Beachgoers' awareness and evaluation of the blue flag award in South Africa
Journal of Coastal Research
Tourism Research in Economic Environs and Society (TREES), North-West University, Potchefstroom, South Africa
Beach awards such as the European Blue Flag are increasingly adopted in many countries as an environmental brand to promote better beach management and encourage tourism. However, the validity of the Blue Flag award has been criticized in the literature, and research shows that the award is still not widely known and has marginal influence on tourists' beach selection. This study, conducted at six popular South African beaches, three with and three without Blue Flag status, investigated awareness and evaluation of the Blue Flag award among 579 beachgoers. Results from a structured questionnaire showed that over half of the participants, mostly people on the Blue Flag beaches, knew about the Blue Flag award and its criteria; however, approximately one-third of the participants were unaware of it. Participants tended to be less tolerant of supposed water-quality degradation than the loss of the Blue Flag status, although an exception was made for Margate Beach, where people were less tolerant of a hypothetical loss of Blue Flag status. Although the participants' evaluation of the Blue Flag award was generally positive, for most it was not their main reason for visiting a beach. In the light of these findings, a more coherent implementation of the Blue Flag award and better information propagation in its regard are recommended for South African beaches. © Coastal Education & Research Foundation 2015.