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Recycling behavior is an issue that affects the sustainability of many seasonal destinations. The EU promotes projects such as the UrbanWaste that try to study how to avoid the deplorable consequences on cities of this situation. This project has implemented a gamified application, named WasteApp in several European cities, in order to promote the recycling behavior of tourists. This study aimed to verify if the application can be a successful tool to foster recycling and to improve tourism destination reputation. The results show that tourist satisfaction will be influenced directly by the perceived usefulness of the application, and perceived usefulness by the perceived ease of use, but the expectations of the prizes can be counterproductive if they are not perceived as useful for the promoted behavior. Likewise, the satisfaction of the user will influence the recycling behavior, which at the same time improves the reputation of the destination. Besides, the initiative will be visible through word of mouth that is generated from the perceived usefulness, the user’s satisfaction, and the recycling behavior itself. That is, according to this study a gamified application can contribute to the recycling behavior of tourists and improve the image of the destination that adopts it.
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sustainability
Article
Gamification as An Approach to Promote Tourist
Recycling Behavior
Lidia Aguiar-Castillo 1,* , Alberto Clavijo-Rodriguez 2, Petra De Saa-Perez 1and
Rafael Perez-Jimenez 1
1IDeTIC, Universidad de Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, 35001 Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Spain;
petra.desaaperez@idetic.eu (P.D.S.-P.); rperez@idetic.eu (R.P.-J.)
2Fundacion Parque Cientifico Tecnologico, PCT Tafira, Edif. Poliv. III, 35017 Las Palmas de Gran Canaria,
Spain; alberto.clavijo@fpct.ulpgc.es
*Correspondence: laguiar@idetic.eu; Tel.: +34-928-45-9972
Received: 11 February 2019; Accepted: 9 April 2019; Published: 12 April 2019
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Abstract:
Recycling behavior is an issue that aects the sustainability of many seasonal destinations.
The EU promotes projects such as the UrbanWaste that try to study how to avoid the deplorable
consequences on cities of this situation. This project has implemented a gamified application, named
WasteApp in several European cities, in order to promote the recycling behavior of tourists. This study
aimed to verify if the application can be a successful tool to foster recycling and to improve tourism
destination reputation. The results show that tourist satisfaction will be influenced directly by the
perceived usefulness of the application, and perceived usefulness by the perceived ease of use, but
the expectations of the prizes can be counterproductive if they are not perceived as useful for the
promoted behavior. Likewise, the satisfaction of the user will influence the recycling behavior, which
at the same time improves the reputation of the destination. Besides, the initiative will be visible
through word of mouth that is generated from the perceived usefulness, the user’s satisfaction, and
the recycling behavior itself. That is, according to this study a gamified application can contribute to
the recycling behavior of tourists and improve the image of the destination that adopts it.
Keywords: gamification; recycling behavior; tourism destination reputation
1. Introduction
Europe was the continent with the highest number of international tourists in 2017, flourishing
8.4% over the previous year. This growing number of visitors has been favored by dierent factors
such as the increase of low-cost airlines that lead to the consequent rise in connectivity, as well as the
economic growth in countries with a significant potential outbound tourism market [
1
]. Moreover,
traveling evolves through new concepts, as the shared economy and social media produce systemic
changes in the way of understanding relationships between the environment and tourists. Besides,
many tourists use digital technologies and are more receptive to the recommendations of other
travelers, relatives and friends. They also demand sustainable tourism products and services as well
as personalized experiences. Along with all this, the reduction of purchasing power has made people
consider sharing resources with the consequent increase in the collaborative economy [2].
The negative perception of the resident in destinations with overcrowded tourism is manifested
with worries of a dierent nature among which are the fear of the loss of identity, increase of prices
and rise in infrastructure dedicated to tourism to the detriment of those for residents. Besides, there
are concerns about a lack of aordable housing due to the growth of collaborative platforms, and
the congestion derived from one-day travelers, such as cruise tourism’s impact on the environment.
Furthermore, although tourism generates wealth, it also has adverse eects on the local economy
Sustainability 2019,11, 2201; doi:10.3390/su11082201 www.mdpi.com/journal/sustainability
Sustainability 2019,11, 2201 2 of 18
by increasing inflation and oering a type of work, in general, that is not highly qualified. On the
other hand, and although it is sometimes a sign of prosperity, at other times it causes impoverishment
induced by the unequal distribution of the benefits and the non-recognition of the academic degree of
the workers [3].
Some destinations are already taking measures to control overcrowding. Dubrovnik and Santorini
are limiting the access of cruise passengers. Amsterdam and Venice use technology to avoid congestion
in real time, informing tourists about the agglomeration that is occurring in certain places, and giving
information about less saturated alternative visits. According to experts, prices can be another measure
to balance demand and supply. A method proposed includes segmentation of rates by type of visitors
or according to the time of day. Some destinations even set an amount to guarantee its sustainability.
For example, in Paris, the Eiel Tower has announced that it will carry out an improvement of its
facilities, which will be partially covered by an increase in the price of tickets. Also, the Pantheon of
Rome, one of the best-preserved monuments of the ancient world that attracts seven million visitors
each year, recognizes a need for maintenance. For this reason, it has started to charge entrance for the
first time, and this money will be used for the conservation of the monument. Among the problems
that overloaded tourist destination municipalities have encountered is the integration of visitors into
the recycling ecosystem [4].
The concern to keep humanity under scales of adequate sustainability makes the idea of promoting
pro-environmental behaviors as a relevant channel to achieve that goal. The mobility of the tourist
is posing a pressing problem in those cities with a floating population markedly superior to its
permanent population. This fact generates issues of dierent types in cities, one of them, the lack
of information about bins and recycling areas that can have significant eects on the image of the
destination. Individuals appear to be well aware of the need to recycle and will generally do so if
they know how to do. Recycling is well accepted by citizens as an activity that is worth undertaking,
so long as the means to do it exist [5].
This work was framed in the field of sustainable tourism through recycling behaviors, as a part
of H2020 research initiative performed by a consortium of 11 cities (Nicosia, Syracuse, Santander,
Ponta Delgada, Lisbon, Tenerife, Dubrovnik, Nice, Copenhagen, Kavala, and Florence), named
UrbanWaste [
6
]. One of the research proposals consisted of the development of a gamified application
based on geolocation to foster tourist recycling behavior through a series of awards. This section of
the project was divided into three main phases. First, the application was defined and refined with
feedback from a technical focus group. After that, a set of four selected pilot cities was used to verify
the intent to use the application from a group of potential users [
7
]. These results were used to re-define
the app before implementing the final version that was tested with tourists who participated in a field
experiment carried out in the pilot cities selected.
