Font, Xavier; Hindley, Ann (Taylor & Francis, 2016-05-16)
This article proposes that reactance theory can be used to better understand how tourists’ perceptions of climate change affect their travel decisions. Reactance theory explains how individuals value their perceived freedom to make choices, and why they react negatively to any threats to their freedom. We study the psychological consequences of threatening tourist’s freedoms, using a range of projective techniques: directly, using photo expression, and indirectly, through collage, photo-interviewing and scenarios. We find that reactance theory helps to explain the extent of travel to two destinations: Svalbard and Venice, providing a nuanced understanding of how travellers restore their freedom to travel through three incremental stages: denying the climate change threat , reducing tensions arising from travel and heightening demand particularly for the most visibly threatened destinations. The theory suggests a fourth stage, helplessness, reached when consumers dismiss the value of destinations once they can no longer be enjoyed, but for which we, as yet, have no data. Reactance theory questions the validity of awareness raising campaigns as behavioural change vehicles, provides alternative explanations of why the most self-proclaimed, environmentally aware individuals travel frequently, and helps identify nuanced, socially acceptable forms of sustainability marketing, capable of reducing resistance to change.
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