What Motivates Tourists’ Responsible Behavior? An Investigation Based on the Extensive Socialized Model of UTAUT
Motivating tourists’ responsible behaviors during their trip has emerged as an essential yet insufficient investigated topic in sustainable tourism research. Ration-based and socialization-based motivators have to be integrated to address the lack of a holistic antecedent framework of responsible tourism behavior. Thus, this study extended the unified theory of acceptance and use of technology (UTAUT) into responsible tourism behavior learning and combined the theory of social influence to establish an extensive socialized model of UTAUT to explain tourists’ adoption of responsible behavior behaviors. This model includes three tourism elements—sustainable benefits, sustainable facility accessibility, social interaction engagement as antecedents, and two types of mediators: ration-based mediators of performance expectation and effort expectation and socialization-based mediators of informative influence and normative influence. 491 Chinese tourists were surveyed to confirm this model. It is found that all four mediators explain tourists’ responsible behaviors. Moreover, sustainable benefits positively influence tourists’ performance and effort expectation and social interaction engagement positively influences informative and normative influences, while sustainable facility accessibility positively leads to effort expectation and normative influence.
Sustainability has been widely viewed as holding considerable promise as a vehicle for addressing the problems of negative tourism impacts and maintaining its long-term viability. It is praised by  as a positive approach, due to playing an important role in balancing the interests of all parties in the tourism industry and promoting the healthy and sustainable development of the tourism industry. Sustainable tourism is an overwhelmingly attuned issue both by the academic community and by the practitioners nowadays. Among the big blueprint of sustainable tourism requiring all stakeholders to work for the best portfolio across economic, environmental, and societal benefits [2, 3], tourists whose behaviors shed the most direct impacts on tourism destinations, resources, and the residents are thought to be primary . Recent decades have witnessed a trend of tourists engaging in responsible activities or behaviors. Tourism agents are designing and promoting responsible tourism products for attracting responsible-inclined tourists; the local government and community in tourism destinations also require or advocate tourists to behave responsibly during their traveling.
Literature focusing on tourists’ responsible behaviors is still at the initially explorative stage. Although researchers have conceptualized and measured tourists’ responsible behavior  and identified responsible behaviors’ effects on tourism sustainability , tourists’ responsible behavior is often treated as a taking-for-granted thing with less attention on tourists adopting those responsible behaviors (see, e.g., ). Farrow et al.  specified social norm interventions effectiveness to proenvironmental behaviors. Lee et al.  used a scenario approach based on personal ration and found the importance of ethical issues on tourists’ responsible behavior. Byrd  applied stakeholder theory to sustainable tourism development, discussing the stakeholders and their roles in sustainable tourism development. The above literature analyzed the causes and influencing factors of tourist responsibility behavior from the perspective of social norm and individual morality, which enlightened us to integrate them. However, more empirical evidence on integrated influencing factors of tourists’ responsible behaviors is needed, as well as in-depth analysis of the causes and influencing factors of tourists’ responsible behavior and clarifying its influencing mechanism. The integrated model can not only analyze influencing factors of tourist responsibility behavior, but also clarify its influencing mechanism. Based on these considerations, this current study takes the adoption perspective and aims to empirically examine tourists’ adoption of responsible behaviors. Considering that tourists’ behaviors are socially influenced by their social circle in their residence, as well as companions during their traveling, this current study combined the theoretical perspective of social influence with the UTAUT (the unified theory of acceptance and use of technology) adoption framework, to establish an extensive socialized model of UTAUT to figure out what motives tourists to behave responsibly. The innovation of this paper is as follows:(i)First, the UTAUT model is introduced into the study of tourism sustainability that makes the research more scientific and the research results more credible.(ii)Second, findings also highlight the differences between informative and normative social influences, which is conducive to further in-depth research on the tourists’ responsible behavior.
The remaining of this study is organized as follows: Section 2 provided a literature review on sustainable tourism, sustainable decision-making, and tourists’ responsible behavior. Section 3 established the extensive socialized model of UTAUT and developed relative hypotheses. Then we surveyed Chinese tourists’ responsible behavior adoption and reported the methodology in Section 4 and the results in Section 5. Discussions based on the main findings are offered in Section 6, with a conclusion, limitations, and future research directions specified in Section 7.