This paper aims to elucidate if this type of initiative promotes good environmental behavior of
tourists and whether it aects the image of the destination. Concretely, the research proposal consists of
the study of attitudes from tourists after using a gamified application. This paper takes a step to study
not only the gamified application features that influence users’ satisfaction through their perceptions,
but also the eect that this users’ satisfaction exerts on their pro-environmental habits, and finally the
influence of this concrete recycling behavior on the image of the tourist destination where the tool is
used. Additionally, it studies the eect of the awards over users’ behavior and WoM (Word of Mouth),
i.e., the intention to recommend the application (Figure 1).
The work is structured as follows: the next section describes materials and methods used by the
application. Tourist recycling behavior and its relationship with gamification are studied in Section 3.
Hypotheses are developed in Section 4, proposing the relations between user satisfaction and recycling
behavior and describing the awards and the use of WoM on the final impact. Section 5studies the
research methods, while Section 6deals with the results obtained. Finally, the results are discussed,
and some conclusions are extracted.
Sustainability 2019,11, 2201 3 of 18
Sustainability 2018, 10, x FOR PEER REVIEW 3 of 18
Figure 1. Experimentation model.
The work is structured as follows: the next section describes materials and methods used by the
application. Tourist recycling behavior and its relationship with gamification are studied in Section
3. Hypotheses are developed in Section 4, proposing the relations between user satisfaction and
recycling behavior and describing the awards and the use of WoM on the final impact. Section 5
studies the research methods, while Section 6 deals with the results obtained. Finally, the results are
discussed, and some conclusions are extracted.
2. Material and Methods
This section explains how the design of the application was carried out and which design factors
were studied in previous research [7].
2.1. WasteApp
As previously stated, WasteApp is an application for mobile devices, which is part of the
UrbanWaste H2020 project [6]. It is aimed at tourists in whom a triple objective is pursued. On the
one hand, it is intended to make tourists aware of the right use of infrastructures for the selective
collection of waste; on the other hand, it is a question of using the application as a platform for an
extensive gathering of data for further analysis concerning the tourists’ waste separation behavior.
Additionally, this application provides tourist information and collects complaints from users.
Finally, it seeks to inform the user about policies and ways of recycling in each city, indicating waste
collection points, collection times, and other data of interest to the tourist. The application follows a
paradigm based on gamification to achieve the mentioned objectives. The proposed gamification
relies on obtaining points that can be exchanged for prizes in the pilot cities of the UrbanWaste
consortium. The mechanisms of securing points are the reading of QR (Quick Response) codes
located in the waste bins of the towns and the posting of comments on social networks using the
project hashtag. These trash cans appear on a map provided by the application. Furthermore, each
city has an offer of awards that tourists can exchange for the corresponding points.
There is a recent approach that proposes a design of gamified applications focused on the
heterogeneous preferences of users [8]. However, in the WasteApp design, a generic approach was
chosen because each city has different target tourism to which the application is directed. Despite this
approach, it has tended to center the application towards socializer tourists that focus on
communicating their actions [9].
Figure 1. Experimentation model.
2. Material and Methods
This section explains how the design of the application was carried out and which design factors
were studied in previous research [7].
2.1. WasteApp
As previously stated, WasteApp is an application for mobile devices, which is part of the
UrbanWaste H2020 project [
6
]. It is aimed at tourists in whom a triple objective is pursued. On the one
hand, it is intended to make tourists aware of the right use of infrastructures for the selective collection
of waste; on the other hand, it is a question of using the application as a platform for an extensive
gathering of data for further analysis concerning the tourists’ waste separation behavior. Additionally,
this application provides tourist information and collects complaints from users. Finally, it seeks to
inform the user about policies and ways of recycling in each city, indicating waste collection points,
collection times, and other data of interest to the tourist. The application follows a paradigm based on
gamification to achieve the mentioned objectives. The proposed gamification relies on obtaining points
that can be exchanged for prizes in the pilot cities of the UrbanWaste consortium. The mechanisms of
securing points are the reading of QR (Quick Response) codes located in the waste bins of the towns
and the posting of comments on social networks using the project hashtag. These trash cans appear on
a map provided by the application. Furthermore, each city has an oer of awards that tourists can
exchange for the corresponding points.
There is a recent approach that proposes a design of gamified applications focused on the
heterogeneous preferences of users [
8
]. However, in the WasteApp design, a generic approach was
chosen because each city has dierent target tourism to which the application is directed. Despite this
approach, it has tended to center the application towards socializer tourists that focus on communicating
their actions [9].
Privacy has been guaranteed since no personal data has been requested to avoid problems and
compliance with European and national standards on data protection. Additionally, access has been
provided through login and password identification, too, with salt coding to improve security. Finally,
the username and password are deleted to elude possible diculties about the data.
Sustainability 2019,11, 2201 4 of 18
2.2. Design of the Application
The gamified application has been developed using the MDA (mechanics, dynamics, aesthetics)
paradigm [
10
,
11
]. The design was stratified into layers. First, a mechanics layer dealt with the
algorithmic relationships and data structures. Second, a dynamic layer was in charge of the user’s
utilization of mechanics and the interactions of the internal structures of the game itself. Finally, a
“sensations” layer was directly related with the final objective of the game: to evoke an emotional
response from the user. In this case, the target is directly connected to three primary mechanisms: the
implicit reward of knowing that contributes to the sustainability of the place visited, obtaining points
and, finally, the tangible reward received (see Figure 2).
Sustainability 2018, 10, x FOR PEER REVIEW 4 of 18
Privacy has been guaranteed since no personal data has been requested to avoid problems and
compliance with European and national standards on data protection. Additionally, access has been
provided through login and password identification, too, with salt coding to improve security.
Finally, the username and password are deleted to elude possible difficulties about the data.
2.2. Design of the Application
The gamified application has been developed using the MDA (mechanics, dynamics, aesthetics)
paradigm [10,11]. The design was stratified into layers. First, a mechanics layer dealt with the
algorithmic relationships and data structures. Second, a dynamic layer was in charge of the user’s
utilization of mechanics and the interactions of the internal structures of the game itself. Finally, a
“sensations” layer was directly related with the final objective of the game: to evoke an emotional
response from the user. In this case, the target is directly connected to three primary mechanisms: the
implicit reward of knowing that contributes to the sustainability of the place visited, obtaining points
and, finally, the tangible reward received
(
see Figure 2).
