Friday, September 20, 2019
Perceptions Of Risk And Travel Intentions Tourism Essay
Perceptions Of Risk And Travel Intentions Tourism Essay Despite its resilience, tourism is also seen as a fragile industry as it is vulnerable towards various attacks and crises events, such as wars, incidents of terrorism, outbreak of diseases, political instability, and so on. Boniface and Cooper (2005) noticed that in recent years, the global tourism industry has suffered an increasing number of serious disasters and crises. The impact of globalization of the tourism market means that events occurring in one part of the world can have a significant impact on other parts of the world. Tourism is an important economic sector for many countries. However, as the tourism industry is highly prone to risk from external factors and pressures in the operating environment, planners in charge of tourism have to develop strategies to manage the impact of crises and disasters so as to protect society in general and tourism business in particular. Against this background, this chapter offers a better understanding of the type of travel risks, touris ts perceptions of travel risks, the impact of perceptions of risk on travellers travel intentions and travel risks associated with Thailand. TRAVEL RISKS Risk is defined as the uncertainty a person would face when they cannot foresee the consequences of a decision made (Schiffman and Kanuk, 2000). It has become an important factor when it comes to considering global tourism because safety, calm and peace are the fundamentals in attracting potential tourists to a destination (Sonmez, 1998). Travel risk is defined as the possibility of meeting a danger while engaging in travel (Fischhoff et al. 1984) or the consciousness of security and awareness of the likelihood of damage during travel (Wogalter et al. 1999). Tourists will experience travel risk during the process of consuming and purchasing travel services (Tsaur et al. 1997). Perceived travel risk is often referred to travellers perception of negative results of buying travel products (Murray 1991; Dowling and Staelin 1994; Zeithaml and Bitner 2003) or the unclear travel decision outcome (MacCrimmons and Wehrung 1986). Perceptions of travel risk vary according to different types of travel risk (Reisinger and Mavondo 2005). In the tourism literature, there are several types of travel risk listed out by tourism scholars such as cultural risk, equipment or functional risk, crime risk, health risk, financial risk, physical risk, natural disaster risk, psychological risk, political risk, social risk, terrorism risk and time risk (Reisinger and Mavondo 2006a, 2006b). Reisinger and Mavondo (2006a, 2006b) offer definitions of these various risks: Cultural risk: refers to the possibility of facing cultural misunderstanding, difficulties in communicating with foreigners, inability to adjust to the life and living standards in the foreign land. Equipment or functional risk: is the likelihood of equipment, mechanical, organizational problems that may occur during travel or at a destination (accommodation, attractions and transportation). Roehl and Fesenmaier (1992) found out from their research result that the respondents mentioned equipment risk as the highest perceived risk factor among the others. Crime risk: refers to the possibility of victim being robbed or becoming the subject of a murder or rape. Health risk: is the possibility of getting sick and unwell while travelling or at a destination. It was stated by Richter (2003) that health organisation such as World Health Organization (WHO) was not successful in performing its original duty of reporting and preventing the outbreak of new and serious disease. However, there is an increasing number of individuals awareness towards the seriousness of heath risk they may face while travelling abroad. Health diseases such as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in the Asia-Pacific region and Mad Cow Disease in Europe have caused a significant impact towards travel flows (Richter, 2003). Financial risk: refers to the possibility of travellers not being able to obtain value for money, lost or waste money if the expectation for the trip is not fulfilled. In tourism, price was a major demand factor. Hsieh et al. (1994) found that both non-package and package tourists have the common view of getting the value for the amount that they have paid for their vacation. Physical risk: refers to the possibility of getting injured physically; it includes danger and injury that are harmful to health (accidents). It was also defined as the possibility that there is a probability that ones health will be exposed to risk, sickness and injury due to the factors like weather, law and hygiene problems found during the tour (Tsuar, Tzeng and Wang, 1997). Natural disaster risk: refers to the possibility of being affected by a natural disaster event such as eruptions of volcanoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, typhoons, floods, tsunamis, wildfires and droughts. Psychological risk: imply that there may be a possibility of damaging self-image as the travel experience may not reflect the tourists