2. Literature Review
2.1. Sustainable Tourism
Sustainable development has gained its attention publicly in the late 1980s. Evolving under the social changes like growing environmentalism, dissatisfaction with extant products, attitude transformation of destinations, and tour developers/operators , sustainable development was first explicitly highlighted by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources and defined by the Brundtland Commission Report as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”
Sustainable tourism development depicts the effort made in the tourism sector to meet the present needs and maintain future opportunities of tourists and host regions . It is envisaged as the overall management of resources for the best portfolio of economic, environmental, and social benefits, such as tourism revenue, ecological and biological diversity, and cultural integrity [2, 3].
Previous research on sustainable tourism is often conducted at two different levels. The majority of early research is scoped at the destination level. As it is widely admitted that sustainable tourism requires the efforts and represents the benefits of multiple stakeholders , there existed a richness of studies under the perspectives of the government, tourism company, and local community, separately. The research topics develop into a wide range covering manipulating the mass tourism flow according to the destination’s capacity , designing policies facilitating sustainable development , developing and marketing the sustainable tourism products/services , and discussion on the value cocreation between the local community and the tourists . However, the role of the tourist was ambiguous as early destination-level research treats tourists as a whole (the mass flow) rather than individually autonomy objects [16, 17]. Ever since scholars began to advocate the importance of focusing on managing the demand side , and to point out that it is not taken for granted that tourists accept sustainable tourism arrangements [16, 17], research has shed their attention onto the individual-level, which is highly related to the research body of responsible tourism behavior (being briefly reviewed in Section 2.2).
2.2. Responsible Tourism Behavior
Responsible tourism, although it shares much in common with the term “sustainable tourism,” is by far not only the most favored industry term but also a term best attuning the individual-level experiences, decision-making, and responses towards the distinct market niche seeking to engage in more responsible forms of tourism [19, 20]. According to , the burgeoning stream of responsible tourism literature can be further categorized as the production-consumption nexus; types of actor relations; the roles, attitudes, intentions of different actors; and the policy supports.
Among the branch focusing on actors’ roles, attitudes, and intentions, tourists’ responsible attitudes and behaviors have aroused much academic interest recently. It is commonly noted that responsible tourism has become established as a viable segment with a distinctive set of attitudes and behavioral dispositions (e.g., ). Researchers have identified a bunch of antecedents influencing that responsible tourism attitude and behavior, including dispositional factors [22–25], emotional factors [26, 27], tourists’ goals, beliefs, and motivations [25, 28–31]. Contemporary research has introduced many more different theoretical perspectives, forming gradually two approaches: The ration-based approaches once dominated the research body as quite a few studies applied the theory of rational action and theory of planned behavior to emphasize tourists’ beliefs, expectations, and their efficacy [25, 28–31]. The socialization-based approach has recently emerged, focusing on investigating social influences leading to tourists’ responsible behavior [32–35].
However, a synthesized framework covering the most richness of the antecedents of tourists’ responsible behavior is still developing. For instance, there is still insufficiency in holistically examining (especially combing the ration-based and socialization-based approaches) the factors and mechanisms influencing tourists’ intentionality related to responsible behavior. Moreover, extant research on responsible tourism behavior’s social influences has lacked in distinguishing different sources of those influences. In particular, the social process of tourists is different from that of general product consumers, because tourists are not only influenced by social acquaintances in their daily life, but also by the contemporary influence of travel partners during their travels and stays. Therefore this current study focuses on examining factors influencing tourists’ responsible behavior through a model combining the ration-based and socialization-based approach and illustrates the mechanisms of responsible tourism behavior, including multiple tourism elements, tourists’ in-detail expectations, and social influences imposed on them (specified as the extensive socialized model of UTAUT in Section 3.1).
3. Model Establishment and Hypotheses Development
3.1. The Extensive Socialized Model of UTAUT
Ration-based and socialization-based routes are two main routes encouraging individuals’ behaviors, including responsible tourism behavior . This current study combines the ration-based and socialization-based routes by establishing an extensive socialized model of UTAUT.
