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Open AccessArticle

Traveling Responsibly to Ecofriendly Destinations: An Individual-Level Cross-Cultural Comparison between the United Kingdom and China

School of Management and Economics, Beijing Institute of Technology, Beijing 100091, China
School of Business, University of International Business and Economics, Beijing 100029, China
School of Computer Science and Communication Engineering, Jiangsu University, Zhenjiang 212013, China
Department of Management Sciences, COMSATS University Islamabad, Sahiwal 57000, Pakistan
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Sustainability 2020, 12(8), 3248;
Received: 8 March 2020 / Revised: 1 April 2020 / Accepted: 10 April 2020 / Published: 16 April 2020


Background: Cross-cultural comparisons have remained an unexplored area in responsible tourism, and therefore, the current study aims to develop a conceptual framework and test it across cultures. The purpose of the present study was to formulate and cross-culturally confirm a research model in the context of responsible tourism. Methods: Schwartz’s personal values and theory of planned behavior are integrated into a theoretical framework in examining tourists’ revisiting intentions to ecofriendly destinations. Data were collected from experienced tourists of the United Kingdom and China and a comparison was made. Results: The findings indicate that our research model holds true for both groups; however, we observed some noteworthy differences between the two groups of samples. The findings offer suggestions to responsible tourism practitioners considering cross-cultural differences while developing tourism strategies. Conclusion: This study has some important implications for tourism marketers. Given our results, marketers should add cultural features into their marketing campaigns and devise strategies that can target a cross-cultural audience. We acknowledge research limitations and suggest future research directions to responsible tourism scholars.
Keywords: cross-cultural; responsible travel; ecofriendly; tourism; personal values; revisiting intention cross-cultural; responsible travel; ecofriendly; tourism; personal values; revisiting intention

1. Introduction

The International Ecotourism Society defines responsible tourism (we used sustainable tourism, ecofriendly, tourism and responsible tourism interchangeably throughout the manuscript. These terms refer to same meaning “responsible tourism”) as “responsible travel to natural areas, which conserves the environment, sustains well-being and involves interpretation and education.” A Sustainable Travel Report released by demonstrates that 87 percent of tourists want to travel sustainably (2018). “There is an increase of consumers seeking experience and memories, and this desire is more suited for supporting responsible travel rather than luxurious travel”, the founder and CEO of UK-based Responsible Travel company has said. Moreover, the results of a survey conducted among UK adults showed that they prefer to travel sustainably. Such trends in the responsible tourism market definitely lead scholars to study tourists’ visiting behaviors with regard to ecofriendly destinations.
In emerging tourist markets, the national culture’s role in the pro-environmental behavior of tourists has not been researched well enough in tourism literature [1]. The existing scholarship on responsible tourism has been based on Western research studies wherein the data were collected from Western travelers [2,3,4]. Although the significance of studying the association between cultural factors and tourists’ pro-environmental attitudes has been acknowledged by prior studies [5], no comprehensive examination has been conducted, with few exceptions [6,7,8]. Particularly, how the personal cultural dimensions could become the factors of pro-environmental attitudes and subsequently more responsible behavior in tourism has not been investigated in the past [1]. The lack of sufficient empirical evidence for determining responsible tourist choices may impede the development of effective environmental mitigation measures in tourism [9]. In this regard, scholars have highlighted the urgent need to consider Western versus Eastern contexts as well [10,11,12]. China has a number of ecofriendly attractions and more tourists than ever are looking for ways to travel responsibly [13,14]; therefore, it is a need of the hour to cross-culturally compare the behavior of Chinese tourists with that of those coming from Western countries [6]. Finally, in order to perpetuate cultural theory and expand its application, it is crucial that scholars incorporate Eastern and Western perspectives into their works.
It can be theorized that individual-level values, in the form of external stimuli, lead to effective response (attitude) to the purpose and application of environmentally-positive behavior [13]. Others have argued that individual-level values may be better influencers of individuals’ pro-social and pro-environmental behavior, since they are closely linked to human needs [15]. In addition, self-involvement (maximizing one’s environmental benefits and minimizing the related wellbeing risks) may also impact behavior based on self-interest, and revisiting intentions are characterized as self-interest behaviors. Therefore, with this in mind, the present study offers a conceptual framework (see Figure 1) by integrating Schwartz’s (1992) [16] bipolar dimensions and theory of planned behavior and aims to cross-culturally examine tourists’ revisit intentions of ecofriendly attractions [16]. The framework particularly examines: (1) the effect of theory of planned behavior factors on revisit intentions, (2) the impact of sustainable experience on revisit intentions, and (3) the moderating effect of Schwartz’s bipolar dimensions between theory of planned behavior factors and sustainable experience, and revisiting intentions.
The present study contributes to literature in many ways. First, it extends the ecofriendly literature by cross-culturally examining tourists’ behavior between the UK and China. Second, this study utilized Schwartz’s (1992) [16] bipolar dimensions rather than other cultural theories which often suffer from ecological fallacies. Third, the present study extends the theory of planned behavior by introducing sustainable experience into theory of planned behavior (TPB) anchors and used in our conceptual framework. Further, findings of the present study offer policy implications to government and sustainable tourism companies.

2. Theoretical Background

We conducted an in-depth literature review on tourists’ responsible behaviors, wherein we found various lines of research attempting to examine these behaviors. For instance, behavioral research used goal-directed models to investigate tourists’ perceptions and behaviors [17]. In addition, other streams of research endeavored to examine the social and economic benefits of responsible tourism [18,19,20] for destination residents [2]. Tourism studies have examined the role of interpreters and individuals in communicating nature conservation messages [3]. Other scholars have used personality traits and environmental beliefs as predictors of tourists’ willingness to pay for ecofriendly products [21]. Recent research has been more focused on using various perspectives, i.e., situational factors [22] and value–belief–norm models [23]. We find these findings inconsistent, providing a clear reason to conduct further research.

