This paper seeks to understand how tourists might reduce their travel distances by better understanding their perception and “performance” of distances to destinations. Travel accounts for 75% of tourism's GHG emissions, the majority from flying. Tourist travel distances are growing rapidly, as are emissions, with little evidence of the reductions required to comply with emission reduction targets. This research used discourse analysis of in-depth interviews with Danish tourists to explore how they understand distance. Respondents rarely referred to physical distance (e.g. kilometres), but instead to scales including cost, time and cultural difference to express relative distances. Some distances were seen as “zonal”, (e.g. “away from home” or “sun and sea” or winter sports destinations), others “ordinal”, having degrees of difference, time or costs to cross. The desire for distance also resulted from links tourists make between physical distance and reaching cultural dissimilarity. Sometimes travel itself was integral with the holiday experience. While cost and time savings were important, the total holiday price was more important than the journey price. Measures are suggested for reducing the distances travelled and changing the modes used, and so reducing environmental impacts, including changing leave allowances, better marketing of nearby destinations with cultural differences, and promoting slow travel.
Journal of Sustainable Tourism, 2013, Vol 21, Issue 7, p. 968-981