UTAUT model has been commonly used in investigating the learning of sustainable usage of technologies and applications . UTAUT was developed based on multiple models, including the theory of reasoned action (TRA), theory of planned behavior (TPB), technology acceptance model (TAM), motivation model (MM), and social cognitive theory (SCT) . UTAUT consists of four reflective factors: performance expectancy, effort expectancy, social influence, and facilitating conditions and demonstrates the mechanisms around individuals’ acceptance of newly emergence objects such as technologies while involved in a learning process . It has been found to be the most used model in adoption research in the last decades and outperforms many other acceptance models.
Social influences are rooted in theories like social communication theory , emphasizing the impact of informal communication on people’s decision-making. Several studies demonstrate the effectiveness of using social influence to promote sustainable behaviors [32–35]. These and other studies clearly show ample empirical evidence supporting the argument that social influence can be a powerful force in favor of promoting sustainable behaviors.
According to , social norms can be divided into two categories: “descriptive norms,” defined as norms that convey information about what other people commonly do, and “injunctive norms,” defined as norms that express information regarding others’ approvals and disapprovals. Therefore social influences can be distinguished as either informative influence or normative influence . Both types of social influence impact sustainable behaviors [39, 41]. Thus, in this current study, social influences are further distinguished as informative and normative influences to better illustrate their specific effects on tourists’ adoption of responsible behaviors.
This current study argues that tourists’ conduction responsible behavior is more accessibility-relied than general consuming sustainable products. For instance, tourists may intend initially to behave responsibly but later run into the dilemma of falling short of necessary infrastructures or illustrations. Therefore we select three primary tourism elements—sustainable benefits, social interaction engagement, and sustainable facility accessibility to be the antecedents of tourists’ rational expectation (including performance expectation and effort expectation) and social influence (informative influence and the normative influence). Finally, the extensive socialized model of UTAUT for responsible tourism behavior has been constructed as Figure 1.
3.2. Hypotheses Development
First, according to UTAUT , performance expectation and effort expectation are primary antecedents of tourists’ adoption of new behavioral patterns during their trips and involve necessary learning [42–44]; thus performance expectation and effort expectation could influence sustainable tourism behaviors. Specifically, the high level of performance expectation on responsible behaviors leads to a higher intention of conducting responsible behaviors, while the high level of effort expectation contrarily inclines to reluctance on conduction responsible behaviors. Thus we hypothesized the following: H1a: Tourists’ higher performance expectations on responsible behaviors lead to a higher intention to conduct responsible behaviors. H1b: Tourists’ higher effort expectations on responsible behaviors lead to a lower intention to conduct responsible behaviors.
According to the theory related to social influence, both types (informative and normative) of social influence can positively lead to responsible tourism behavior [39, 41]. Thus finally, we hypothesized the following: H1c: The more substantial informative influence leads to a higher intention of tourists conducting responsible behaviors. H1d: The more substantial normative influence leads to a higher intention of tourists conducting responsible behaviors.
Next, according to the literature on responsibility behaviors’ outcomes (especially their external benefits), performing responsibly during the tour can benefit the economy, environment, and society [2, 3]. The multiple-facet benefits leveraged by responsible tourism behavior can vice versa be the indicator of the performance of responsible tourism behavior. Thus we propose that the larger the sustainable benefits, the higher the tourists’ performance expectations on their responsible behaviors. Sustainable facilities also play significant roles in tourists’ responsible behavior . It is natural to propose that if visitors do not have access to facilities required for responsible conduct . For instance, the tourist could not find any rubbish can nearby for throwing their rubbishes or could not find any available restrooms; such low sustainable facility accessibility could force tourists to behave irresponsibly, such as throwing randomly their rubbishes or defecating indiscriminately. Once tourists perceive the low sustainable facility accessibility, they would feel dubious if their responsible performance could lead to actual sustainable outcomes. Therefore, we bring up the following hypotheses: H2a: Larger sustainable benefits lead to higher performance expectations on responsible behaviors during the tour. H2b: Higher sustainable facility accessibilities lead to higher performance expectations on responsible behaviors during the tour.
On the other hand, the level of the external benefits of the responsible behavior is positively correlated with the actioner’s effort level: the more effort the actioner takes, the larger the sustainable benefits. Further, tourists feel that the low sustainable facility accessibility increases their effort when behaving responsibly. Nevertheless, the perception that the tourism destination is less capable of providing sustainable facilities would make tourists less confident that they could achieve the necessary information if they wanted to conduct responsible behaviors . Based on these considerations, we have the following hypotheses: H3a: Higher sustainable benefits lead to higher effort expectations on responsible behaviors during the tour. H3b: Higher sustainable facility accessibility leads to higher effort expectations on responsible behaviors during the tour.
