Saayman, M. and Saayman, A., 2017. How important are Blue Flag awards in beach choice?
South Africa's almost 3000-km coastline has long stretches of sandy beaches. An important yardstick for measuring their quality is the Blue Flag award, desired by beach and coastal management agencies. This paper investigates whether the Blue Flag status necessarily attracts a different beachgoer. It asks whether clear differences can be found between beachgoers at Blue Flag and non-Blue Flag beaches. Surveys of beachgoers were conducted during summer (March to April 2014) at six beaches near Cape Town and three near Mossel Bay. Four of these nine Western Cape beaches had Blue Flag status. The data from 374 completed questionnaires collected via random sampling were analysed using principal component analysis and logistic regression analysis. The results showed that seven beach-specific attributes attract beachgoers, with the most important ones being beach cleanliness and infrastructure. The results of the logistic regression showed that Blue Flag beachgoers are more likely to be locals, travelling in larger groups and who are motivated to visit the specific beach on the basis of attractiveness. They also regard visual beach cleanliness as more important. The paper has several findings, namely, it identified unique motives for travelling to a beach and it identified the attributes that mattered to beachgoers. It also highlighted the need for educational activities as well as environmental issues. Another important finding is a clear distinction between Blue Flag and non-Blue Flag beachgoers. This innovative study made a contribution in terms of literature and practise.