2.1. Theory of Personal Values

A widely accepted personal values framework was proposed by Schwartz (1992) [16], and it is intended to measure differences at individual level. This theory suggests that individuals have a set of values that determines the importance of individuals’ actions. This framework moves to other cultural frameworks because it requires measuring differences at the individual level [24]. For several reasons, Schwartz’s framework is considered important in social psychological science research [25]. First, it is firmly grounded and based on theory, and its central elements are rooted in previous work in social science and psychology. Second, the framework has been shown to have a cross-cultural balance of capital measures at the individual level. Third, the Schwartz model is different and more complete than the Hofstede, Globe, and other cultural models [26,27]. Hofstede and others created country level values, but not individual-level values. Schwartz’s work is divided into two distinct analyses: individual-level analysis (10 lower-level values) and cultural-level analysis (7 cultural values). In addition, Schwartz’s individual-level value classification can be used for individual-level analysis in different countries/communities because these values are equally relevant in both Western and Eastern contexts [28,29].
Seminal works of Schwartz (1992) [16] have established that individuals behave based on value orientations. The Schwartz Values Survey (SVS) structured these human values into four higher-order value domains and two basic bipolar dimensions (i.e., resultant self-transcendence (self-transcendence vs. self-enhancement) and resultant conservation (conservation vs. openness-to-change)), and in the present study, we utilized these two bipolar value dimensions. Resultant self-transcendence refers to importance attached to self-transcendence value types minus the importance attached to self-enhancement value types. The two lower-level value types, i.e., universalism and benevolence, are congruent with each other, representing the domain of self-transcendence. These value types conflict with hedonism, power, and achievement, which represent self-enhancement. Bipolar dimensions offer a new perspective on research questions related to cultural phenomena. These dimensions have an interesting potential. They can explain ethical attributions in countries classified as individualistic and are considered more effective in explaining relationships between variables of interest. Thus, this is a more powerful theory particularly, in environments where the influence of the social contract is ubiquitous [30].
Various studies on pro-environmental behaviors have successfully used Schwartz’s (1992) [16] personal values. For instance, consumer studies have effectively found significant links between value types of self-enhancement and conservation while examining consumers’ environmentally-responsible behavior [31]. Moreover, Schultz and Zelezny (1999) [32] utilized value-basis theory in a cross-cultural study and found that consumers’ pro-environmental attitude is affected by the values of power, universalism, tradition, benevolence, and security [32]. Other scholars have found that individuals with stronger conservation and self-transcendence are shaped by normative goals, and they behave in a more environmentally-friendly way [33].
Specifically, in a sustainable tourism context, very few studies have considered examining the association between Schwartz’s personal values and ecofriendly behaviors [13]. For example, Ballantyne et al. (2018) [34] explored an association between tourists’ values and learning outcomes of the environment at nature-based attractions in the USA, Australia, and Canada [34]. Recently, a significant role of personal values has been confirmed in determining the decisions of young tourists [35]. Though the role of Schwartz’s value dimensions on tourists’ behavior has been discussed, our understanding of ecofriendly behaviors is still limited and largely based on Western data [34]. Therefore, a cross-cultural examination would be a better initiative to understand tourists’ ecofriendly behavior across countries.

2.2. Theory of Planned Behavior

To explain how behavioral intentions are engendered, one of the most often utilized models is the theory of planned behavior [13]. It was proposed by Ajzen (1985) [36], who later merged perceived behavioral control into the theory of reasoned action, which was proposed by Fishbein and Ajzen in 1975 [36,37,38]. The TPB suggests that intent to act is the most connected element of a behavior. It assumes that behavioral intentions are made up of three core elements: behavioral beliefs, normative beliefs, and behavioral controls [39,40]. The TPB model has been effectively applied while examining individuals’ general, as well as specific behaviors, such as ecofriendly behaviors. Studies on sustainable behaviors show a widespread interest in using TPB. For example, Han (2015) [23] developed a unified framework and integrated TPB with the value–belief–norm model and determined its role in the creation of travelers’ pro-environmental intentions. Moreover, a modified TPB model was used to determine consumers’ decision making to pay premium prices for green hotels [41]. Some studies have integrated the TPB and the theory of reasoned action and proposed a model of goal-directed behavior which was used in measuring tourists’ visiting intentions of environmentally-friendly museums. In the Chinese context, studies applied TPB as a contextual factor to inquire about tourists’ responsible environmental behaviors [22].
The intention to visit ecofriendly destinations can be viewed from two similar aspects, (1) pro-environmental and (2) pro-social behaviors, and it is activated by factors such as caring attitude toward society and concerns for the coming generations or the overall ecosystem [9]. Furthermore, it can also be observed as self-interest behavior, referring to dynamics such as maximizing one’s ecobenefits and the minimizing the related risks [13]. Ecofriendly behaviors occur due to knowledge interaction, behavioral opportunities/constraints, as well as due to the presence of personal values [26]. Hence, both the theory of personal values and theory of planned behavior are appropriate choices to investigate revisit intentions and behavior with respect to ecofriendly destinations [21]. Hereafter, throughout the study the authors used sustainability context with theory of planned behavior and we represent it with an abbreviation of STPB. The TPB has been observed as strongly predictive of intentional behavior within (e.g., [42]) and across cultures [43], but its integration with personal value frameworks requires research attention while examining the behaviors in cross-cultural settings.