Figure 2. The WasteApp process of redeemed points by prizes. BDD refers to a database
service [7].
The game must run on the most distributed operating systems for cell phones and each city was
studied independently. The game philosophy is based on a points-reward strategy in which the users
obtain points by reading QR codes located on waste bins.
The sensations to be evoked on the user include the following: usefulness; challenge (for the
users looking for rewards); and social/ecology conscience. The mechanics proposed included
providing information to the users about the waste collection infrastructure on an interactive map;
QR codes on the waste bins for accessing to points, a prize list for each city and some eco-tips (waste
related ecology tips) displayed on the users’ screens after they read QR codes.
In a lower level of description, the application had not only a mobile-based interface but also a
relational database and a server-side backend. Under this framework, the programmer and end-user
sides address the design, since MDA flow is bidirectional. See [7] for technical details.
3. Tourist Recycling Behavior and Gamification
3.1. Tourism Behavior
Tourism, a source of wealth and employment around the world, is beginning to be considered
a curse in some European destinations [12]. The benefits that tourism provides to local communities
are well known: the generation of employment [13], the improvement of the quality of life of the
native people, the increase of the profits of business, the creation of new infrastructures, the social
enrichment for the exchange of cultures and the valuation of natural and heritage resources [14,15].
However, the negative impact generated by tourist activity takes longer to be noticed, being
perceived, in the long run, as more significant than these widely proclaimed benefits. These adverse
effects differ depending on the destination as well as the type of visitor and the activities they
Figure 2. The WasteApp process of redeemed points by prizes. BDD refers to a database service [7].
The game must run on the most distributed operating systems for cell phones and each city was
studied independently. The game philosophy is based on a points-reward strategy in which the users
obtain points by reading QR codes located on waste bins.
The sensations to be evoked on the user include the following: usefulness; challenge (for the users
looking for rewards); and social/ecology conscience. The mechanics proposed included providing
information to the users about the waste collection infrastructure on an interactive map; QR codes on
the waste bins for accessing to points, a prize list for each city and some eco-tips (waste related ecology
tips) displayed on the users’ screens after they read QR codes.
In a lower level of description, the application had not only a mobile-based interface but also a
relational database and a server-side backend. Under this framework, the programmer and end-user
sides address the design, since MDA flow is bidirectional. See [7] for technical details.
3. Tourist Recycling Behavior and Gamification
3.1. Tourism Behavior
Tourism, a source of wealth and employment around the world, is beginning to be considered a
curse in some European destinations [
12
]. The benefits that tourism provides to local communities are
well known: the generation of employment [
13
], the improvement of the quality of life of the native
people, the increase of the profits of business, the creation of new infrastructures, the social enrichment
for the exchange of cultures and the valuation of natural and heritage resources [
14
,
15
]. However, the
negative impact generated by tourist activity takes longer to be noticed, being perceived, in the long
run, as more significant than these widely proclaimed benefits. These adverse eects dier depending
on the destination as well as the type of visitor and the activities they perform. But, in general, local
citizens perceive facts such as: the overcrowding of infrastructures and public spaces, the increase in
prices, the proliferation of companies focused exclusively on tourism, noise, citizen insecurity, drug
and alcohol consumption, as well as the extra generation of waste and the presence of garbage in
areas not designed for storage [
16
]. To all this, we must add that the tourism infrastructures areas
can be overloaded, generally shared by citizens and tourists, but they are only sized to sustain the
Sustainability 2019,11, 2201 5 of 18
citizen burden, which is to the detriment of adequate waste management [
17
]. There are a number of
dissuasive techniques that are part of so-called demarketing strategies, which aim to change the tourist
flow, leading visitors to sites where they supposedly cause less impact [
18
]. However, the UrbanWaste
project has preferred a proposal aimed at encouraging certain behaviors that contribute to improving
the image of the destination through gamification approaches [7].
Concerning the behavior of tourists, there is a direct influence between their attitudes and how
the local population hosts them. Some visitors see the occasion of the trip as an excuse to break with
the standards to which they usually have in their daily lives. The tourist would be outside the social
norms of coexistence, remaining in an unreal world until returning to normality. However, this form
of rupture varies depending on the individuals, some more prone than others to leave the norms of
society [
19
]. To this, we must add the ignorance of visitors about local customs and regulations in
aspects such as waste collection. These rules are usually dierent from those of their cities of origin,
which increases the tourist’s perception of being outside the local norms of coexistence [3].
The lifecycle of the destination is also important regarding the predisposition of the population
towards its visitors [
20
]. In the beginning, the local community can find tourism attractive, but over
time this perception disappears, and the stages of apathy, annoyance, and antagonism arise [
21
].
Nevertheless, technology tools promoting behaviors that are assumed as benefits by the society can
also be used as persuasive tools to influence the ideas and reactions of the player-tourist.
One of the proposals of the aforementioned European project in which this work is framed is
the implementation of an application that informs the regulations about the collection of waste as
well as those areas of deposit for recycling closest to the user [
6
]. This study aims to elucidate if this
type of initiatives promotes good environmental behavior of visitors and if it aects the image of the
destination that sets them in motion.
3.2. Gamification and Sustainability
Within the dierent definitions proposed by various authors on gamification, the most accepted
seems to be "use of game elements in non-play contexts" [
22
]. The psychological basis of the use of
these elements is motivation that can be conceptualized in two distinct features: intrinsic, where a
behavior or action is carried out because it is aligned with an internal value; and extrinsic where
external awards such as money or status are oered in exchange for a continued commitment to a
particular activity [
23
]. The idea is trying to create extrinsic motivators that are internalized and become
intrinsic pseudo-motivators, that is, internalize the extrinsic motivators. In fact, in the design of an
application, it is essential to use motivational tools, both intrinsic and extrinsic, so that the probability
of obtaining the desired behavior increases. In addition, intrinsic motivators should be generalized as
much as possible, because due to the considerable variability of individuals, it is necessary to cover the
most significant number of people who are influenced by these motivators. This is necessary since it
has been shown that intrinsic motivators produce greater satisfaction in the user-player [
24
]. There are
a series of game mechanisms that have to be designed and are necessary to produce the player’s
motivation. Feedback and positive reinforcement are required through the recognition of achievement,
gaining status with colleagues, friends, and family [23]. The gamified systems, although they are not
games, are designed to take advantage of human psychology in the same way that games do. It seems
that gamification is a more rewarding alternative, and therefore eective than traditional methods of
motivation and loyalty because, in the game, motivation is inherent [25].