Additionally, the strong facilitation of sustainable facilities could also afford an implicit signal for tourists that the tourism destination emphasizes responsible behavior and irresponsible behavior is not welcomed, which imposes a normative influence on the spot on those tourists . On the contrary, lower sustainable facility accessibility would intrigue tourists to unwind their behavior regulation and feel less motivated to behave responsibly . As for social interaction, naturally, the higher level of social interaction would impose a higher level of both informative and normative influences on tourists [42–44]. Thus we hypothesized the following: H4a: Higher sustainable facility accessibilities lead to more prominent informative social influences on tourists during the tour. H4b: Higher social interaction engagements lead to more prominent informative social influences on tourists during the tour. H5a: Higher sustainable facility accessibilities lead to more prominent normative social influences on tourists during the tour. H5b: Higher social interaction engagements lead to more prominent normative social influences on tourists during the tour.
This study arranged a survey in February 2022. The questionnaire was designed to include four parts: the introduction part asks for participants’ agreement of conducting this survey, offers guarantees that their privacy would be fully protected, and illustrates in detail what responsible tourism behavior is by offering several examples helping participants with fast recollections of their prior tourism experience. The second part asks participants to recollect their previous relative experience, including whether conducting responsible behaviors, their perceptions of the tourism elements such as the facilities, the social interactions, and their beliefs about the performance, effort, and their evaluations of social influences. The third part collects information about the participants’ tourism involvement and personality traits. The fourth part collects their demographic statistics.
The questionnaire is put online with the professional service of Tencent Questionnaire Platform. This survey recruited participants online through the extensive service offered by the Tencent Questionnaire Platform named Questionnaire Answering Group. Candidates with the “loving tours” hashtag were recruited, with compensation of 2.5 yuan (offered to the candidates only valid answers) for occupying their time.
There are 550 responses to the survey. By deleting the invalid answers (which were judged by coders as carelessly answering, for example 90% of the responses were the same, or the answering time duration is below one minute), 491 responses remained. The participants’ demographic information is listed in Table 1; 59.6% of those respondents were female, 65.9% were aged 20–29, 49.6% had a Bachelor’s degree, and 22.8% were enterprise staff.
The questionnaire contains three responsible tourism elements constructs, four responsible behavioral antecedents, and one responsible behavioral construct. In terms of responsible tourism elements, sustainable benefits were assessed by five items developed from the scale measuring multiple outcomes of sustainable tourism development, according to , with items like “Sustainable tourism development strengthens local environmental conservation efforts.” Sustainable facility accessibility was assessed by four items developed by the facilitating condition scales according to [37, 48], with items like “For responsible tourists, a specific person is always available for assistance.” Four items evaluated social interaction engagement developed based on  with items like “I share my ideas and interesting content with the social encounters during that trip.” The four-item scale of perceived effectiveness  was used to evaluate performance expectancy. One example of the items was “It is worthless for the tourist to do anything about sustainability (reverse coded).” The four-item scale developed by [37, 51] was used to evaluate effort expectancy. One example of the items was “It is easy for me to become skillful conducting responsible behaviors by participating in sustainable tourism.” The informative influence was evaluated and developed based on reference with items like “To make sure I conduct responsible behaviors in the tour I often observe what others are doing.” Measurement of informative influence consists of four items from , with one example as “To make sure I conduct responsible behaviors in the tour I often observe what others are doing.” The normative influence was evaluated and developed based on [37, 53] with items like “In my social circle people who influence on my behavior think that I should behave responsibly during my tour.” As for responsible behaviors, this study evaluated it through the scale developed by . All of the scales were 7-point Likert scales (1 = totally disagree, 7 = totally agree).
This current study went through three stages to maintain the reliability and validity of all measurements since most of them were for the first time utilized in mobile social media advertising. The first stage is adapting and modifying the measurement items (English version) by two Ph.D. candidates and two professors in the marketing domain. The second stage contains two rounds of back-translation between the English version and Chinese (as recommended by ). In the third stage, a pilot test, conducted by surveying 55 students majoring in tourism administration, showed that all measurements achieved adequate reliability and validity.