3. Hypotheses and Theoretical Framework

3.1. STPB Factors and Visiting Intentions

In responsible tourism settings, previous studies have confirmed the relationship between TPB factors and consumers’ sustainable decision-making processes, e.g., [2,3,13,17,22,23,44]. In a study of environmental theory of planned behavior (ETPB), it was found that individuals’ sustainable attitude, green subjective norms, and green perceived behavioral control (PBC) increase their green and sustainable behavioral intentions [45]. Sustainable attitude refers to the extent to which tourists have a wise, pleasant, beneficial, and attractive attitude toward ecofriendly destinations. Green subjective norms are defined as the extent to which tourists value important ones (peers and family) while deciding to visit ecofriendly destinations. Green perceived behavioral control refers to tourists’ assessed ability to overcome obstacles and accomplish ecofriendly behavior [37].
In a study of environmentally-friendly museums, the three TPB factors (tourists’ attitudes, subjective norms, and PBC) positively affect their intention to visit [17]. Moreover, Han (2015) [23] found that travelers’ attitudes, subjective norms, and PBC significantly influence their intention to visit green hotels. Other scholars applied the TPB in bicycle tourism, and their results exhibited the usefulness of TPB anchors in tourists’ decision-making processes [46]. Similarly, in a green lodging context, scholars extended the TPB and found a direct impact of attitude, subjective norms, and PBC on tourists’ intention to pay conventional-hotel prices for sustainable hotels [41,47]. It was established that in tourism activities, consumers’ attitudes, subjective norms, and PBC enhance their willingness to stay at green hotels [48]. A more recent finding indicates that tourists’ attitudes, subjective norms, and PBC toward their environmental behaviors positively affect their environmentally-responsible behaviors [22].
A sustainable destination experience brings positive impacts to individuals, communities, and wellbeing of society; it is therefore critically important to understand its key role in attitude formulation. Studies have revealed that previous experience in tourism contexts was likely to influence future behaviors [49,50,51,52,53,54,55]. For example, Curtin (2010) [56] found that previous tourism experience has an impact on responsible behaviors [56]. Other studies have emphasized including the role of sustainable experience in theoretical frameworks [50]. Moreover, a sustainable tourist experience is the key predictor in shaping the overall satisfaction level [57]. Sustainable experiences enhance tourists’ willingness and satisfaction, which can further lead to tourists’ intention to visit ecofriendly destinations [58].
Based on the above discussion, we formulate the following hypotheses:
Tourists’ sustainable attitudes are positively associated with their intention to visit ecofriendly destinations.
Tourists’ sustainable subjective norms are positively associated with their intention to visit ecofriendly destinations.
Tourists’ sustainable PBC is positively associated with their intention to visit ecofriendly destinations.
Tourists’ sustainable experience is positively associated with their intention to visit ecofriendly destinations.

3.2. Schwartz’s Personal Values and TPB Factors

Personal values are stimulated and are likely to influence behaviors when they are brought into individuals’ decision-making process [28]. Ajzen and Fishbein (1980) [59] suggest that a person’s value priorities predict the influence of personal attitudes and subjective norms on their behavior formation [59]. Subsequently, Ajzen and Fishbein (2005) [40] confirmed that individual dissimilarities (i.e., personal values) may lead to the development of an interaction between attitude and subjective behavioral control [40]. Empirical findings also support this argument. For example, studies have found that the values of self-transcendence and conservation are significantly positively associated with the green shopping approach [60]. In an attempt to examine consumers’ intentions to purchase organic food, they found that self-transcendence and conservation significantly affect people’s attitudes, subjective norms, and behavioral control [61]. Users who hold self-enhancement values are less likely to develop persistent attitudes and behavior control, while those who strongly agree with self-transcendence values are the opposite [4]. Further evidence found that Schwartz’s values of self-transcendence and conservation have an association with tourists’ subjective norms and PBC [10,11,35]. Thus, we hypothesize the following:
Resultant self-transcendence (self-transcendence versus self-enhancement) positively moderates the relationship between tourists’ (a) sustainable attitudes, (b) sustainable subjective norms, (c) sustainable PBC, and (d) sustainable experience and their visiting intention to ecofriendly destinations, wherein the relationships are stronger in the case of the UK compared to that of China.
Resultant conservation (conservation versus openness-to-change) positively moderates the relationship between tourists’ (a) sustainable attitudes, (b) sustainable subjective norms, (c) sustainable PBC, and (d) sustainable experience and their visiting intention to ec-friendly destinations, wherein the relationships are stronger in the case of the UK compared to that of China.

4. Methodology

4.1. Research Settings

To achieve the goals of the present study, we selected the United Kingdom and China for two reasons. First, our study’s goal is to collect tourists’ data from countries that are culturally different. It has been established that Western countries (e.g., the UK) and Far East Asian countries (e.g., China) are different based on their diverse cultural characteristics [62]. In addition, these countries have different political, socioeconomic, and demographic factors that create national differences in individual-level value dimensions [63]. We argue that this holds true for the UK and China. Based on these arguments, we can cross-culturally compare these two countries.

4.2. Measurement and Instrument Development

4.2.1. Measures

Self-transcendence and Self-enhancement

We adapted a six-item scale to measure the value dimension of self-transcendence and conservation. A 5-point Likert scale ranging from 1 (= not like me at all) to 5 (= very much like me) was used. In their study, Ahmad and Sun (2018) modified these items to fit into behavioral contexts [64].

TPB Factors (Attitude, Subjective Norms, and Perceived Behavioral Control)

To measure attitude, we used a five-item 7-point semantic differential scale developed by Ajzen and Fishbein (1980). For subjective norms and perceived behavioral control, a three-item scale developed by Ajzen (1980) was operationalized in the current study [59].