personality or self-image. Political risk: means that tourists may get involved in the political chaos of the destination being visited. Social risk: refers to the possibility of disapproval from friends, associates or family with regards to the vacation choices. Tourist may suffer a lower social and personal status or emerge as being unfashionable. Also, as according to Reimer (1990), he argued that the style of vacation such as the number of places visited, distance travelled, regularity of travelling and destinations unusual nature may impress a travellers peers. Or that with the existence of peer pressure, it can act as a strong motivation for people to purchase upscale trips. Terrorism risk: relates to the possibility of being caught in a terrorist act, for example hijacked plane, biochemical attack or bomb explosion. Time risk: refers to the possibility of wasting too much time on travel experience, as the tourist waste time doing unnecessary stuff or that the product did not perform on time. Perceptions of Risk and Travel IntentionS One of the factors affecting a tourists decision-making process is perception of risk. In this sense, it acts as a deciding factor (Freyer and Schroder, 2007, p. 136), and has significant impact on tourism demand. For example, studies have illustrated that perceptions of high risk in a destination are associated with a decrease in the demand of tourism (Prideaux and Laws, 2007; Sonmez, Apostolopoulos and Tarlow, 1999). This could be due to the fact that tourists buying behaviour is influenced by destination image and that with the freedom to choose from a wide range of destinations, most tourists are not likely to travel to places associated with risks (Pechlaner et al. 2007, p. 158). Destination image affects not only the travel decision of potential travellers but also acts as an influential factor towards the perceptions and holiday activities of tourists at a particular location. Therefore, when a destination is linked to negative images, there will be a probability that the tour ists will choose a safer substitute destination (Freyer and Schroder, 2007, p. 136; Gurtner, 2007, p. 82). It is useful to understand how individuals are influenced by perceived risk while making the decision. In general, perceptions of individuals may be affected by external factors that are a problem for local tourism business and destination management to influence (Kozak, Crotts and Law, 2007). There are uncontrollable factors such as natural disasters (Faulkner and Vikulov, 2001; Huang and Min, 2002; Huan et al. 2004), outbreaks of diseases (MacLaurin, 2004) and terrorism attacks. These types of factors may cause a lasting effect in the perceptions of tourists when they happen. Therefore, it is necessary to understand the nature of these incidents and disasters so as to foresee the potential impacts they have on the industry and to control their consequences. Recognizing human basic needs for safety and security is needed to make potential tourists feel safe prior or during their trips. However, it is unfortunate to know that safety and security problems are often destination depende nt (Kozak, Crotts and Law, 2007). Sonmez and Graefe (1998b) identified two types of decision makers, risk averse individuals and risk seekers. Risk averse decision makers would prefer to choose a destination of lower risk and are willing to forgo some expected return in order to reduce differences in possible outcomes. On the other hand, risk seekers are likely to show less concern regarding safety factors towards the choice of destination and are most willing to sacrifice some expected return. Clearly, information about the factors influencing perceptions of risk would allow tourism and destination managers to develop a better understanding of what may potentially scare off tourism market segments as well as what they can do to attract them (Dolnicar, 2007, p. 107). Reisinger and Mavondo (2006) stated that each and every individual perceive and react to travel risk differently. It is said that tourists perceptions towards travel risk differ depending on gender (Darley and Smith 1995; Loker-Murphy and Pearce 1995; Carr 2001; Lepp and Gibson 2003). However, Sonmez and Graefe (1998) argued that there is no relationship between gender and travel risk whereas Mattila et al. (2001) identify some gender differences in health risk behaviour during travel period. It is also said that females have restrictions in their choice of travel due to their gender (Lynch and Atkins, 1998). This could be due to the fact that females generally perceive higher travel risks than men. For example, women are more concerned about food and health related risks and that experienced male travellers are less likely to change their travel plans when it comes to facing potential terrorism, natural disaster and health related risks (Kozak et al. 2007). In addition, other than g ender, personality might be influential on individuals perception of travel risk as well (Carr, 2001). Tourists perceptions of travel risk also differ depending on age as younger tourists tend to perceive higher travel risk than older tourists. This also means that