5.1. Results of the Measurement Model
The current study took further steps to verify the measurements’ reliability and validity. First is the verification of the none-existence of nonresponse bias, as the T-test results for each item between the first-collected 50 samples and the last-collected 50 samples revealed no significant differences ( for all items). Second, results of Harman’s single-factor test (that the eight categories of all items with eigenvalues greater than 1.0, and the first factor merely accounted for 34.5% of the total variance) show that the common method bias would not severely impact the measurement validity. Thus next, a measurement model with seven latent variables was developed in Mplus 6.0. The model achieved a good fit with , CFI = 0.923, TLI = 0.911, RMSEA = 0.060, and SRMR = 0.054, all within acceptable cut-off ranges. As Table 2 showed, all factor loadings for each item exceeded the recommended 0.6 cut-offs and were significant at the 0.001 level, supporting the measurements’ reliability and convergent validity at the item level. Moreover, as Table 3 reported, the values of composite reliability and Cronbach’s α for each construct were greater than 0.8, supporting the reliability at the construct level. Table 3 also showed the correlations between constructs with average variances extracted from the individual factors (the former were lower than the latter for every construct), indicating the discriminant validity measures at the construct level.
5.2. Results of the Main Model
Hypotheses were tested with a structural equation model using Mplus 6.0. The model achieved a good fit with , CFI = 0.903, TLI = 0.893, RMSEA = 0.064, and SRMR = 0.060, all showing a good model fit. Figure 2 displays the results of standardized path coefficients and R-square values.
It is found that responsible tourism behavior was positively influenced by performance expectation (β = 0.333, ), informative expectation (β = 0.258, ), and normative expectation (β = 0.213, ) while negatively influenced by effort expectation (β = 0.462, ). Thus H1a–H1d were supported. Additionally, variations of performance expectation, effort expectation, informative influence, and normative influence explained 7.2%, 7.3%, 7.7%, and 9.0% of the variations of responsible tourism behavior, separately, showing plenty of explanatory power of such a model. Sustainable benefits significantly positively influence performance expectation (β = 0.521, ), indicating that the higher tourists perceived their behaviors’ sustainable benefits, the higher their performance expectation was. Besides, sustainable facility accessibility also significantly positively influences performance expectation (β = 0.346, ), such that the higher tourist accessibility to sustainable facilities, the higher their performance expectation. Thus H2a and H2b were supported. In terms of effort expectation, it, as predicted, was significantly and positively influenced by sustainable facility accessibility (β = 0.790, ) while, out of our expectation, insignificantly influenced by sustainable benefits (β = 0.010, ). Such results indicate that tourists’ perception of a high accessibility of sustainable facilities leads to a high level of expectation on the effort they have to make, while their perceptions on their behaviors’ sustainable benefits do not. Therefore H3b was supported while H3a was unsupported. Moreover, informative influence was significantly and positively influenced by social interaction engagement (β = 0.816, ) yet insignificantly influenced by sustainable facility accessibility (β = 0.025, ). Nevertheless, normative influence was significantly and positively influenced by both sustainable facility accessibility (β = 0.423, ) and social interaction engagement (β = 0.470, ). Such results showed that social interaction engagement could lead to both informative and normative influences while sustainable facility accessibility can lead to only normative influence. Accordingly, H4b, H5a, and H5b are all supported, but H4a is not.
6. Discussions and Implications
6.1. Key Findings
This study aims to explain antecedents and mechanisms of tourists’ responsible behavior based on the UTAUT being extended by socialization factors as informative and normative social influences, considering the specialty of responsible behavior’s socialization. 491 Chinese tourists were surveyed to validate this extensive socialized model of UTAUT.
The results have aligned with previous research [42–44] where performance expectation, effort expectation, and informative and normative social influences all cast influences on tourists’ new behavioral patterns as responsible behavior. Findings also show integrated roles of the three primary tourism elements—sustainable benefits, facilitation accessibility, and social interaction engagement. Specifically, sustainable benefits can positively impact both tourists’ performance and effort expectation of their responsible tourism behavior, similar to [2, 3, 47]. Sustainable facilitation accessibility can positively impact tourists’ performance of their responsible tourism behavior  and function as a key normative influential means . This current study also finds that social interaction engagement can positively affect both informative and normative influences in the sustainable tourism context, echoing the bundle of research on social influences [56–60].