Sustainable Experience

We used an eight-item scale of Kim and Brown (2012) to measure sustainable experience [54].

Visiting Intention

We relied on Ashraf’s (2019) 7-point Likert-scale (extremely disagree = 1 to extremely agree = 7) to measure tourists’ future visits to an ecofriendly destination [13].
The initial instrument was developed in English, and we used the same version in China. English is an official and widely accepted language for England. For China, we translated it into the Chinese language with the help of a bilingual speaker. Two professors were consulted on the Chinese version. Following their feedback, we further revised the questionnaire.

4.3. Procedures

Our target respondents were tourists from the UK and China who have already visited ecofriendly destinations. At the beginning of the questionnaire, we provided a detailed definition of an ecofriendly destination with the following statement: “an ecofriendly destination is an environmentally-sustainable attraction that has made important environmental improvements to its structure to minimize its impact on the natural environment” [65]. We utilized the matched sampling technique in which data were collected at the same time in the two countries, and participants were approached at the universities of China. This technique is recommended when groups are compared for potential differences [66]. The Chinese participants were first approached by one of the authors at three business schools in Beijing and Shanghai. Our UK sample consisted of exchange students who came from a UK university to attend one semester of an exchange program at a Chinese university. We confirmed their nationality being British since their groups also included international students studying in the UK. Screening questions further confirmed that the respondents had already visited an ecofriendly destination in the last year. Our sample comprised Gen-Z tourists who were aged 20–29 and showed intent to visit an ecofriendly destination in the next 12 months. Previous research has revealed that Gen-Z cohorts are the most environmentally-educated generation and strong advocates of social responsibility [67,68,69,70,71]. Hence, they served as the best sample for the present study. It took approximately 20 minutes to complete the questionnaire. Incomplete and wrongly-filled responses were discarded. The valid UK sample consisted of 197 tourists, representing 65.66% of the 300 total distributed questionnaires. The valid Chinese sample comprised 223 usable responses out of 300 distributed questionnaires. Additionally, age, gender, education, and marital status were also included as control variables (Table 1).

5. Analysis

5.1. Measurement Invariance Analysis

A measurement invariance test was performed for all seven constructs in the research model (see Table 2). The objectives of this test were to ensure that the measurement instrument was completely homogeneous and that the measured framework was the same theoretical framework across the two different groups of samples (UK and China). For this, we followed the systematically organized procedure of Steenkamp and Baumgartner [72,73,74]. During this procedure, we followed these logical steps: (1) Configural invariance was tested first (the same pattern of factor loadings across groups), (2) then we examined for metric invariance (equal factor loadings for at least two items of each construct) and scalar invariance (equal intercepts across groups). In this procedure, we checked for key values such as p-value, Δχ2 statistic, Δ comparative fit index (ΔCFI), and root mean square error of approximation (RMSEA), which characterizes a rigorous test of invariance. The results indicate that the three TPB factors obtained significant measurement equivalence results. The construct of sustainable attitude successfully achieved metric invariance (p = 0.784, Δχ2 = 1.072, ΔCFI = 0.000, RMSEA = 0.000) and scalar invariance (p = 0.519, Δχ2 = 6.182, ΔCFI = 0.000, RMSEA = 0.000). The subjective norms demonstrate similar results: metric invariance (p = 0.405, Δχ2 = 2.744, ΔCFI = 0.000, RMSEA = 0.000) and scalar invariance (p = 0.380, Δχ2 = 7.243, ΔCFI = 0.006, RMSEA = 0.041). The factor of sustainable PBC also shows full measurement invariance across two groups: metric invariance (p = 0.072, Δχ2 = 5.025, ΔCFI = 0.003, RMSEA = 0.045) and scalar invariance (p = 0.022, Δχ2 = 13.101, ΔCFI = 0.007, RMSEA = 0.045). The factor of sustainable experience also obtained full metric (p = 0.801, Δχ2 = 0.443, RMSEA = 0.000, ΔCFI = 0.000) and scalar invariance (p = 0.415, Δχ2 = 5.009, RMSEA = 0.001, ΔCFI = 0.000). Moreover, the two constructs of Schwartz’s bipolar dimensions obtained full metric invariance ((resultant self-transcendence; p = 0.908, Δχ2 = 0.192, ΔCFI = 0.000, RMSEA = 0.000: resultant conservation (p = 0.102, Δχ2 = 6.198, ΔCFI = 0.001, RMSEA = 0.102). Both constructs also showed complete scalar invariance: resultant self-transcendence (p = 0.048, Δχ2 = 11.171, ΔCFI = 0.000, RMSEA = 0.000) and resultant conservation (p = 0.056, Δχ2 = 13.723, ΔCFI = 0.003, RMSEA = 0.051). In the case of visiting intentions, we also achieved metric (p = 0.052, Δχ2 = 9.046, RMSEA = 0.035, ΔCFI = 0.004) and scalar invariance (p = 0.174, Δχ2 = 2.802, RMSEA = 0.026, ΔCFI = 0.002). We followed the standard recommended by Cheung and Rensvold (2002) to check whether the obtained ΔCFI values are below the threshold of 0.01 [75]. Hence, our results show that all measurements are invariant, and we can confidently compare the constructs across two samples.