In other matters, a pro-environmental behavior is one that develops an individual or a group that
promotes or results in the sustainable use of natural resources, the environmentally responsible behavior
reflects an individual’s environmental commitment, concern, and knowledge [
26
,
27
]. The awareness
of the sustainability of resources is increasingly present in today’s society. This awareness is due to
dierent factors such as an improvement in environmental legislation, greater public pressure, an
increase in social consciousness, the echo that the media makes of environmental issues, problems
arising from their shortage and, above all, the change of public opinion [
28
,
29
]. In the field of tourism,
Sustainability 2019,11, 2201 6 of 18
the sustainability of resources is a fundamental issue for maintaining the reputation of the destinations
and their power of tourist attraction, and hence sustainability remains a pending issue. It must be
borne in mind that both the competitiveness of the destination and many of the tourist activities that
take place in it depend on the quality of its resources, and this quality depends on its sustainable
maintenance. Those destinations whose target audience are tourists concerned about the environment
are more likely to maintain a sustainable destination reputation [30].
For a gamified application to increase its probability of achieving a change in behavior, it is
essential to ensure that there is a normative influence among the members of a digital community.
In other words, a member can begin to recycle to adapt to the pro-environmental behavior of the rest
of the members in a way that produces a feeling of acceptance [31].
On the other hand, the elements of the game create opportunities for the social diusion of ideas
and behaviors, which makes actions that are intrinsically private visible to friends and colleagues [
32
].
Another advantage that gamified applications can provide to the player is concrete information on
how to develop their recycling behavior. Often tourists do not have information on standards and
schedules for selective collection of waste in the area they visit [
33
]. It is possible that their intervention
is more eective if tourists receive specific and easy to understand instructions that will allow them to
know how, when and where they should act [34].
As indicated earlier, a gamified application of sustainability seeks to support and encourage
sustainable behaviors such as helping recycling behavior, reducing waste or saving energy.
The initiatives developed to promote pro-environmental behavior, and explicitly recycling, have
been designed as isolated experiments (placing a separate container that produces sound and light
stimuli when the action occurs). However, the proposal where the pilot project of this study is framed
tries to reach a higher number of citizens through the application, WasteApp, which encourages these
behaviors while informing about nearby recycling areas, using gamification tools.
There is no lack of criticism of these gamification tools used by areas as diverse as education,
government, and marketing. It is said to be a form of perversion and exploitation of the game medium
to obtain an easy-to-obtain benefit. The idea is that the industry intends to displace the real incentives
that are used to encourage some behavior by fictitious incentives [
35
]. Other critical sources question
the ethics of using the game to change human behavior, what has been called the gamipulation, the
manipulation of behavior through game tools [7].
4. Hypothesis Development
4.1. Technology Acceptance Model (TAM) and User Satisfaction
Since the first studies on the adoption of technology, it has been assumed that the user makes
a rational decision-making process based on the cost-benefit binomial. Therefore, and based on the
theory of reasoned action, the technology acceptance model (TAM) considers that the two primary
characteristics necessary to accept an information system are: perceived ease of use and perceived
utility [
36
,
37
]. On the other hand, it has been found that user satisfaction is directly related to the
usability of the application, the ease of navigation, interactivity, and responsiveness [38].
Previous studies indicate that the perceived usefulness of the application has a direct eect on
user satisfaction [
39
,
40
]. It is more likely that the end users will be more satisfied if they believe that
using the system will increase their performance in the target of the application [41,42].
Another notable aspect developed in previous studies is the indirect eect that perceived ease of
use exerts on user satisfaction through perceived utility, which indicates that the user considers the
application less useful if he or she finds it dicult to use [
43
,
44
]. Besides, it is noted that although the
perceived ease of use and the perceived usefulness have a direct influence on the intention to use the
application (as TAM says), however, in the case of user satisfaction, the eect is indirect, the perceived
ease of use exerts its influence on user satisfaction through the perceived usefulness [45].
Based on the above arguments, the following hypotheses have been put forward:
Sustainability 2019,11, 2201 7 of 18
H1.
Perceived ease of use concerns about the gamified app will positively aect perceived usefulness concerns
about the gamified app.
H2.
Perceived usefulness concerns about the gamified app will positively aect user satisfaction concerns about
the gamified app.
4.2. User Satisfaction and Recycling Behavior
The game tools used by the gamification strategies produce in the user a state of flow that,
intrinsically, motivates the citizen to repeat sustainable actions; that is, a habit is formed thanks to
gamification. This state of flow may correspond to the user’s satisfaction. Some authors consider
that flow is closely related to user satisfaction and the acceptance of information technology [
46
].
Furthermore, it is possible to find studies in the field of health that have shown that a new behavior
becomes a habit through repetition. They imply that the frequency of this new behavior is significant so
that it ends up engaging people to the practice [
47
]. More importantly, the formation of this habit leads
people to maintain the action in the long term, even without the need to use gamification as an element
of motivation [
48
]. The change in long-term behavior will only occur if people execute sustainable
behavior many times and end up internalizing it. Recent research maintains that gamification manages
to keep pro-environmental behavior over time and produce a change in long-term behavior [49].
The reinforcement of behavior is one of the eects of gamification, a result that seems to be more
eective than punishment [
50
]. As a consequence of this, a causal eect is produced, the gamification
increases the satisfaction of the users when they are regularly informed about their progress and
continuous feedback is oered on the objectives that they are achieving. This fact allows a feeling of
high individual performance that reinforces the behavior that the application promotes [51].
The psychological benefits, among which is the satisfaction with the application, cause a
commitment to use it. Based on the theory of planned behavior, it is expected that user satisfaction will
have a positive influence on the contribution to the action of recycling [52,53].
Based on the above arguments, the following hypothesis has been put forward:
H3. User satisfaction concerns about the gamified app will positively aect recycling behavior.
4.3. Expectation about Awards
The elements of the game reinforce the individual’s motivation by creating competition among
the players. It is important to note that when a tangible award is given, people tend to believe that they
perform the behavior strictly for the prize and not because they are inherently interested [
54
]. Similarly,
the theory of self-perception suggests that people will attribute pro-environmental attitudes if they
realize that they perform sustainable actions without external awards [
55
]. In the case of receiving this
type of award, as soon as the competition ends the behavior changes. For this reason, the awards must
be small [
56
]. That is, the relationship between the promoter of the behavior and the tourist only lasts
as long as the prize, free stu, is promoted, which on the other hand is expensive and less eective [
24
].