travel-related risk actually declines as individuals grow older (Gibson and Yiannakis, 2002). It is said that older individuals can be more or less risk averse than young individuals depending on their wide personal and observational learning experiences, experimentations and abstract conceptualisation. However, Sonmez and Graefe (1998b) argued that there is no relationship between age and travel risk. In this case, the relationship between age and perception of travel risk remains unclear. Reisinger and Movondo (2006a, 2006b) argue that, different nationalities and cultures are differentiating factors with respect to perceptions of travel risk. Bontempo et al. (1997) found that risk perception of tourists from western countries differs significantly from that of Chinese tourists. Kozak et al. (2007) used Hofstedes (2010) concept of Uncertainty Avoidance (UAI) theory to observe international perceptions of related travel risk in terms of ambiguity and uncertainty; it shows the residents comfort level in terms of low, medium and high risk avoidance. Travellers from high UAI cultures, tend to perceive higher risks when compared to travellers from low UAI cultures (Hofstede and Hofstede 2005). Typically, travellers coming from high UAI (risk-avoiding) cultures do not feel at ease in environment listed as unstructured, risky and unclear as they feel threatened by the ambiguous and unknown. Whereas tourists coming from low UAI (risk-tolerant) cultures are typically more comf ortable with environments involving uncertainty and risk. Low UAI countries such as Singapore, Malaysia and China tend to be more sensitive towards terrorist attack, infectious disease and natural disaster risks (Kozak et al. 2007). Travellers from high UAI countries, such as Germany, perceive higher travel risks and anxiety as compared to Singaporean tourists (Reisinger and Movondo, 2006a). With anxiety, there will be a significant impact on travel intention and perceptions of safety (Reisinger and Movondo, 2005). Past experiences and familiarity with a destination are also factors that affect tourists perceptions of travel risks. Tourists who are more experienced in travelling may perceive lower risks, due to the confidence in the destination gained from previous positive visits (Sonmez and Graefe, 1998b; Lepp and Gibson, 2003; Kozak et al. 2007). However, if the last visit to the destination turns out to be negative, it may cause potential tourists to be nervous about future options. Also, individuals who have travelled to the destination before are more likely to return to the place as they are familiar with the location and that increases their sense of safety in the destination. Relevant research also indicates that tourists who travel with friends/family/partner (collectivists) perceive lower travel risk than tourists who travel alone (individualists). Travel activities involving group activities help act as a cushion against potential risks whereas travelling alone expose individuals to numerous potential risks (Weber and Hsee, 1998). Lastly, tourists perception of travel risk differs according to their education background as well (Sonmez and Graefe, 1998). Better educated tourists are better informed and aware of real travel risks through information obtained from reliable sources. They do not engage, therefore, in misunderstanding of the real situation, hence perceiving lower risks than lower-educated tourists (Laver et al. 2001). Also, according to Park and Reisinger (2010), high income tourists perceive a lower influence of travel risks than low income tourists. It could be due to the availability of finances that lead to a lower concern in travel risks as they have the money to sacrifice if there is a need to pay for damages. It is important to understand the importance of safety and security concerns of potential travellers over a destination, as according to Buttle and Bok (1996) travellers are generally affected by their own perception of risk while making travel decisions. For example, it is highly possible that when travellers perceive higher potential risks as compared to the benefits they might acquire from travelling to a destination, there will be a tendency of cancelling the trip to the destination. This is clearly supported by Sonmez and Graefe (1998a), who state that there is a high probability that tourists would avoid travelling to a destination if they associate the destination with the existence of high levels of risk. As judging from past incidents, there was an indication of an increasing demand in cancellation of trips or holiday plans just right after the attack of 9/11 (Chen and Noriega, 2004; Floyd et al. 2004; Kingsbury and Brunn, 2004). SINGAPOREAN TOURISTS AND RISK PERCEPTIONS As a small country with limited choices of entertainment and natural sceneries for the locals to enjoy, many Singaporeans tend to find the opportunity to travel out of Singapore (Lim and Lui, 2009). There has been an increase in the total number of Singaporeans travelling outbound. With the data extracted from Immigration and Checkpoint Authority (ICA, 2009), it indicates an increase of 804,234 outbound Singapore residents in year 