5.2. Measurement Model

We followed Anderson and Gerbing’s two-stage statistical analysis method for structural equation modeling (SEM) [76,77,78]. In the first part, we analyzed the reliability and validity of the measurement model and performed the path analysis of the structural model. The aim of this approach is to establish the validity and reliability of the measures before testing their structural relationships with each other. A covariance-based confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) was performed to gauge the validity of all seven latent constructs for both groups of samples (see Table 3). The results of CFA for both samples are: for the UK sample; χ2 = 1298.398, df = 774, χ2/df = 1.677, p = 0.000; Tucker–Lewis Index (TLI) = 0.956; relative fit index (RFI) = 0.898; goodness-of-fit index (GFI) = 0.894; incremental fit index (IFI) = 0.960; root mean square error of approximation (RMSEA) = 0.037; normed fit index (NFI) = 0.908; root mean square residual (RMR) = 0.066, comparative fit index (CFI) = 0.960; for the Chinese sample: χ2 = 860.781, df = 774, χ2/df = 1.112, p<.05; normed fit index (NFI) = 0.910; RMR = 0.060; RFI = 0.900; IFI = 0.990; CFI = 0.990; GFI = 0.891, TLI = 0.989; and RMSEA = 0.018. Overall, measurement analysis yielded good model fit scores, which shows that data were a good fit with our model. We also checked for convergent and discriminant validity. To confirm convergent validity, all factor loadings should be >0.50, composite reliability (CR) should be >0.70, and average variance extracted (AVE) should be >0.50 [79]. All our variables showed values above this threshold. The scores of CR exceeded the standard value of 0.70 for both samples. The values of AVE ranged from 0.55 to 0.70 for the UK sample, and those of the Chinese sample ranged from 0.57 to 0.70, exceeding the threshold of 0.50. Hence, convergent validity was achieved. We checked discriminant validity by examining whether the square root of AVE exceeds the correlations of a variable with other variables in the model [80]. Our measurement model results fulfilled this criterion for discriminant validity (see Table 4).

6. Research Model

6.1. Direct Effects

We employed structural equation modeling (SEM) with maximum likelihood estimation to test our hypotheses. The research of research model indicates good model fit statistics for both of the samples (UK sample: χ2 = 1348.598, df = 679, χ2/df = 1.986, p = 0.000; CFI = 0.921; IFI = 0.920; TLI = 0.935; RMSEA = 0.043; Chinese sample: χ2 = 1291.705, df = 797, χ2/df = 1.620, p = 0.002; CFI = 0.930; IFI = 0.941; TLI = 0.921; RMSEA = 0.045). Overall, the abovementioned results indicate that the structure of the proposed research model effectively describes the relationships among the variables (Hair et al., 2011 [79]). Our analysis of hypotheses revealed different results for the two groups. Sustainable attitude (SATT) had different effects in the two countries. In UK, SATT had a strong positive impact (βUK = 0.546 ***, p < 0.001) on revisiting intention (RVI) compared to China (βCN = 0.133 **, p < 0.01). Thus, H1 is supported. Contrarily, we found a positive relationship of sustainable social norms (SSN) with RVI in the case of the UK (βUK = 0.731 ***, p < 0.001), but the results are insignificant when examined for the Chinese sample (βCN = 0.370, p > 0.05). Thus, we partially accept H2. In addition, we also found significant positive effects of sustainable PBC (SPBC) on RVI in the UK (βUK = 0.468 ***, p < 0.001) and China (βCN = 0.431 **, p < 0.01), but the differences are not much greater. Hence, we still accept H3. The hypothesized relationships between sustainable experience (SE) and RVI were partially supported because it was accepted in the UK βUK = 0.552 *, p < 0.05) but was found negative for China (βCN = −0.715 *, p < 0.05) (see Figure 2 and Figure 3).

6.2. Moderation and Simple Main Effects

The next set of hypotheses is related to the moderating effects of Schwartz’s bipolar dimensions between STPB factors, SE, and revisiting intentions. We checked for the moderation of metric variables through interaction effects using SPSS. In this procedure, we examined for the main direct effects of the independent variables on dependent variables (Table 5). We performed this analysis separately for both bipolar dimensions (resultant self-transcendence and resultant conservation). First, the direct effect of SATT on RVI is statistically significant for both samples (UK = 5.557, p < 0.05; CN = 4.454, p < 0.05), and the interaction effect between SATT and resultant self-transcendence (RST) (SATT × RST) on RVI is also statically significant in both data groups (βUK = 0.218 **, p < 0.01; βCN = 0.370 **, p < 0.01). Thus, H5a is accepted. Likewise, we also found significant interaction effects of SSN and RST on RVI for both samples (βUK = 0.336 *, p < 0.05; βCN = 0.109 **, p < 0.01). Therefore, H5b is also supported. On the other hand, the moderation for SPBC has not been achieved for both samples (SPBC: βUK = 0.574, p > 0.05; βCN = 0.434, p > 0.05); hence, we reject H5c. By contrast, the interaction of SE and RST (SE × RST) was also proven significant in the UK sample (SE: βUK = 0.098 *, p < 0.05) but insignificant in the Chinese sample (βCN = 0.147, p > 0.05), so we partially accept H5d. We repeated the same process to examine the interaction effects of STPB, SE, and resultant conservation. We checked the main direct effect of resultant conservation on revisiting intentions, which were found to be significant in both samples (UK = 9.734, p < 0.05; CN = 13.864, p < 0.05). The moderation of SATT and resultant conservation (RC) (SATT × RC) has a positive significant effect on revisiting intentions (βUK = 0.665 **, p < 0.01; βCN = 0.139, p < 0.05). Therefore, we accept H6a. Moreover, the interaction of SSN with RC is significant in the UK sample (βUK = 0.514 *, p < 0.05), but we found it to be insignificant in the case of the Chinese sample (βCN = −0.0113, p < 0.05). Therefore, H6b is partially accepted. Likewise, a significant interaction effect was obtained for SPBC in the UK (βUK = 0.368 **, p < 0.01), while the interaction of SPBC was insignificant in China (βCN = 0.287, p > 0.05). H6c is partially accepted. Finally, the interaction effect of sustainable experience with resultant conservation was also found to be significant (βUK = 0.417 **, p < 0.01; βCN = 0.396 *, p < 0.05). Thus, we accept H6d.