However, in some contexts (educational, organizational), the behaviors are reinforced with awards
perceived as useful, for this reason, a perceived compensation with attributes of quality can influence
the perception of the usefulness of the system. For that same reason, it seems logical to think that this
prize seen as quality can produce a positive eect on the user’s satisfaction with the system [36,57].
Finally, the award demonstrates an acknowledgment of an eort made to develop a behavior
that seeks to encourage the application, so that recognition through the prize should have a positive
eect on helping that behavior [
58
]. Furthermore, a new participant in a community must receive
feedback and an award to induce their participation, this interaction with the system creates a positive
reinforcement that builds in the tourist-player a commitment to the behavior promoted by the gamified
system. That is, the expected awards influence the attitude towards practice, as long as that award
exceeds in value the appreciated costs of the behavior [5961].
Sustainability 2019,11, 2201 8 of 18
Based on the above arguments, the following hypotheses have been put forward:
H4.1. Expectations about awards will positively aect perceived usefulness.
H4.2. Expectations about awards will positively aect user satisfaction.
H4.3. Expectations about awards will positively aect recycling behavior.
4.4. Word of Mouth (WoM)
The perceived usefulness of a product or service seems to have a positive influence on the client’s
intention to recommend it, that is, the word-of-mouth eect should be met as long as the utility of what
is oered is perceived. However, it must be clarified that the literature states that for this relationship
to work the usefulness must be combined with the originality of the product. In this specific case, if the
tourists perceive the application as useful during their visit to the destination, they will divulge this
kindness among acquaintances [62].
The degree of satisfaction of the individual with the experience of the service is a precedent to
recommend it [
63
], this degree of satisfaction generates a positive eect from word of mouth (WoM) [
64
].
It has been found that those customer-travelers who are delighted with a service are more likely to
proclaim favorable review. Furthermore, the intentions of a user’s behavior are a consequence of the
perceived values; therefore, if users are satisfied with an application, they will recommend it; even if
they recognize that this application has contributed to their pro-environmental behavior they will also
proceed in their intention to WoM it [65,66].
On the other hand, the motivation to participate in a positive WoM behavior may be due, for
some to a desire to improve themselves and for others to a hope to gain social status [
67
]. That is, the
pro-environmental behavior derived from the user’s satisfaction provokes a sense of altruism that
makes the individual want to recommend the application as a kind of exposure to his friends and
acquaintances [7,68].
Based on the above arguments, the following hypotheses have been put forward:
H5. Perceived usefulness will positively aect gamified app WoM.
H6. User satisfaction will positively aect gamified app WoM.
H7. Recycling behavior will positively aect gamified app WoM.
4.5. Tourism Destination Reputation
The sum of experiences in previous trips allows tourist to form their own image of the destination.
Among the factors that make up that image of destination are their perceptions of the cleanliness and
care of the place they visit. Initiatives such as the promotion of environmental behavior contribute to a
good reputation as a sustainable destination [69].
The importance of the physical environment is underlined in the literature as an element that
contributes to the image and reputation of the destination [
70
,
71
]. The tourism industry, more than
any other, uses the environment as a factor of production [
72
]. Social responsibility initiatives such as
the promotion of recycling behavior through a gamified application could be a remarkable factor that
contributes to increasing the destination reputation.
Several studies state that environmental initiatives aect the perception of tourists, thus influencing
the reputation of the destination and the image they create of it. Sustainable and responsible initiatives
demonstrate the concern of firms about the eects of their operations, in the same line, a destination
that builds this type of program will be able to gain the trust of its visitors and obtain a positive
reputation among them [73,74].
Based on the above arguments, the following hypothesis has been put forward:
Sustainability 2019,11, 2201 9 of 18
H8.
Recycling behavior concerns about the gamified app will positively aect the tourist destination reputation
(see Figure 3).
Sustainability 2018, 10, x FOR PEER REVIEW 9 of 18
Figure 3. Research model.
5. Research Methods
5.1. Sampling Procedure and Sample
Survey data were collected from 141 participants who were asked to answer a questionnaire
after using the application in a field experiment carried out in the pilot cities from France, Spain, and
Portugal selected by the UrbanWaste committee. The experimentation has been carried out within
controlled environments due to the strict European regulations on data protection and privacy.
The survey was conducted throughout 2018, using a convenience sampling where tourists were
selected because of their accessibility and proximity to the researcher. As listed in Table 1, 75 (53.2%)
of the respondents to the questionnaires were female, and 65 (46.1%) were male; 92 (46.1%) of the
respondents were aged 24, and 49 were aged >24. The most substantial proportion of respondents
had an upper-middle social status (81, 57.5%), followed by middle status (25, 17.7%).
Table 1. Demographic information for the sample.
Characteristics Frequency %
Gender
Male 65 46.1
Female 75 53.2
Other 1 0.7
Age 24 92 65.3
>24 49 34.7
Social Status
Lower 4 2.8
Lower-middle 15 10.7
Middle 25 17.7
Upper-middle 81 57.5
Upper 16 11.3
Total 141 100
5.2. Measurement and Analysis Method
All the variables were measured using scales adapted from previous studies
[36,45,52,59,63,71,74–76]. Items were measured on a seven-point Likert scale in which 1 = strongly
disagree, and 7 = strongly agree.
The research model is composed of the following variables:
Perceived ease of use (PEU) was estimated with four questions adapted from [36,45], using
the following items:
Figure 3. Research model.
5. Research Methods
5.1. Sampling Procedure and Sample
Survey data were collected from 141 participants who were asked to answer a questionnaire
after using the application in a field experiment carried out in the pilot cities from France, Spain, and
Portugal selected by the UrbanWaste committee. The experimentation has been carried out within
controlled environments due to the strict European regulations on data protection and privacy.
The survey was conducted throughout 2018, using a convenience sampling where tourists were
selected because of their accessibility and proximity to the researcher. As listed in Table 1, 75 (53.2%)
of the respondents to the questionnaires were female, and 65 (46.1%) were male; 92 (46.1%) of the
respondents were aged
24, and 49 were aged >24. The most substantial proportion of respondents
had an upper-middle social status (81, 57.5%), followed by middle status (25, 17.7%).
Table 1. Demographic information for the sample.
