Case 8: Values and behaviors for sustainable tourism Maria had a problem. The research proposal for her master’s research project was due. But she…

Case 8: Values and behaviors for sustainable tourism

Maria had a problem. The research proposal for her master’s research project was due. But she had no idea what to research. Sustainable tourism had been her favorite module on the program and something about that topic would have been great. But what exactly remained a mystery. Then, while flicking through a travel magazine in search for holiday inspirations, she saw an article about people who have won an award for being ethical tourism entrepreneurs. Maria remembered learning in class that an ethical entrepreneur is someone who exploits opportunities not just for their own self-interest, but for the betterment of society (Wempe 2005). She was excited. There were actually people out there who not only did well in business, making profits, but who also cared about others and contributed to the ‘good’ in society. She had the basis for a possible research project.

Over the next weeks, Maria searched for literature on ethics in tourism and found very little. She then looked at ethics and entrepreneurship and found only marginally more. She did, however, come across a text by Cunningham and Lischeron (1991) who looked at risk taking, the need for achievement and entrepreneurial ethics. Their theoretical framework was built on a psychological-behavioral lens for entrepreneurship, which allows studying entrepreneurial attitudes, motivations and their ethical foundations. Following discussions with her project tutor, she developed an initial research question relating to ethical entrepreneurs behavior and values:

How and why do some entrepreneurs care about and contribute to the good of society through their business?

Pondering over how to obtain data, Maria found the travel magazine again, re-read the article and looked up the award’s website. The Tourism for Tomorrow Awards, she discovered, are aimed at recognising and promoting best practice in sustainable tourism (

 (Links to an external site.)

Links to an external site.

). There she found two pages of information about each of the winners for the past eight years. With four category winners each year, she had stumbled across an archive of 32 case studies, which she could, possibly, use as secondary data for her research project. Archival research became an attractive research strategy; and Andriotis (2010) recommends it too for studying values and behaviours. Worried though that the website case studies were written principally to promote the winners, she started thinking about corroborating these case studies with information from other sources.

Maria knew that by triangulating her data sources, she would add credibility to her findings (Baxter and Eyles 1997). Ideally she wanted to ask the actual judges for these awards. However, not knowing who they were, she contacted the organisation who managed the awards programme. As they were based not far from Maria’s university in the UK, she arranged a meeting with their Policy Director to see if she could get access to the judges’ actual reports. The Policy Director was interested in Maria’s research because the organisation had set sustainability on top of their policy agenda, and that included ethical entrepreneurship. After careful negotiation, the Policy Director agreed that Maria would be granted one-off access to the corresponding judges’ reports for the 32 winning case studies. However there were two strict conditions. Maria had to: guarantee complete anonymity and confidentiality, and agree to share with them her findings after she finished her research project. Maria agreed to these conditions and returned to her university with all documents she needed on a USB mass storage device. Maria’s tutor, however, was still slightly concerned that, despite being given the data and offering full anonymity, there might be other ethical issues.

Eager to begin her analysis, Maria had to prepare the secondary data first in order to make it suitable for a computer-assisted qualitative analysis and also to comply with ethical research guidelines. The set of documents she had received consisted of 32 Awards applications of the winners of the past eight years in the form of MS Word documents. Each application was approximately 1000 words long and consisted of 5 separate sections: Contact Details, Project Summary, Category Criteria, Overall Criteria, and References. The 32 corresponding judges’ reports were also MS Word documents of a similar length and also consisted of three separate sections: Judges’ Overview, Category Criteria, and Concluding Comments. Maria soon realised that she had a total of 200 pages of text – or approximately 64,000 words – to analyse.

In order to comply with ethical research guidelines, Maria first had to anonymise all 64 documents she was given. This included removing all contact details from the applicants, the judges and any referees that were given. It also, incidentally, meant removing all name, company or geographical references that would allow the reader to make inferences about identity or place. The final task before analysis could begin was to delete all corporate branding such as logos or imagery within the applications and judges’ reports. This was necessary in order to successfully import the documents into NVivo10 – Maria’s chosen software for computer-assisted qualitative data analysis.

Confident that she had a suitable set of data, Maria could finally begin her analysis. In considering the quantity of the data she had received, she opted for Template Analysis as the most appropriate method. King (2012

 (Links to an external site.)

Links to an external site.

) proposes Template Analysis for dealing with such large data sets as it is rigorous, but less prescriptive than Grounded Theory. This approach would allow her to categorise and sort through her data in templates and themes ready for interpretation. Maria believed that, after her analysis, she would have a better understanding of the values and actions of ethical entrepreneurs. She hoped the source triangulation would also work well. Nonetheless, she was concerned about how she would deal with any potential inconsistencies between the judges’ reports on less ethical behaviours and the promotional winners’ case studies.


Andriotis, K. (2010) ‘Brits behaving badly – template analysis of newspaper content’, International Journal of Tourism Anthropology, Vol. 1, No. 1, pp. 15-34.

Baxter, J. and Eyles, J. (1997) ‘Evaluating qualitative research in social geography: Establishing “rigour” in interview analysis’, Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, Vol. 22, pp. 505-25.

Cunningham, J.B. and Lischeron, J. (1991) ‘Defining entrepreneurship, Journal of Small Business Management, Vol. 29, No. 1, pp. 45-61.

King, N. (2012) ‘Template analysis’, in G. Symon and C. Cassell (eds) Qualitative Methods and Analysis in Organizational Research: A Practical Guide. Thousand Oaks: Sage, pp. 118-34.

Wempe, J. (2005) ‘Ethical entrepreneurship and fair trade’, Journal of Business Ethics, Vol. 60, No. 3, pp. 211-20.


Write a brief paper addressing these discussion points. 

How can Maria assess the overall and precise suitability of the secondary data for the purpose of her research?

Which ethical issues arise with this form of data collection and how can Maria counteract these in order to get research ethics approval?

Which costs and benefits arise for Maria by choosing this form of data collection? Make recommendations about the usefulness of this method.

How would you advise Maria on plans to deal with any potential inconsistencies between the judges’ reports and the winners’ case studies?

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