to use a regression analysis or a correlation analysis to check whether there is a relation between ‘Ecological Holiday Norms’ (continuous) and ‘Ecological Holiday Behaviour’ (continuous). However both correlation as regression analysis should yield the same outcome. We chose to use a correlation analysis because there is only one dependent and one independent variable necessary to test.

Note: In all cases a significance level of <.05 is deemed to indicate a statistically significant difference between the different variables.


In order to see if there is an interrelation effect, an N-Way ANOVA (analysis of variance) test is used with the variables: “Age,” “Gender” and “Post materialistic Values.” Before the test could be conducted, two dummy variables were created for “Age” and “Post materialistic” (fundamental values). “Age” was recoded into two categories, below 40 (<40) and above 40 (>40). The “Post materialistic” variable was recoded into two categories by combining values 0, 1 and 2 into one category (less post materialistic), and values 3, 4, 5, and 6 into category 2 (more post materialistic).




The regression analysis (η .172, p < .01.) as well as the One-way ANOVA (F 6,956, p < 0.05) yield the same result. Therefore, we accept hypothesis 1: Ecological holiday norms positively correlate to ecological holiday behaviour and can thus be a predictor of ecological holiday behaviour.


We reject hypothesis 2; there is no significant relation found between ‘Fundamental Values’ and ‘Ecological Holiday Behaviour’ of our sample of the Dutch population. (F 1,924, p > .05). Contradictory to Inglehart’s theory and our expectations thus, our empirical data showed that having post materialist values does not serve as a predictor for ecological holiday norms.


With a Pearson’s Correlation of 0.406 and p < .001, we accept hypothesis 3; there is a significant relationship between age and Ecological Holiday Norms. Young Dutch people indeed have more ecological holiday norms than older Dutch people.


We reject hypothesis 4. Whereas our expectation, based on existing literature, was that women relate more to ecological holiday norms than men, our study shows that there is no significant relation between gender and ecological holiday norms. (T ,117, p > .05).

Our study revealed no interrelation effect between age and fundamental values (F 0,082, p>.05), age and gender (F 1,092, p>.05), and fundamental values and gender (F 2,134, p>.05)



The validity of research outcomes should always be questioned against the ‘social desirability’ of certain answers above others (Hofstede, 1984 in Andereck, 2009). Questionnaires occasionally reveal the intentions of questions to respondents (Kaiser, 1999), who then might aim to answer politically correct instead of honest according to their personal opinion (Andereck, 2009). This may have been the case in our sample, due to the fact that questionnaires were distributed among family, friends, and acquaintances of the researchers. The fact that the sample population has personal connections with the researcher, increases the chance of respondents pre-understanding the question’s ‘aims’ and thus answering in a socially desired way. Furthermore, we must keep in mind that most of the researchers live in or close to the city of Wageningen and so do most of the respondents. The fact that most respondents live in the same province might have influenced the outcome of the research. Our research may have yielded other outcomes if we would have included a more varied sample population (for example, Dutch citizens from each of the provinces).



5.1.1. AGE

This research shows there is a statistically significant relationship between age and ecological holiday norms, which is congruent with the generation theory (Inglehart and Welzel, 2005). Although there is a significant relationship, the predictive potential is small. This result may be influenced by our sample. Respectively 50% of the respondents are aged under 30 years old. 20% are older than 40 years old, with a maximum age of 62. In half of the conducted studies eco-tourist find to be middle-aged, and only one fifth finds that they are younger (Dolnicar, 2010). This research project focused primarily on the younger generation and those following but didn’t include the ones above the age of 60, which discounts the representativeness. For future research we recommend to focus on including a broader age group. As well as to focus on qualitative research on specific demographics, because this might yield a more in-depth view of age related to ecological holiday norms.

5.1.2. GENDER

Previous research suggests that women in general have more ecological holiday norms and behaviour than man (Dolnicar, 2010 and Andereck, 2009). Contradictory to this we did not find a significant relationship between these two variables (Gender and Ecological Holiday Norms). Since our sample represents only the Dutch society this might have influenced the outcome. It might be that differences among Dutch males and females are relatively small and therefore no relation is found. For future research we recommend to focus on possible differences among nationalities (for example: “Are Dutch men more ecologically oriented than other European, American or African or Asian men?”). Donnelly and Vaske (1995) illustrated the limited predictive power of demographic variables and other general concepts, which confirms our outcome. Therefore we recommend future research to also focus on other aspects such as; the influence of trends (e.g., global warming) and the impact of mass-media on ecological holiday norms and behaviour.


