An Assessment of Convention Tourism’s Potential Contribution to Environmentally Sustainable Growth

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The tourism literature contains substantial discussions on how increasing numbers of attendees and conventions at a destination contributes to the local economy, but there is limited research on the environmental impact of the concomitant increases in air and other travel, and other activity increases in energy and other resource use. This research assesses the current environmental position of the convention industry in the United States and formulates suggestions for future direction in regard to “green” concepts by examining and comparing the perceptions, attitudes, and behavioral intentions of three groups of convention stakeholders: convention attendees, meeting planners, and convention suppliers. This empirical study recognizes the critical problem of inadequate understanding of the environmental impact of convention activities and the lack of knowledge regarding ecological convention practices. It shows that the perception of environmental impact among the three groups varies depending on which environmentally friendly practices are available to each group. It discusses the background to – and the implications of – the emotional formation of decisions and self-motivation based on positive attitudes and the strong intention to adopt green management practices agreed to by convention stakeholders.

Keywords: convention tourism; environmental impact; environmental attitude; behavioral intention; ecolabel; codes of conduct
Introduction
The convention industry creates a substantial flow of traffic, with a convention being defined by Zelinsky (1994, p. 69) as “a temporary assemblage of human beings”, typically for business conferences of various kinds. A large number of business travelers visiting a destination provide an economic boost for the destination because these travelers tend to stay at the destination longer and spend more money during the off season than do leisure travelers (Spiller, 2002). Although conventions are distinct from general travel and tourism due to the functional nature of the meetings, the distinction is blurred as convention delegates are away from their daily workplace (Høyer & Naess, 2001) and free to engage in leisure opportunities. Furthermore, convention delegates are likely to revisit the host city or influence other people to do so through word-of-mouth recommendations (Oppermann, 1996). As a result, the convention industry is viewed as one of the most important segments of the general tourism industry (Spiller, 2002), and the economic and social impact of business travel in the context of tourism is highly visible.Accordingly, much of the academic research on the convention industry has focused on studying destination marketing. The emphasis on growth in the convention tourism in recent years, however, has often come into conflict with contemporary concerns about the environmental impact of the travel trade on the host community and wider environment. Today’s most popular issue, going green, is a highly debated topic and is characterized by attempts to curb many types of environmental degradation. These efforts have put pressure on people to change their daily consumption patterns, from the level of the individual or personal all the way up to the level of government. This shift in “daily consumption patterns” is significant, because new ecological efforts can require the abandoning of some comforts and conveniences, and efforts undertaken by entire communities are required to markedly improve environmental conditions (Dunlap&Scarce, 1991; Fransson&G¨arling, 1999; Stoll-Kleemann, O’Riordan, & Jaeger, 2001; Vermeir & Verbeke, 2006). This is particularly true for the travel industry, as people tend to be more concerned with personal convenience than with environmental protection (Becken, 2004).

Although the increase in the number of attendees and conventions at a destination contributes to the local economy, their environmental impact has not yet been examined using an academic...
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