Research: Marathons, carbon footprints and willingness to pay 1

Our Research posts are about the latest academic research being done in the School of Economics. This week:


By Waldo Krugell & Melville Saayman

There exists a large international academic literature on aspects of the environment, climate change and tourism. An analysis of the links between tourism and climate change can be grouped into four categories (Fisher, 2007), namely i) the impact of tourism on climate change, ii) the impact of climate change on tourism, iii) adaptation to climate change, and iv) mitigation of climate change. In this last category, studies of the mitigation of climate change, specifically of willingness to pay, have focussed on air travellers’ willingness to pay for carbon offsets (see Brouwer et al., 2008), or tourists’ willingness to contribute to funds for the management and conservation of a particular natural resource (see Casey et al., 2010). Our paper falls in the last category and takes the question of the environment and climate change to a sports event to ask: Are Two Oceans Marathon runners willing to pay for a “greener” race and what are their characteristics?
Most of the participants fly or drive significant distances to participate and spend a number of days in and around Cape Town as tourists. Based on their characteristics, an online carbon calculator shows that the carbon footprint of the average participant is approximately 150kg of CO2, which can be offset with approximately 1.2 trees at a cost of less than R90 ( In order to examine whether the runners are willing to pay to reduce their carbon footprint in the race, a survey was conducted at the marathon. In total, 502 athletes participated in the survey and data were collected about their demographics, spending and the key question: “Would you be willing to pay more for a more environmentally friendly marathon?”. The paper goes on to provide an overview of the literature, describe the survey, specifically the willingness to pay question and describe the sample characteristics. For the purposes of this blog we can jump to the results.
Of the 502 respondents, 11 per cent skipped the willingness to pay question. Another 27 per cent indicated that they were not willing to pay an additional fee and 62 per cent said that they would. Respondents who were willing to pay in principle were subsequently asked whether they were willing to pay a specific amount of money. Approximately 22 per cent of runners indicated that they were willing to pay R10, 12 per cent were willing to pay R30 and 19 per cent were willing to pay R50. The runners were also asked to name the maximum amount that they were willing to pay over and above the race registration fee. Almost 40 per cent did not answer the question and, for the remaining 60 per cent, the mean amount was R83.
So, who were these green runners?
  • 69 per cent of women said that they were willing to pay, compared to 58 per cent of men.
  • In the age groups 18 to 30 years, 31 to 40 years and 41 to 50 years between 62 per cent and 66 per cent were willing to pay.
  • There is little variation in willingness to pay between the differences in marital status.
  • A greater percentage of Afrikaans speakers (64%) than English speakers (61%) were willing to pay.
  • More of the athletes who had a degree or diploma (69%) or post-graduate qualification (66%) were willing to pay.
  • 72 per cent of the self-employed runners were willing to contribute.
  • Those who travelled further may be more cost sensitive and less likely to make a contribution to mitigation of their emissions.
  • When asked why they would be willing to pay the additional fee the reasons cited most were that they felt responsible for climate change and that they care about the environment in general.
  • The main reason given for not being willing to pay was that people believed that the mitigation programme will have no real impact. This was followed by reasons such as having too little income and not believing in climate change.
The conclusion is that this research presents an opportunity: If people are willing to pay for “greener” and more sustainable tourism experiences, the suppliers of leisure activities and organisers of major sports and cultural events should provide it. It also presents a challenge: segmenting the market and profiling “green” runners, visitors and tourists will require further research.
To this end, I have put together a conceptualisation of future green tourism research and hope that it will inspire Honours and Masters students who are interested to work in this field.
The complete article will be published in the South African Journal for Research in Sport, Physical Education and Recreation in 2013, issue 35 volume 1.
Brouwer, R., Brander, L. and Beukering, P. 2008. A convenient truth: air travel passengers willingness to pay to offset their CO2 emissions. Climatic Change, 90:299-313.
Casey, J.F., Brown, C.B, and Schumann, P. 2010. Are tourists willing to pay additional fees to protect corals in Mexico? Journal of Sustainable Tourism, 18(4): 557-573.
Fisher, J.  2007.  Current issues in the interdisciplinary field of climate change and tourism: A meta-study of articles from 2006 and 2007.  Paper presented at the European Tourism and the Environment Conference: Promotion and Protection, Achieving the Balance. Dublin, Ireland, 11-12 September.

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  1. Pingback: Nuus / News special report « Skool vir Ekonomie

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