7. Discussion and Conclusion

The purpose of the present study was to formulate and cross-culturally confirm a research model in the context of responsible tourism. The findings offer some unique theoretical insights and research model adjustments for behavioral differences between the United Kingdom and China. Our research model holds true for both the United Kingdom and Chinese samples; however, it also shows some significant differences. Overall, sustainable attitude and sustainable perceived behavioral control are important predictors of revisiting intentions [22,23,44,45]. Whereas the results for SSN and sustainable experience were found to be significant for the United Kingdom, the same was not true for the Chinese sample. In the case of moderating effects, the relationship is significant for both groups, where resultant self-transcendence moderates sustainable attitude, SNN, and revisiting intentions. However, this was rejected in the case of sustainable perceived behavioral control for both samples, and in SE when examining the Chinese sample. The logical justification is that tourists in both countries have not given consideration to perceived behavioral control in the presence of higher self-transcendence value types while formulating their behavioral intentions to visit ecofriendly destinations.
We also found a significant moderating effect when we tested for RC being moderated between sustainable attitude and revisiting intentions, whereas the relationship was insignificant when the interaction between SSN and RC was checked for the Chinese sample (accepted for the UK sample), and we found the same for sustainable perceived behavioral control and revisiting intentions. Lastly, the interaction of SE and RC was found to be significant for both the United Kingdom and China.
As expected, we found differences between the behavior of tourists from the United Kingdom and China. The χ2 difference (Δχ2) test reveals that in our model, 10 out of a total of 12 hypotheses differed across the two groups of samples. In both samples, sustainable attitude had a significant relationship with revisiting intentions, and this corroborates previous findings, where pro-environmental attitude is an important predictor of sustainable attitude [45]. This effect is stronger in the United Kingdom (βUK = 0.546 ***) compared to China (βCN = 0.133 **), and the logical justification is that people from the United Kingdom have more of an inclination toward a sustainable attitude as compared to Chinese; and the argument of a transition of Chinese culture from a more collectivistic one to an individualistic does not yet hold true [81,82,83]. Our results are also consistent with the seminal work of country comparisons for personal and societal values (Schwartz, 1992, 1999) [16]. Consistent with previous research, the relationship of sustainable-perceived behavioral control with revisiting intentions is also significant for both countries, but we again found a stronger effect in the UK sample (βUK = 0.468 ***) compared to the Chinese one (βCN = 0.431 **). UK tourists showed strong behavioral control and their ability to overcome hurdles and accomplish a behavior is higher when compared to that of Chinese. The findings regarding sustainable experience were also found to be different between the UK (βUK = 0.552 *), and China (βCN = −0.715), but the obtained effect was in opposite direction for the Chinese sample; thus, we rejected this hypothesis. The explanation could be that Chinese people do not have much experience visiting ecofriendly attractions. In terms of moderating effects, the interaction between sustainable attitude and resultant self-transcendence (SATT × RST) had a stronger effect in the Chinese sample (βCN = 0.370 *) compared to the UK sample (βUK = 0.218 *), whereas we obtained higher coefficients for the UK (βUK = 0.336 *), than for China (βCN = 0.109) in the case of interaction between sustainable subjective norms and resultant self-transcendence (SSN × RST). This shows a high level of resultant self-transcendence among Chinese people and confirms previous studies which have demonstrated that Chinese people emphasize the protection of their society’s interest over than their own self-enhancement [64]. This further explains that society-oriented values dominate and create a shared value system in China. We also found the interaction between sustainable experience and RST to be significant in UK, whereas the hypothesis was not supported when we checked it for the Chinese sample. This clearly illustrates that people from the UK have more sustainable experiences in their travels compared to Chinese people.
We also examined the moderating role of resultant conservation between STPB, SE, and revisiting intention. The first finding is that sustainable attitude and resultant conservation successfully impacts revisiting intentions in both samples, which means that people in both countries possess conservation attitudes. For subjective norms, our findings indicate that UK people hold sustainable subjective norms and SPBC, but in the case of Chinese people, our findings do not support previous studies. However, in terms of sustainable experience, people in both countries showed similar intentions when we introduce resultant conservation as a moderator.

8. Implications

This study has several theoretical and managerial implications.

8.1. Theoretical Implications

This study has numerous theoretical contributions. It advances knowledge beyond prior research on responsible tourism by focusing on contexts outside the USA and European countries. Firstly and most importantly, we developed and validated a research model in a setting outside the US to increase our understanding of responsible tourism consumption. This study extends the argument of Ballantyne et al. (2018), Ye et al. (2018), and Ashraf et al. (2020) and cross-culturally examined revisit intentions between the UK and China. Overall, our model shows strong predicting power for both groups of samples.
Secondly, although previous studies have examined the role of personal values in determining pro-environmental behaviors, this study is the first of its kind which used Schwartz’s bipolar dimensions in cross-cultural ecofriendly behaviors of tourists. Prior studies have used bipolar dimensions, but contexts were limited to IT system adoption [84], whereas the present study took a different view and examined the impact of bipolar dimensions in ecofriendly tourism behaviors.
Thirdly, to extend the theory of planned behaviors, we incorporated sustainable experience along with three TPB factors. We responded to the research calls of Frias-Jamilena et al. (2012) and Polo-Pena et al. (2013) [50,51,52,53,55] who recommended the examination of sustainable experience into self-interest behaviors. Our results confirm the key role sustainable experience plays in determining the impact of STPB on revisiting intentions in the presence of moderating role of Schwartz’s personal values.

