WIT Press

Engaging Tour Operators In Sustainable Tourism: The Dutch Professional Association’s Approach


Free (open access)








299 kb

Paper DOI



WIT Press


J. van Wijk & F. G. A. de Bakker


Different initiatives have been proposed to enhance the level of sustainability in the tourism industry. In the Netherlands, the professional association of tour operators has developed and implemented a product-oriented environmental management system among its members. Contrary to most initiatives in the tourism industry, this scheme is mandatory. This case therefore provides an interesting account of how a professional association attempts to engage tour operators in a change process towards sustainability. Adopting an institutional change perspective, we distinguish two approaches to get a targeted population involved in processes of change: (a) treating them as objects who have no choice other than to follow up to the expectations exerted upon them; or (b) as subjects who are able to influence those expectations. By analyzing the content of two periodicals the Dutch association has published over the last decade, we explore whether the Dutch tour operators were treated as objects or as subjects in this trajectory of change. Our results show that the dichotomy between object and subject masks a wide variety of how professional associations may approach their members, while it also illustrates how these approaches can change over time. We conclude with recommendations for professional associations who are planning to move their industry branch towards sustainable tourism. Keywords: institutional change, professional associations, tour operators, environmental certificates. 1 Introduction Tour operators hold an intermediary position within the tourism supply chain. As they link different tourism services into pre-packaged holidays, they are considered agents for sustainable tourism [3, 9, 13]. For instance, they may


institutional change, professional associations, tour operators, environmental certificates.