COVID-19 has changed tourism significantly. Research shows how various factors will affect travel after COVID-19.
COVID-19 led to a complete halt in air traffic in 2020, when countries declared “lockdowns” and imposed strict restrictions on international travel.
This situation has seriously affected the tourism industry, and both the public and private sectors are looking for ways to effectively assess the current situation, adapt and revive tourism.
While the pandemic is not over yet, it is important to better understand tourist behavior in order to improve planning and develop appropriate marketing campaigns.
A recent study by James Cook University (JCU) in Singapore found how various factors influence the relationship between tourists’ perceptions of health risks and their desire to reach their destination.
“The study is a good example of collaboration among several JCU staff, including full-time faculty members and industry practitioners. We can combine academic knowledge and rigor with practical knowledge and current experience in this area, ”says team leader Professor Abhishek Bhati, dean of the university and head of the teaching department.
The COVID-19 pandemic has proved to be more devastating than previous health crises such as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), resulting in a decline in global tourism development in the long term.
Existing research suggests that people who already place great emphasis on factors related to health, hygiene and mental health will perceive the current health risk at a much higher level.
Thus, hygiene, disinfection, and a reliable health care system at the destination will be important factors in travel decisions.
The team looked at a new element that differentiates COVID-19 from previous pandemics: how the media, communication and social media, and travel blogs can influence people’s intentions to make plans for future travel. This could potentially lead to overreaction, public fear and pessimism.
For example, the discriminatory labeling of COVID-19 as a “China virus” in mainstream media and social media has led to physical attacks on people of Chinese descent and negatively affected the mental health of Chinese travelers as well as their travel intentions.
Thus, in addition to people’s desire to protect themselves from health risks, the media also plays an important role in influencing their decision to travel and their travel behavior. Understanding these factors and their impact is key to the recovery and growth of the tourism industry.
This study proposes a theoretical model based on the well-known theory of prevention motivation. It has two main factors: pre-travel health behavior and travel media involvement.
Health behavior is measured by three sub-factors – hygiene, physical health, and mental health – while media engagement is measured by the media, social media and targeted websites.
The general behavioral model developed by the researchers suggests that the perception of health risks by tourists and the information obtained from the media – jointly affect the perceived image of the destination.