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Shaping our perception of reality: sustainability communication by Canadian festivals

Rachel Dodds (Department of Hospitality and Tourism Management, School of Management, Ryerson University Ted Rogers, Toronto, Canada)
Michelle Novotny (Department of Hospitality and Tourism Management, School of Management, Ryerson University Ted Rogers, Toronto, Canada)
Sylvie Harper (Department of Hospitality and Tourism Management, School of Management, Ryerson University Ted Rogers, Toronto, Canada)

International Journal of Event and Festival Management

ISSN: 1758-2954

Article publication date: 17 August 2020

Issue publication date: 22 September 2020

1505

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to determine the extent of online communication by festivals regarding their sustainability practices using Cultivation Theory as the framework to determine perceived value creation.

Design/methodology/approach

A mixed method approach was utilized to achieve data triangulation through a content analysis of websites, content analysis of social media sites as well as interviews.

Findings

Findings indicated that 64% of festivals did not communicate any sustainable practices through their websites and only 6% communicated via social media. The most common sustainability practices communicated were waste management and sustainable transportation, yet few festivals engaged in effective, consistent and sufficient marketing of initiatives to festivalgoers. Best practice festivals (having communicated 5.47 initiatives or more) were found to have been significantly more likely than non-best practice festivals to be music festivals and have been in operation longer. Best practice festivals were also more likely than non-best practice festivals to have sustainability engrained into their corporate philosophy via a communicated sustainable vision and mission. Interviews revealed that most festivals did not have a designated role responsible for all sustainable initiatives and the responsibility was often taken on by volunteers or festival organizers. Festival organizers that communicated sustainability initiatives efficiently, consistently, and sufficiently perceived these efforts to benefit the festivals value amongst festivalgoers and host communities. Propensity to communicate sustainability initiatives was found to have been impacted by awareness, categorization, timing, policy and funding.

Research limitations/implications

While the findings are limited to the country of Canada and the extent of communication on websites and social media platforms as well as those festivals who participated, interviews helped to overcome these limitations as they gained an understanding of what was undertaken but not necessarily communicated.

Practical implications

The findings generated from this study could be used as a guide for establishing a benchmark for festivals regarding sustainable communication as well as strategies for overall corporate responsibility. Content regarding sustainability at festivals is scarce, as is information on festival communication. As a result, this paper seeks to understand the sustainable initiatives that are being communicated by festivals.

Originality/value

This is the first time Cultivation Theory was used within a tourism context and may be a useful tool to determine value creation. Through Cultivation Theory, festival organizers believed to have the ability to impact perceived value of the festival by implementing efficient, consistent and sufficient communication of sustainability initiatives.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

Funding: Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change Funding Number: LS-16-17-009.

Citation

Dodds, R., Novotny, M. and Harper, S. (2020), "Shaping our perception of reality: sustainability communication by Canadian festivals", International Journal of Event and Festival Management, Vol. 11 No. 4, pp. 473-492. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJEFM-03-2020-0012

Publisher

:

Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2020, Emerald Publishing Limited

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