8.2. Managerial Implications

This study has some important implications for tourism marketers. Given our results of bipolar dimensions of self-transcendence and conservation, marketers should add cultural features into their marketing campaigns and devise strategies that can target cross-cultural audiences. Specifically, our findings regarding self-transcendence and conservation imply that the marketers of tourism companies should consider the ethics and values of a local culture because the same ethical values are not held by tourists in the same culture. Each international market has varying cultural preferences. The use of different shapes, colors, and iconic features can have different cultural significance in different markets. Knowing one’s audience and glocalization marketing strategies can have far-reaching effects across cultures. Moreover, these findings have important implications for designing effective tourist experiences. We expect that tourists from diverse cultural backgrounds who are likely to engage in ecofriendly experiences during their visits are most likely the ones who possess values of saving the overall environment and society. In this regard, they may ultimately demonstrate their attitude towards the environment through value-expressive behaviors. Our findings related to sustainable experience suggest that people remember experiences; therefore, tourism managers should devise appropriate strategies to make their experiences more memorable. We further provide some recommendations to managers, which are as follows:
  • They should provide a digital storybook at destination sites which has pictures from tourists’ visit. This is directly linked to their tradition value.
  • They should motivate future tourists with constructive ecofriendly expectations of their peers and family, which is linked to their conformity values.
  • They should allow tourists from different cultures to demonstrate their competence and should attain their social approval, which is linked with tourists’ achievement values.
A combined strategy including both Western and Eastern elements would be a feasible and appropriate approach. Moreover, strategists and tourism service designers may include sustainable elements into their offerings, which may effectively attract potential tourists and increase their number of revisits.

9. Limitations and Future Research

Every study has some limitations that need acknowledgment, and we can also propose a number of future research directions for responsible tourism researchers. First, although the Schwartz values are the predictive factors in the present work, to confirm the cross-cultural differences, future research may incorporate Hofstede’s cultural framework to further understand the cross-cultural dynamics between diverse groups of countries. Second, although the present study makes an important contribution to the literature and provides new insights, this field represents an early stage in developing an integrated theoretical framework to understand responsible tourism consumption in different cultures. While the two selected countries (UK and China) have been demonstrated to differ, future research may replicate findings by moving beyond the China Mainland and conduct comparisons between Western countries and Taiwan and/or Hong Kong. Third, to avoid generalizability issues, we suggest that future researchers conduct longitudinal studies.

Author Contributions

Conceptualization, M.S.A.; Funding acquisition, F.H.; Investigation, M.S.A.; Methodology, M.S.A. and M.J.; Project administration, F.H.; Software, M.S.A., S.A.A.K. and R.U.A.; Supervision, F.H.; Validation, M.S.A., N.A. and R.U.A. All authors have read and agreed to the published version of the manuscript.


This research was sponsored by the National Natural Science Foundation of China under Grant No. 71571019.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest.


