When information isn't enough: The limits of demand reduction messaging as a tool to change the consumption choices of Chinese wildlife tourists
Moorhouse TP., D'Cruze NC., Macdonald DW.
Wildlife tourism has huge potential to benefit local human populations, and animal welfare and conservation objectives. A substantial proportion of wildlife tourism experiences, however, negatively impact on animals’ welfare and their species’ conservation status. An emerging goal of conservation research is to test conservation social marketing interventions aimed at modifying consumers’ choices. Here we present a preliminary test of demand reduction messaging, designed to combat barriers to Chinese consumers aligning their choice of wildlife tourist attractions (WTAs). We presented an online experimental survey to 1000 Chinese respondents. Of these 800 were shown treatment statements detailing the impacts of WTAs and how to discern these, and 200 were control respondents. Half of treatment respondents and all of control respondents were then “primed” by asking them introductory questions about WTAs’ likely impacts. We showed all respondents, in random order, 10 mock webpages, mimicking promotional materials for existing types of WTA, five designed to represent beneficial (“good”), and five detrimental (“bad”) WTAs, and asked them to rate how much they would like to visit each. We found a small effect of treatment information: 5.6% fewer treatment than control respondents gave high scores to bad WTAs, and 5.8% more gave low scores. We found no effect of treatment information on respondents’ scores for good WTAs. After the survey, respondents were shown ratings of each WTAs’ welfare and conservation impacts, and asked to re-assess them. In response 23.5% fewer gave high scores and 28.8% more gave low scores to bad attractions, percentages that were unaffected by the experimental treatment. Providing upfront, explicit statements regarding the impacts of WTAs and how to discern these, had limited effect on the choices of our Chinese respondents. We recommend conservation marketing campaigns to instead focus on providing visually appealing ratings of WTAs’ likely species conservation and animal welfare impacts.