TouriSME analyses gaps between tourism SMEs’ current practices and potential environmental improvements in its latest scientific paper

The scientific paper titled “Adoption of Circular Economy and Environmental Certifications: Perceptions of Tourism SMEs” the TouriSME project recently published summarises the underlying challenges for improving the environmental performance of tourism SMEs based on their own perceptions and perspectives.

This paper contributes to the debate on the adoption of green or circular economy practices in the tourism industry. By surveying different stakeholders, from hotel accommodation managers and owners, through travel agencies, up to tour operators, the research approached sustainable tourism from different points of view considering several managerial and technical issues connected with its development.

Regarding the drivers that push tourism SMEs to adopt green practices, the research concludes that the possibility to improve their environmental performance and to increase the quality of the service are the main reasons perceived by the sampled SMEs. The main issues that hindered the widespread of green or circular economy practices are mainly economic. Indeed, the lack of funds and the lack of return in terms of financial benefits such as increased turnover and profit, are respectively the main barrier and the less perceived benefits for the adoption of green practices. Nonetheless, as the research further reports, even though tourism SMEs declared to have a high level of awareness on environmental issues such as climate change and resource consumption, at the same time their level of knowledge on the strategy to reduce their environmental impact is limited.

The paper also looks at how policymakers can contribute to overcoming both the economic and the informative barriers. As regards the lack of funds, economic investments may be financed, and subsidies may be channeled from governmental organizations towards those tourism SMEs which prompt the adoption of green or circular economy practices. Regarding the lack of knowledge, policymakers may foster training courses on sustainable tourism engaging also trade associations and chambers of commerce in order to increase the widespread of these activities. Concerning environmental certifications, even on this issue policymakers can have a central and crucial role. To foster their adoption among tourism SMEs, policymakers may prompt some form of regulatory relief, such as extended duration of some permits, reductions in financial guarantees, and tax reductions, to facilitate and support SMEs in the path to the adoption of environmental certification. 

This paper, besides its merits, has some limitations. Social desirability bias which is commonly found in surveys could not be ruled out. In other words, the respondents’ perceptions may not coincide with the objective and rational reality. Moreover, this paper is limited to the sample size of 256 SMEs from four EU countries. Therefore, the results of this paper may only be generalised to other countries with caution. One of the main limitations of this paper can also be a future topic to investigate. Indeed, our analysis did not fully consider consumers’ awareness, perception, and willingness to buy sustainable accommodation. Future studies may in-depth analyzed these aspects also investigating the relationship between consumers’ purchasing choices and environmental certification of tourist accommodations.

The paper can be downloaded here.