Characteristics Frequency %
Gender
Male 65 46.1
Female 75 53.2
Other 1 0.7
Age 24 92 65.3
>24 49 34.7
Social Status
Lower 4 2.8
Lower-middle
15 10.7
Middle 25 17.7
Upper-middle
81 57.5
Upper 16 11.3
Total 141 100
5.2. Measurement and Analysis Method
All the variables were measured using scales adapted from previous studies [
36
,
45
,
52
,
59
,
63
,
71
,
74
76
].
Items were measured on a seven-point Likert scale in which 1 =strongly disagree, and 7 =strongly agree.
The research model is composed of the following variables:
Sustainability 2019,11, 2201 10 of 18
Perceived ease of use (PEU) was estimated with four questions adapted from [
36
,
45
], using the
following items:
o “I think the navigation menu is intuitive enough.”
o “I think the tutorial clearly explains the use of the application.”
o “I find it easy to use the application.”
o “I think the messages from the application are easy to understand.”
Perceived usefulness (PU) was measured with four items adapted from [36,45]:
o “I think the application is useful to encourage recycling behavior.”
o “I think it is easy to find the closest recycling bin on the application map.”
o “I think the information about the recycling areas is correctly on the application.”
o “I find the application useful when I travel.”
User satisfaction (US), was estimated with four items adapted from [45,75]:
o “I think it is worth using this application.”
o “I think the application covers my expectations over the applications.”
o “I like using the application during a trip.”
o “I would use the application frequently on a trip.”
Recycling behavior (RB), was measured with three questions based on [52]:
o “I think the application encourages recycling behavior.”
o
“I think the use of the application promotes measures that produce a cleaner destination.”
o “I think the application can change the behavior towards the recycling of some people.”
Expectation about awards (EaA) was measured with four items adapted from [63]:
o “I would like the prize to be useful.”
o “I would like the prize to be valuable.”
o “I would like the prize to be easy to obtain.”
o “I would like the prize to be nice.”
Application WoM (WoM) was estimated with four questions adapted from [71,74]:
o “I would recommend WasteApp to my friends.”
o “I would recommend WasteApp to my neighbors.”
o “I would recommend WasteApp to my acquaintances who are aware of environmental.”
Tourist destination reputation (TDR) was estimated from four questions based on [59,76]:
o “In my opinion, the apps improve the image of the city.”
o “I think the cities that use the application will attract more tourists.”
o “I think the application increases the satisfaction of my experience in a city.”
o “I would repeat the journey to a city that uses this application.”
6. Results
6.1. Measurement Model
All data were analyzed using path equation modeling in Amos software. Path analysis is a
multivariate method that allows verification of the adjustment of causal models as well as identification
of the direct and indirect contribution whereby they make a set of independent variables to explain
the variability of dependent variables [
77
]. Construct validity and the reliability of the measurement
Sustainability 2019,11, 2201 11 of 18
model were assessed based on confirmatory factor analysis. All values of composite reliability and
Cronbach’s
α
were greater than 0.7. The indicator reliability was evaluated based on the criterion
that loading should be higher than 0.7 and that every loading below 0.4 should be eliminated [
78
].
Only one loading was slightly less than 0.7 while the rest of the loadings were higher than 0.7 and
statistically significant at 0.01, confirming good indicator reliability for the instrument (see Table 2).
The validity test was analyzed using the average variance extracted (AVE), and all constructs were
greater than 0.5 [
79
]. All constructs of the square root of AVE were higher than the correlation between
other variables [79]. Discriminant validity was verified (see Table 3).
Table 2. Descriptive analysis.
Items Cross Loading Composite Reliability AVE Cronbach’s α
PEU1 0.909
0.894 0.684 0.805
PEU2 0.854
PEU3 0.904
PEU4 0.604
PU1 0.804
0.861 0.609 0.755
PU2 0.856
PU3 0.740
PU4 0.713
US1 0.862
0.960 0.857 0.943
US2 0.956
US3 0.955
US4 0.928
RB1 0.937
0.969 0.913 0.951
RB2 0.966
RB3 0.964
TDR1 0.846
0.947 0.817 0.930
TDR2 0.913
TDR3 0.935
TDR4 0.919
EaA1 0.952
0.967 0.880 0.951
EaA2 0.928
EaA3 0.946
EaA4 0.926
WoM1 0.911
0.904 0.704 0.934
WoM2 0.890
WoM3 0.795
WoM4 0.749
PEU =perceived ease of use, PU =perceived usefulness, US =user satisfaction, RB =recycling behavior, TDR
=tourism destination reputation, EaA =expectation about awards, WoM =word of mouth, AVE =average
variance extracted.
Table 3. Test of discriminant validity.
1234567
PEU
0.827
EaA
0.364 0.938
PU 0.625 0.556 0.807
US 0.060 0.069 0.230 0.938
WoM
0.218 0.113 0.115 0.571 0.916
RB 0.217 0.101 0.156 0.494 0.892 0.971
TDR
0.167 0.097 0.073 0.468 0.778 0.833 0.918
* Diagonal elements (bold) show the square root of the average variance extracted (AVE).
Sustainability 2019,11, 2201 12 of 18
6.2. Hypothesis Testing
The assessment of the adjustment aims to determine whether the relationships between the
variables of the estimated model adequately reflect the correlations observed in the data. There are
three types of adjustment goodness statisticians. First, those that value the absolute adjustment (square
chi); second, there are some that compare the adjustment concerning another model, relative adjustment
(comparative fit index, CFI); finally, those using parsimonious adjustment that evaluate the fitting
according the number of used parameters (normed-fit index, NFI). None of these parameters provide all
the necessary information to evaluate the model, so usually some of them are used simultaneously [
77
].
Furthermore, the variance-covariance matrix was used to test the research mode. Before verifying
the hypotheses, we confirmed the fit of the path model. As shown in Table 4, all the fitness indices
(x
2
/df =1.092, NFI =0.978, Tucker-Lewis index (TLI) =0.996, CFI =0.998, root mean square error of
approximation (RMSEA) =0.026) signaled a good model fit.
Table 4. Model fit for structural model test.
