What factors affect the future of travel and tourism post-COVID-19?
COVID-19 has considerably changed tourism. Research suggests how different factors will influence travel post-COVID-19.
COVID-19 has brought the world’s jet-setting ways to a grinding halt in 2020, with countries going into lockdown and strict international travel restrictions in place. This situation has severely impacted the tourism industry, and both the public and private sectors are looking for ways to effectively assess the status quo, adapt and revive tourism. While the pandemic is not yet over, it is important to gain a better understanding of tourists’ behaviour in order to strengthen tourism planning and develop suitable marketing campaigns.
A recent study from James Cook University (JCU), Singapore explores how different factors affect the relationship between tourists’ perception of health-related risks and their desire to travel to a destination.
“The study is a good example of collaborative work among several JCU staff, comprising full-time faculty and industry practitioners. We can blend academic knowledge and rigour with practical insights and current experience in the field,” says team leader Professor Abhishek Bhati, Campus Dean and Head of Teaching, Learning and Student Engagement.
The COVID-19 pandemic has been more disruptive than previous health crises such as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), causing a longer-term decline in global tourism development.
Existing research studies suggest that people who already have high consideration of health, hygiene and mental health-related factors will perceive the current health risk at a much higher level. As such, hygiene, disinfection and a reliable health system in a destination will be significant factors in travellers’ decisions.
The team considered a new element that sets COVID-19 apart from previous pandemics: how the advancements in this digital age – the mass media, parasocial interactions on social media (referring to a form of interpersonal engagement with the content and producers of social media content, similar to word of mouth) and travel blogs – can influence future travel intentions and behaviour. This could potentially lead to over-reaction, public fear and pessimism.
For example, discriminatory labelling of COVID-19 as a “Chinese virus” in mainstream and social media resulted in physical attacks on people of Chinese descent, and negatively impacted the mental health of Chinese travellers as well as their travel intentions.
Therefore, in addition to individuals’ desire to protect themselves from health-related risks, the media also play an important role in influencing their decision to travel and their travel behaviour. Understanding these factors and their impact is key to tourism industry recovery and growth.
(Figure 1. Enhanced protection motivation theory framework.)
This research proposes a theoretical model that is built upon widely known Prevention Motivation Theory. The revised model (Figure 1) adds the mediating role of two factors: health-protective behaviour before travel and tourist media engagement. Health-protective behaviour is measured by three sub-factors – hygiene, physical health and mental health – while media engagement is measured by mass media, social media and destination websites.
The overall model proposes that tourists’ perception of health risk factors and their self-efficacy jointly influence the perceived destination image. The model explores if health-related destination image may affect the pre-travel behaviour or travel intention of tourists. Regarding risk perception and reactionary behaviours, we adopted three risk-based behaviours – namely lower risk (courageous traveller), middle risk (conscious traveller) and higher risk (cautious traveller). The testing of the model is in progress with primary data collected from multiple sources.
The research team comprised :
- Professor Abhishek Bhati – Campus Dean and Head of Teaching, Learning and Student Engagement
- Dr Zilmiyah Kamble – Lecturer in Business (Hospitality & Tourism)
- Dr Zohre Mohammadi – Research Fellow in Tourism
- Ms Manisha Agarwal – Sessional Lecturer in Business (Hospitality & Tourism)
- Mrs Gerardine Donough-Tan – Sessional Lecturer in Business (Hospitality & Tourism)
Abhishek Singh Bhati, Zohre Mohammadi, Manisha Agarwal, Zilmiyah Kamble & Gerardine Donough-Tan (2020): Motivating or manipulating: the influence of health protective behaviour and media engagement on post-COVID-19 travel, Current Issues in Tourism, DOI: 10.1080/13683500.2020.1819970
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