Additionally, findings also highlight the differences between informative and normative social influences. Previous research on social influences does not explicitly distinguish informative and normative influences, with only a few exceptions mentioning the two types of influence might have different effects [39, 41]. In the context of this current study, we find that the effects of these two influential types might be similar; however, they might be generated by different tourism elements. For instance, sustainable facility accessibility can impose a significant normative influence on tourists, while there seems no relationship between sustainable facility accessibility and tourists’ awareness of informative influence.
6.2. Theoretical Contributions
Generally, when compared to research focusing on the other stakeholders (i.e., governments, tourism agents, local communities), research on how tourists are involved in sustainability tourism appears less and insufficient. Thus this current study enriches the research body investigating antecedents and mechanisms of tourists conducting responsible tourism behavior. Specifically, this study offers a possibility of combining existing ration-based and socialization-based approaches (establishing the socialized extensive UTAUT model) towards developing a holistic framework of responsible tourism behavior. Besides, this current study associates three primary tourism elements with mediators within the extensive socialized UTAUT model to better discuss the sources of tourists’ performance expectation, effort expectation, and social influences. Further, this present study contributes to a more in-depth understanding of the different types of social influence (i.e., informative influence and normative influence) as we find their diversified antecedents in the responsible tourism context.
6.3. Practical Implications
Generally speaking, this current study contributes to a reasonable basis for promoting tourists’ responsible behavior during their trips. Associations between the three primary tourism elements and the ration/socialization-based mediators should be paid necessary attention by tourism destinations and all the stakeholders such as the local community, government, and tourism corporations: the motivating strategies towards responsible behaviors should be designed and developed according to those associations. Specifically, social media can be used to raise awareness of tourists, to make stronger and more intuitive connections between responsible tourism behavior and the multiple benefits of sustainable tourism, and to activate the social interaction of tourists [49, 61–65]. Of particular note is the accessibility of sustainable facilities. Tourism destinations should invest in sustainable facilities, which can help tourists form beliefs that responsible behaviors do not require excessive efforts and consequently guide tourists to spontaneously, more efficiently, and with lower cost and energy complete responsible tourism behaviors. It can also help tourism destinations establish sustainable tourism images and restrain tourists from completing responsible behaviors through social influence.
7. Conclusion, Limitations, and Future Research Directions
This study establishes an extensive socialized model of UTAUT, explaining tourists’ motivators for adopting responsible behavior based on the UTAUT being extended by socialization factors as informative and normative social influences, on consideration of the necessity of combining ration-based and socialization-based mechanisms, and the specialty of responsible behavior’s socialization. By a survey of 491 Chinese tourists, this current study finds that both ration-based and socialization-based mediators occupy adequate explanatory power for tourists’ adopting responsible behaviors during their trips, and diversified tourism element sets influence ration-based and socialization-based mediators. Theoretical and practical implications for motivating responsible tourism behavior are provided accordingly.
7.2. Limitations and Future Research Directions
This study still has some limitations. First, this current study does not consider situational factors especially eliciting tourists’ emotional feelings. Second, this current study does not distinguish different interpersonal sources of social influence.
Some areas can be improved in the future: First, future research could create a more holistic framework of tourists’ responsible behavior by including situational and emotional factors. For instance, some researchers have pointed out that emotional arousal such as awe eliciting could stimulate tourists to behave more responsibly. Second, future research can draw on divert effects of everyday and out-of-everyday social encounters on tourists’ responsible behavior adoption. Third, this present study is limited to using the Chinese tourists as the research sample, which can be further generalized by cross-cultural studies, which make the research have better adaptability. Fourth, the study can consider adding moderator to further explore; it is conducive to better define the theoretical boundary of the research.
|UTAUT:||Unified theory of acceptance and the use of technology|
|TRA:||Theory of reasoned action|
|TPB:||Theory of planned behavior|
|TAM:||Technology acceptance model|
|SCT:||Social cognitive theory|
|AVE:||Average variance extracted.|
The data presented in this study are available on request from the corresponding author. The data are not publicly available due to privacy restrictions.
Conflicts of Interest
The authors have no competing financial, professional, or personal interests from other parties.
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