|Department:||School of Tourism|
|Full text PDF:||http://eprints.bournemouth.ac.uk/21778/|
The perceptions people hold of destinations are of critical importance in the world of tourism as they influence individuals’ travel choices. In this sense, tourists’ negative awareness concerning safety and security present at a destination can prove disastrous for its ability to attract visitors (George, 2003; Reisinger and Mavondo, 2005). Among a multitude of factors which may amplify tourists perceived risk associated with consuming tourism products, man-made disasters of political instability and terrorism are particularly intimidating (Cavlek, 2002; Heng, 2006). Central to these issues is the role of the media in providing consumers with risk information, either directly through the exposure to news coverage of hazardous events, or indirectly through ‘word of mouth’ information (Kitzinger, 1999; Wahlberg and Sjorberg, 2000; Hughes et al., 2006; Breakwell, 2007; Renn, 2008). Despite a common agreement concerning the influence of the media on tourists’ perceptions of risk (Sonmez and Graefe, 1998a; Hall, 2002; Beirmann, 2003; Tasci et al., 2007), the relationship is under-researched. This thesis enhances the understanding of the effects of news media reports concerning terrorism and political instability on leisure tourists’ perceived risk and willingness to travel. To reach this aim a sequential mixed method approach consisting of three stages of data collection is adopted. The questionnaire survey determines the influence of tourists’ holiday preferences and demographic factors on perceived destination risk and willingness to travel. In order to evaluate the link between the media and tourists’ perceived risk, the framing theory of media effects is adopted. This involves a survey-embedded experiment which manipulates potential elements of a news report concerning the risk of terrorism and political instability events in order to understand their influence on tourists’ perceived risk and willingness to travel. To gain a depth of understanding and expand on the patterns which emerged in phase one and two of data collection follow-up semi-structured interviews have been conducted. This study makes a contribution to the body of perceived destination risk research by applying framing theory and an experimental research method to the investigation of the relationship between news media, tourists’ perceived risk and willingness to travel. The findings indicate that the media effects of risk communication are difficult to control and depend upon the content of messages, the characteristics of the audiences and the characteristics of the jeopardised object. Moreover, the in-depth account of the interaction between audiences and media messages allows insights into the psychological processes that underpin media effects. The results concerning the role that the characteristics of tourists and destinations play in moderating the strength of the effects that coverage of hazards has on perceived risk and willingness to travel have practical implications for destination managers and marketers.