Fit Index X2X2/df NFI TLI CFI RMSEA
Criterion p0.05 30.9 0.9 0.9 0.08
Research model 10.925 (p=0.363) 1.092 0.978 0.996 0.998 0.026
The results of the analysis are shown in Table 5. The perceived ease of use (PEU) (
β
=0.486,
p<0.001) had statistically significant eects on the perceived usefulness (PU). Therefore, Hypothesis
1 was supported. The perceived usefulness (PU) (
β
=0.221, p<0.1) had statistically significant
eects on user satisfaction (US); consequently, Hypothesis 2 was supported. The user satisfaction
(US) influenced on recycling behavior (RB) significantly (
β
=0.505, p<0.001), so Hypothesis 3 was
supported. The relationship between expectation about awards (EaA) and recycling behavior (RB) was
not statistically significant, and the expectations about awards (EaA), contrary to expectations, had
a negative eect on user satisfaction (US), but EaA had statistically significant eects on perceived
usefulness (PU) (
β
=0.379, p<0.001). As a result, Hypothesis 4.1 was supported; Hypothesis 4.2 was
not supported, and Hypothesis 4.3 was rejected, so Hypothesis 4 was partially supported. Moreover,
perceived usefulness (PU), user satisfaction (US) and recycling behavior (RB) influenced the intention
of recommending the application (WoM) (
β
=0.110, p<0.1) (
β
=0.140, p<0.1) (
β
=0.714 p<0.001) and
hence the Hypothesis 5, Hypothesis 6, and the Hypothesis 7 were supported. Finally, the influence of
recycling behavior (RB) was significant on tourism destination reputation (TDR) (
β
=0.827, p<0.001),
thus Hypothesis 8 was supported (Figure 4).
Table 5. Hypothesis test.
Path Estimate S.E. Sig. H Test
H1 Perceived ease of use Perceived usefulness 0.486 0.063 0.000 Supported
H2 Perceived usefulness User satisfaction 0.221 0.100 0.027 Supported
H3 User satisfaction Recycling behavior 0.505 0.073 0.000 Supported
H4.1 Expectations about awards Perceived usefulness 0.379 0.063 0.000 Supported
H4.2 Expectations about awards User satisfaction 0.192 0.100 0.055
No supported
H4.3 Expectations about awards Recycling behavior 0.078 0.073 0.289 Rejected
H5 Perceived usefulness Application WoM 0.110 0.049 0.025 Supported
H6 User satisfaction Application WoM 0.140 0.056 0.013 Supported
H7 Recycling behavior Application WoM 0.714 0.056 0.000 Supported
H8 Recycling behavior Tourism destination reputation 0.827 0.047 0.000 Supported
Sustainability 2019,11, 2201 13 of 18
Sustainability 2018, 10, x FOR PEER REVIEW 13 of 18
Figure 4. Result model. * probability < 0.10; ** probability < 0.05; *** probability < 0.01;
ns = non-significant.
7. Discussion and Conclusions
Tourist recycling behavior is a problem faced by some European cities that suffer from seasonal
tourism that raises the floating population far above the permanent one. This problem affects the
quality of life, not only of its visitors but also of the habitual inhabitants of these overexploited zones.
Among the detected issues is the lack of information on recycling points, this coupled with the fact
that tourists have a sense of being exempt from social norms while on vacation and out of their usual
environment, creating problems in specific areas such as the accumulation and indiscriminate mixing
of waste [18,19].
The UrbanWaste project, among other initiatives, intends correct that lousy image of the
destination and contributes to travelers using the means that the city puts in their hand, and that,
consequently favors the reputation of the town. Through the efficient use of resources, smart tourism
is expected to have a positive effect on the sustainability of the destination. For this, it takes advantage
of the persistent use that the travelers make of smartphones during their visit. It uses this
circumstance an alliance to promote pro-environmental behavior. The WasteApp application, based
on gamification, aims to encourage and activate mechanisms that produce a habit of recycling
behavior in visitors [22]. This study investigated whether the use of this application, which utilizes
game elements, can promote pro-environmental habits and, therefore, improve the image of the
tourist destination that implements it.
The work presented here is the continuation of a previous one where the most relevant factors
were added so that the design of the WasteApp would be successful in its objectives [7]. In this study
where TAM approaches are incorporated, it is demonstrated that the ease of use and the utility of the
application have influenced the satisfaction of the user, although the first is an indirect effect that
affects satisfaction through the second [45]. The ludic components of the application were not
considered since in the previous study it was concluded that the visitor does not expect large
elements with playful functions of the application [7,37].
In terms of the quality of the expected awards, they influence the perception of the utility of the
application. However, these expectations do not influence the recycling behavior. This last factor is
not free of controversy, since, according to some authors, as soon as the relationship between the
application and the traveler ends, the commitment to the promoted recycling behavior may
disappear as well. That is why it is necessary that the awards allow the internalization of extrinsic
motivation, for example making gifts that promote the sustainability of the destination or be
perceived as useful to the tourists. Besides, and contrary to expectations, the expected quality of the
award does seem to influence the satisfaction of the user of the application, but negatively. This fact
may be due to the users’ perception of their pro-environmental behavior as a duty to the community.
Consequently, their satisfaction emanates from an intrinsic motivation, which makes them perceive
the physical awards, extrinsic motivation, even contrary to their conscience [24,25]. Since the expected
Figure 4.
Result model. * probability <0.10; ** probability <0.05; *** probability <0.01;
ns =non-significant.
7. Discussion and Conclusions
Tourist recycling behavior is a problem faced by some European cities that suer from seasonal
tourism that raises the floating population far above the permanent one. This problem aects the
quality of life, not only of its visitors but also of the habitual inhabitants of these overexploited zones.
Among the detected issues is the lack of information on recycling points, this coupled with the fact
that tourists have a sense of being exempt from social norms while on vacation and out of their usual
environment, creating problems in specific areas such as the accumulation and indiscriminate mixing
of waste [18,19].
The UrbanWaste project, among other initiatives, intends correct that lousy image of the destination
and contributes to travelers using the means that the city puts in their hand, and that, consequently
favors the reputation of the town. Through the ecient use of resources, smart tourism is expected
to have a positive eect on the sustainability of the destination. For this, it takes advantage of the
persistent use that the travelers make of smartphones during their visit. It uses this circumstance an
alliance to promote pro-environmental behavior. The WasteApp application, based on gamification,
aims to encourage and activate mechanisms that produce a habit of recycling behavior in visitors [
22
].
This study investigated whether the use of this application, which utilizes game elements, can promote
pro-environmental habits and, therefore, improve the image of the tourist destination that implements it.
The work presented here is the continuation of a previous one where the most relevant factors
were added so that the design of the WasteApp would be successful in its objectives [
7
]. In this study
where TAM approaches are incorporated, it is demonstrated that the ease of use and the utility of the
application have influenced the satisfaction of the user, although the first is an indirect eect that aects
satisfaction through the second [
45
]. The ludic components of the application were not considered
since in the previous study it was concluded that the visitor does not expect large elements with playful
functions of the application [7,37].