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Figure 1. Conceptual framework.
Figure 1. Conceptual framework.
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Figure 2. Results of the UK sample. *** p < 0.001; ** p < 0.01; * p < 0.05.
Figure 2. Results of the UK sample. *** p < 0.001; ** p < 0.01; * p < 0.05.
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Figure 3. Results of the Chinese sample. *** p < 0.001; ** p < 0.01; * p < 0.05.
Figure 3. Results of the Chinese sample. *** p < 0.001; ** p < 0.01; * p < 0.05.
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Table 1. Demographic profile of respondents.
Table 1. Demographic profile of respondents.
Demographic InformationUK Sample (n = 197)Chinese Sample (n = 223)
Age (years)
Income (USD/Month)
<$1000 USD9849.711652.5
$1001–1500 USD7940.18637.9
$1501–2000 USD115.6125.5
$2001–2500 USD94.594.1
>$2500 USD00.000
Education level
Frequency of travel
Once a month105.062.6
3 months2110.32410.8
6 months3216.39140.8
12 months (1 year)5829.75825.9
24 months (2 years)7638.64419.9
Note. US Dollar (US$) figures are the approximate conversion of Chinese RMB and UK pound sterling to USD.
Table 2. Measurement invariance tests.
Table 2. Measurement invariance tests.
Model Descriptionχ2dfΔχ2ΔdfStatistical Significance (p)RMSEANFIRFICFIΔCFI
Sustainable attitude
Configural model (Unconstrained)1.7754--0.7740.0000.9990.9971.000-
Measurement weights2.84771.07230.7840.0000.9980.9971.0000.000
Measurement intercepts7.957116.18270.5190.0000.9950.9961.0000.000
Sustainable subjective norms
Configural model (Unconstrained)4.5504--0.3370.0130.9970.9921.000-
Measurement weights1.80622.74420.4050.0000.9980.9951.0000.000
Measurement intercepts11.79357.24310.3800.0410.9900.9880.9940.006
Sustainable PBC
Configural model (Unconstrained)0.0000---1.0001.0001.000
Measurement weights5.62525.62520.0720.0450.9960.9870.9970.003
Measurement intercepts13.101513.10150.0220.0450.9890.9870.9930.007
Sustainable experience
Configural model (Unconstrained)0.0000---1.000-
Measurement weights0.44320.44320.8010.0001.0000.9991.0000.000
Measurement intercepts5.00955.00950.4150.0010.9960.9961.0000.000
Resultant self-transcendence
Configural model (Unconstrained)0.0000------1.000-
Measurement weights0.19220.19220.9080.0001.0001.0001.0000.000
Measurement intercepts11.171511.17150.0480.0390.9910.9890.9950.005
Resultant conservation
Configural model (Unconstrained)20.3554---0.0710.9890.9670.991-
Measurement weights26.55376.19830.1020.0590.9860.9760.9900.001
Measurement intercepts34.0781113.72370.0560.0510.9820.9800.9880.003
Visiting intention
Configural model (Unconstrained)4.8974--0.2980.0170.9970.9921.000-
Measurement weights13.94379.04630.0520.0350.9920.9870.9960.004
Measurement intercepts7.69952.80210.1740.0260.9940.9930.9980.002
Note: Δχ2 = difference in chi-square values between models; Δdf = difference in number of degrees of freedom between models; ΔCFI = difference between comparative fit index (CFI) values between models. The ΔCFI values show complete invariance because all obtained values are less than cut-off value (0.01) recommended by Cheung and Rensvold (2002).
Table 3. Confirmatory factor analysis.
Table 3. Confirmatory factor analysis.
ConstructIndicatorsSFL (UK; n = 197)SFL (China; n = 223)
Sustainable attitude (SATT)
(UK; α = 0.94, CR = 0.95, AVE = 0.61; UK; α = 0.88, CR = 0.84, AVE = 0.57)
Sustainable social norms (SSN)
(UK; α = 0.84, CR = 0.88, AVE = 0.070; China; α = 0.88, CR = 0.84, AVE = 0.57)
Sustainable PBC (SPBC)
(UK; α = 0.85, CR = 0.85, AVE = 0.66; China; α = 0.88, CR = 0.84, AVE = 0.57)
Sustainable Experience (SE)
(UK; α = 0.81, CR = 0.81, AVE = 0.59; China; α = 0.88, CR = 0.84, AVE = 0.57)
Resultant self-transcendence (RST)
(UK; α = 0.88, CR = 0.88, AVE = 0.57; China; α = 0.88, CR = 0.84, AVE = 0.57)
Resultant conservation (RC)
(UK; α = 0.84, CR = 0.88, AVE = 0.55; China; α = 0.88, CR = 0.84, AVE = 0.57)
Revisiting intention (RVI)
(UK; α = 0.80, CR = 0.79, AVE = 0.57; China; α = 0.88, CR = 0.84, AVE = 0.57)
Table 4. Correlations, discriminant validity.
Table 4. Correlations, discriminant validity.
10.77 a; 0.81 b0.56 a; 0.62 b0.54 a; 0.28 b0.47 a; 0.36 b0.48 a; 0.61 b0.72 a; 0.55 b0.41 a; 0.29 b
20.82 a; 0.75 b0.27 a; 0.11 b0.22 a; 0.57 b0.39 a; 0.61 b0.21 a; 0.54 b0.36 a; 0.65 b
30.79 a; 0.71 b0.29 a; 0.63 b0.21 a; 0.09 b0.19 a; 0.40 b0.20 a; 0.37 b
40.72 a; 0.76 b0.42 a; 0.51 b0.36 a; 0.49 b0.42 a; 0.17 b
50.74 a; 0.80 b0.47 a; 0.22 b0.45 a; 0.28 b
60.80 a; 0.91 b0.56 a; 0.33 b
70.78 a; 0.84 b
Mean3.16 a; 3.54 b3.04 a; 3.27 b3.32 a; 2.46 b2.67 a; 3.62 b3.46 a; 2.21 b3.89 a; 3.28 b3.75 a; 3.15 b
SD0.96 a; 0.84 b0.78 a; 0.89 b0.79 a; 1.09 b1.31 a; 0.97 b0.76 a; 1.22 b0.71 a; 1.02 b0.98 a; 0.79 b
Note: 1 = SATT, 2 = SSN, 3 = SPBC, 4 = SE, 5 = RST, 6 = RC, 7 = RVI: a = UK; b = CN.
Table 5. Results of hypotheses; Multigroup comparisons on the basis of the structural model and coefficient paths.
Table 5. Results of hypotheses; Multigroup comparisons on the basis of the structural model and coefficient paths.
UKChinaResultsModel Comparison
Model descriptionβUKβCNΔχ2Δdfp
Structural model (China: R2 = 0.44; UK: R2 = 0.47)31.69190.034
H1. SATT → RVI0.546 ***0.133 **UK: Supported; CN: Supported9.1430.031
H2. SSN → RVI0.731 ***0.370UK: Supported; CN: Rejected6.99820.040
H3. SPBC → RVI0.468 ***0.431 **UK: Supported; CN: Supported13.10740.01
H4. SE→ RVI0.552 *−0.715 *UK: Supported; CN: Rejected5.99220.049
H5a. SATT × RST → RVI0.218 *0.370 *UK: Supported; CN: Supported8.96030.029
H5b. SSN × RST → RVI0.336 *0.109 **UK: Supported; CN: Supported4.07010.044
H5c. SPBC × RST → RVI0.5740.434UK: Rejected; CN: Rejected1.6410.207
H5d. SE × RST → RVI0.098 *0.147UK: Supported; CN: Rejected5.35610.021
H6a. SATT × RC → RVI0.665 **0.139 *UK: Supported; CN: Supported8.2430.022
H6b. SSN × RC → RVI0.514 *−0.013UK: Supported; CN: Rejected9.5740.031
H6c. SPBC × RC → RVI0.368 **0.287UK: Supported; CN: Rejected16.2160.014
H6d. SE × RC → RVI0.417 **0.396 *UK: Supported; CN: Supported4.6220.065
Note. *** p < 0.001; ** p < 0.01; * p < 0.05.
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