Ethics, tourists and the environmental practices of the North American cruise ship industry: a comparison study of the ethical standards of Alaskan and Caribbean cruise ship tourists
Sheppard, Valerie A.
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Although a great deal of research has already been conducted on businesses and environmental ethics, little research has been undertaken in the area of ethics and tourism-related businesses. Even less research has been undertaken in the area of ethics and tourists. The cruise ship industry is a sector of the tourism industry that has been fined millions of dollars in penalties for its seemingly lack of an environmental ethic. Yet, the cruise industry is the fastest growing sector of the tourism industry, with 8.4% growth each year since 1980. In North America the growth rate has been a staggering 15% per year since 1998. While it would be easy to sit back and criticize the cruise ship industry for its lack of environmental concern, it is important to recognize that tourists may have a role in the industry’s practices. Tourists support the industry and without them the industry would not have experienced the growth that it has achieved. Consequently, this research sought to examine the role of ethics in sustainability, particularly as it applies to the tourism industry and more specifically tourists. By examining the ethical standards and orientation of cruise ship tourists, it was anticipated that valuable foundational knowledge would be gleaned on the role that tourists can be expected to play in sustainability. There were three objectives of this research. The first objective was to examine and compare the ethical standards and orientation of Alaskan and Caribbean cruise tourists. The second objective was to examine and compare Alaskan and Caribbean cruise tourists’ level of acceptance of the environmental practices of the industry, while the third objective was to create awareness amongst cruise ship tourists of the impacts of the industry and, more importantly, their impacts as tourists. An extensive literature review was undertaken to examine ethical and moral theory, which led to the examination of business and tourism ethics, and ultimately environmental ethics and the cruise ship industry. Two research sites were chosen as representing two different cruise ship markets: Alaska and Cozumel. Data was collected in Skagway and Juneau, Alaska from August 22nd to August 30th, 2004 and in Cozumel, Mexico from January 13th to January 22nd, 2005, by means of a self-administered questionnaire. Overall, 237 surveys were completed in Alaska and 246 were completed in Cozumel. The use of the Multidimensional Ethics Scale (MES) in the questionnaire permitted an analysis of the ethical standard of respondents from these two different markets. Overall, Alaskan respondents were found to have a higher standard of ethical conduct than Cozumel respondents. Alaskan and Cozumel respondents differed on the type of ethical orientation they were likely to employ when judging the ethical MES scenario in the questionnaire. There were also significant differences between males and females in Cozumel regarding the strength of their ethical orientation, with female Cozumel respondents utilizing a significantly stronger justice orientation than male respondents. The analysis also revealed that the majority of respondents found the environmental practices of the cruise ship industry unacceptable. However, females in both Alaska and Cozumel found the industry’s practices to be significantly more unacceptable than did male respondents. An interesting finding revealed itself through the negative correlation between the number of cruises taken and how the Alaskan respondents reacted to two sections of the questionnaire. Specifically, the more cruises the Alaskan respondents had been on, the more likely they were to find the environmental practices of the industry acceptable, and the more likely they were to find the captain’s behaviour to be ethical in the MES scenario.
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