In terms of the quality of the expected awards, they influence the perception of the utility of the
application. However, these expectations do not influence the recycling behavior. This last factor
is not free of controversy, since, according to some authors, as soon as the relationship between the
application and the traveler ends, the commitment to the promoted recycling behavior may disappear
as well. That is why it is necessary that the awards allow the internalization of extrinsic motivation, for
example making gifts that promote the sustainability of the destination or be perceived as useful to
the tourists. Besides, and contrary to expectations, the expected quality of the award does seem to
influence the satisfaction of the user of the application, but negatively. This fact may be due to the
users’ perception of their pro-environmental behavior as a duty to the community. Consequently,
their satisfaction emanates from an intrinsic motivation, which makes them perceive the physical
Sustainability 2019,11, 2201 14 of 18
awards, extrinsic motivation, even contrary to their conscience [
24
,
25
]. Since the expected quality of
the award influences tourist perception about the utility of the application, and in line with recent
studies that propose a design focused on the preferences of the users, it would be pertinent for the
cities that implement gamified applications to take into account these preferences among visitors [8].
On the other hand, this satisfaction of the user will have a positive influence on the factor of
recommending the application. At the same time, the promoted behavior will also support the desire to
recommend the app. This fact is probably due to two reasons related, firstly, to the traveler seeing the
application as an aid to pro-environmental behavior and, secondly, to the tourist’s desire to expose their
acquaintances and friends to action that is usually private, and that will report a favorable image to
their social networks [
32
]. This exposure of the application to dierent agents will cause its visibility in
the networks in which the traveler is immersed. Finally, the great beneficiary of this pro-environmental
behavior and the use of the application will be the image of the destination that will improve its
reputation through the use of the application.
An interesting finding of this study is the connection between the satisfaction of users and the
creation of a behavior habit, since the more satisfied they are, and the more they want to recommend
the application, the more their pro-environmental behavior will be promoted. This chain of actions
may result because the satisfaction with the application comes from a combination of intrinsic and
extrinsic motivations of the users. That is, the visitors are satisfied with the app because it helps them
in their pro-environmental behavior emanating from an altruistic feeling and which aims to preserve
the environment (intrinsic motivation), but also they recommend the application to the people in their
setting to present themselves with a benevolent image (extrinsic motivation). The result is a profitable,
beneficial habit not only for the visitors who present that good image before their acquaintances, but
the reputation of the destination will be reinforced. Another important finding, this time facing the
municipalities, is that this type of initiatives is very well accepted by tourists and will produce an
improvement in the image of the destination, shaping it as a sustainable and intelligent destination.
However, perhaps the most significant finding is detected in the fact that, although specific physical
awards must be given, these should not be perceived as excessive quality, although they should be
seen as useful and as aids to the behavior promoted. Curiously, tourist satisfaction will come from
other channels, originated more by the intrinsic motivations of their satisfaction than by extrinsic ones.
That is, although small doses of extrinsic motivation are favorable to promote the objective-behavior of
the application, it is the intrinsic motivation that weighs more on the visitor’s mind.
Concluding, according to our study and as already mentioned, this type of initiative seems to be
accurate and should be promoted from the institutions with the objective, not only to improve some
behaviors of visitors but, ultimately, develop a more desirable reputation of an oversaturated destiny.
This work also has opened new research guidelines to study, and has limitations due to the testing
group size and components. It has been developed in an environment of medium-high socioeconomic
level, and therefore these subjects are supposed to be more aware of the environment. In addition,
most of the respondents are European, so it should be extrapolated to other regions of the world.
Another obstacle with which the project has been found, is the strict regulations held by some European
cities do not allow the delivery of physical prizes for these behaviors through platforms promoted
by the municipality, as in the case of Copenhagen. Besides, the use of the questionnaire limits the
approach to information gathering, although its application in studies of attitudes may be deemed
suitable. New research will continue this work in several aspects, such as the eect of promoting “good
practices” on recycling behavior, limiting the rejection of excess tourism in saturated destinations, or
how travelers in collaborative houses can be integrated into the sustainability ecosystem of cities.
Author Contributions:
L.A.-C. and R.P.-J. conceived and designed the experiments; A.C.-R. collaborated in the
app database design while P.D.S.-P. and L.A.-C. oversaw data analysis and hypothesis verifications. Final redaction
was performed by L.A.-C., P.D.S.-P. and R.P.-J.
Funding:
This work was funded in part by the European Commission, H2020 Research Program, Project
UrbanWaste, Call: H2020-WASTE-2015-two-stage, Ref. 690452.
Sustainability 2019,11, 2201 15 of 18
Conflicts of Interest: The authors declare no conflict of interest.
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A recent trend to engage and promote sustainable behaviors in transport foresees gamification, i.e. the use of game design elements in nongame contexts. To foster the expected behavior change, one should appropriately conceive, deploy and manage gamification. The paper addresses the problem of gamification design by proposing an advanced user-centered approach accounting for players’ heterogeneous preferences. This is performed using stated preference methods and is applied to a reverse logistics case study. By comparing the results obtained with the proposed approach to those derived from the traditionally adopted ones, the paper shows that the former would provide considerable new insights with respect to players’ heterogeneous preferences, thus, possibly, increasing the chance of achieving satisfactory results. The paper suggests that, whenever designing gamification to foster engagement and behavior change in transport, one should adopt a user-centered approach based on stated choice experiments to maximize its probability of success.
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Appealing to tourists’ intrinsic interest for high-quality tourism environments, and thus encouraging them to act with a greater sense of personal responsibility toward the environment, could be critical to promoting sustainable tourism. Proliferating media channels makes the choice, style and delivery of pro-environmental messages a key issue for tourism marketers and management. Social media has become a recognized important channel for tourism information, with user-generated content (UGC) being more trusted than official channels, yet there is little knowledge about its potential role in activating pro-environmental norms. This study investigates that issue. Focusing on the conjoining aspects of personal and social norms for the first time, we propose a hypothetical model to explain the direct and indirect effects of pro-environmental UGC in activating tourists’ pro-environmental behavioral intentions. Working in a Chinese context, where social media plays an increasing role, the research, using a web-based sample (N = 1043), UGC-linked pro-environmental knowledge and awareness, was found to have a strong role in activating pro-environmental norms, creating a pro-environment online community, and increasing tourists’ level of engagement in pro-environmental social media activity. The study highlights the effectiveness of social media channels with UGC providing persuasive communications able to impact sustainable behaviors.