Communicating Sustainable Nature-Based Tourism : A Mixed Method Approach to Investigate How Swedish Destination Marketing Organizations Promote Nature Destinations on Instagram
Abstract: Around the globe, sensitive nature destinations suffer from media-mediated mass tourism. Especially, the social media network Instagram is often made responsible for these events as its emphasis on visuals is claimed to foster people’s ambition to reproduce photographs of themselves in the epic sceneries they see online. Destination Marketing Organizations (DMOs) face a particularly big challenge in using Instagram. While they aim at attracting enough tourists to satisfy the local tourism industry’s needs, they need to apply a careful promotion to avoid attracting more tourists than the natural environments can cope with. Focusing on Sweden as case study, this thesis aims at identifying and exploring how Swedish DMOs currently promote vulnerable nature destinations on Instagram and what significance these economically driven communication agencies thereby attribute the protection of the natural resources. Theoretical implications from sustainable destination management and environmental psychology are employed to develop different communication strategies that enhance the destination’s sustainable image as well as attempt to encourage pro-environmental behavior among tourists. A mixed method design is applied which is dominated by an extensive quantitative content analysis and complemented by a more limited qualitative semiotic analysis. The findings reveal that the implementation of sustainable communication strategies is of varying importance for the six Swedish DMOs considered in this study. In general, their effort of using communication tools to enhance sustainable nature-based tourism is still very low. Future research is advised to investigate in the production as well as audience site to gain further insights in how economic interests might hinder a more sustainable branding and to examine how effective the developed communication strategies actually are in influence people’s behavioral intentions.
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