An Abstract: Does Communicating Destination Safety Matter?
Tourists tend to shy away from places that appear to be unsafe. Does this mean that the opposite is true? Would tourists choose destinations based on how safe these destinations may be? For first-time travellers, destination advertising and communication help create images of the place and develop expectations on the travel experience. To what extent would communication safety influence travel intentions and how? Our study is based on an experimental design with data collected from an online tourist panel. In total, 100 US tourists aged 60 years and above who had never been to Dubrovnik before were selected to participate in the study. We selected the USA for data collection purposes because the USA has the second highest percentage of senior tourists in international tourism departures in this group, behind Germany (World Tourism Organization 2018). Although Germany ranks first regarding senior tourists, German respondents may be familiar with Dubrovnik due to geographical proximity. To reduce familiarity bias with Dubrovnik, the US sample was more suitable.
Drawing on categorization and risk propensity literature, we explore how tourists interpret safety messages in destination communication, for a destination they have never visited before. Destination choices are often made with imperfect information, especially in the case of unfamiliar destinations with no past experience to rely on. Findings suggest that safety messages impact travel intentions. Tourists may view safety messages positively or negatively depending on individual risk propensity, and this influences their destination choice. For tourism policymakers and managers, the study sheds light on the important topic of destination safety for tourists. The growing awareness of terrorism may be making safety more important for tourists. Our study provides insights on how to segment the market in order to design effective advertisements to promote destinations.
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