Contradictory to Inglehart’s theory of post materialism, our results showed there is no relationship between fundamental values and ecological holiday norms. This result is likely to be influenced by the fact that our sample mostly consists of ‘mixed materialist’. Therefore it is hard to distinguish pure post-materialist and materialist, and test whether there is a statistical significant relation between those two variables. Results for fundamental values many have dramatically changed if we had used a different variable than the dichotomous materialistic - post materialistic categories, based on Inglehart’s work (2005). Future research into fundamental values, and their effect on norms or behaviour, could include a continuum of value categories, thus allowing for more insight into possible relationships between values and norms or behaviour.


According to Acott, LaTrobe and Howard (1998) “It is the mind-set, not behaviour that makes an individual an eco-tourist”. We have previously contested that statement since ultimately, sustainability is about what is done, not about what is thought of. However we found that among the Dutch population, ecological holiday norms have a strong statistical significant influence on ecological holiday behaviour. This finding would give more essence to that statement if ‘the mind-set’ does indeed influence the eventual behaviour. Kaiser (1999) and Berenguer’s (2005) theories are thus confirmed by our sample data analysis. These theories are however not limited to only this relationship; further research could be conducted to check also the other relationships within the Dutch population. Previous research suggests that norms are more ecological than actual behaviour, due to contextual issues; people are outside their normal living environment and thus find it more difficult to behave sustainable, or hold different norms for their own behaviour at a place which is not home (Dolnicar and Grünn, 2008). Also, ecological behaviour as well as ecological norms often come forth of cultural force. “People do things that better the situation of others [or the environment] at their own expense” (Kaiser et al, 1999: p.60). There also is a difference to ecological behaviour at home due to pressure of their social environment, than at holiday destinations (Dolnicar and Grünn, 2008). Dolnicar reasoned that norms are generally more ecological than eventual behaviour because people create an infrastructure fitting with the requirements of their values and norms to behave in a desired sustainable way, which they lack on holiday. At destinations, they need to adjust to the provided infrastructure, which might be a barrier to their intended pro-environmental behaviour. (Dolnicar, 2010: p 717) Since our research however showed a positive relation of Ecological Holiday Norms and Behaviour, we suggest further research among the Dutch population to identify the specific reasons thereof.

In this quantitative research project, questions of “why” were not addressed. Therefore we cannot measure if people who have ecological holiday norms also have the intention for ecological holiday behaviour but that there might be external factors influencing their behaviour, or their ability to behave conform to their norms. The question of ‘why’ can be pursued in many ways for future research. The link between norms and behaviour might also be useful to include qualitative research. By in-depth interviewing more insight can be gained in why people behave as they do. An interesting question would for instance be how Dutch people deal with infrastructure differences to comply their holiday behaviour to their norms at different destinations.


To what extent do demographic aspects and fundamental values predict ecological holiday norms and behaviour? Our research showed that, as previous research suggested, it is hard to predict ecological holiday norms and behaviour based on demographic aspects and fundamental values due to the fact that norms and values have an individual focus (Berenguer et al., 2005). We only found a significant relation between age and ecological holiday norms, although the predictive potential is small. Ecological holiday norms however are strongly related to ecological holiday behaviour. While there is a strong relation between those variables, it still is hard to predict ecological holiday behaviour because people tend to behave different according to the setting they live in or their (social) context. Although we focus on the Dutch citizens, we can regard our research as generalizable, as it yields similar results to other research on this topic. Finally, for future research we would recommend to focus on environmental attitude or normative variables as they are more likely to predict behaviour than more general measures like values or value orientations (Fishbein & Ajzen, 1975; Fiske & Taylor, 1991).


We would like to thank everybody who was involved in the 2011 Advanced Methods class Leisure, Tourism and Environment at Wageningen University for their help with data collection, and especially Maarten Jacobs and Jerry Vaske for their help with analysis.  


The actual questionnaire used in this research. 




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