2008 to 6,828,362 as compared to 6,024,128 in 2007. It was also reported that there are an increasing trend among Singaporeans within the age range of 18 to 65 years old to travel to nearby countries such as Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Australia and Hong Kong (Lim and Lui, 2009). This could be due to the living lifestyle of Singapore residents as employed Singaporeans generally earn a decent amount of income, and fresh universities graduates receive a good starting pay from their first official job. Which shows a society that is willing to spend on leisu re and recreational activities as travel is considered as part of their lifestyle. According to Lim and Lui (2009) findings, wide spread of swine flu in America and Mexico did stirred up fear among Singaporeans who are intending to travel within Asia Pacific. However, it was not confirmed or known if any risk or crisis would affect Singaporeans plans towards international travelling. ABOUT THAILAND AND TRAVEL RISKS The discussion now turns to Thailand, the research context of this study. Thailand is a country the economy of which depends heavily on its tourism industry. Tourism is the major export service of Thailand, actually accounting to about 6-7 percent of the countrys national Gross Domestic Product (EIU ViewsWire, 2003). From a tourism perspective, over the years Thailand has been branded as a friendly, exotic, exciting and natural destination. It is considered to be a popular travel destination among tourists as it is considered to be a hospitable country towards visitors as well as a country rich in cultural heritage, historical tourist destinations and natural attractions (Koumelis 2004; National Identity Board, 2000). Tourists generally have many choices on attractions and activities in Thailand as there is a wide selection such as: the beautiful beaches located in the South, rainforests and mountains in the North, huge shopping malls or market located in the city, etc. According to Rogers (2003, p. 276), the most important factor attracting tourists would have to be the value for money. Staying in Thailand is cheap because of the availability of cheap accommodation and food. Engaging in activities does not cost much, which is why the destination attracts many young tourists as it is affordable. Thus, with a combination of all these favorable factors, Thailand emerges as an attractive tourism destination. However, according to Campiranon, K. (2008), there has been a rise in the number of the occurrence of crises events in Thailand has caused worries regarding their impact on the image of the country. For example, towards the end of 2004, disasters such as the Tsunami, SARS epidemic, bird flu or avian flu had caused a significant drop in international arrivals to the country. In addition, the serious worldwide recession emerging in mid 2008, caused a decrease in the desire of tourists to travel. Furthermore, Thailand was suffering from political instability crises, whereby the Suvarnabhumi Airport was closed down on 26 November 2008 by the yellow shirt or Peoples Alliance for Democracy (PAD) protesters, which mainly consists of royalists, businessmen and the urban middle class who are the opposition of the former Thai leader Thaksin Shinawatra and his allies. On 11 April 2009, Thailand was assigned to hold the East Asia Summit in Pattaya, but this resulted in an attack by the Red shirt mob, which mainly consists by a large proportion of rural-based and working-class Thais who are the supporters of Thaksin and his policies. This caused the significant delay of the summit and the evacuation of world leaders to safety. Following the cancellation of the East Asian summit was the uprising of violent riots and the declaration of emergency by the prime minister the very next day. The graph below illustrates the international tourist arrivals to Thailand between years 2007 to 2010. Source: www.ThaiWebsites.com According to the data extracted from the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT, 2010), there have been a decrease in international arrivals from 3.64 million in the first quarter to 2.96 million in the second quarter of 2009. As compared to the previous first two quarters of 2007 and 2008, the figures appeared to be lower. However, despite all the serious commotions that had happen in April, tourism arrivals increased towards the end of 2009. In the last quarter of 2009, it was reported to have a higher arrival rate as compared to 2007 and 2008. It was then brought forward to the first quarter of 2010, whereby there was a significant increase in tourist arrivals. However, just when hopes of returning to healthy levels of industry growth were up, serious demonstrations held by the Red shirts during the month of April negatively affected tourist arrivals in the second quarter of 2010. From here, we can see that with the negative factors affecting Thailands tourism, the influence of it act ually seems to last just a few months each time it happen, and that tourists will resume their interest in Thailand as their selected tourist destination thereafter (ThaiWebsites, 2010). CONCLUSIONS Following the analysis presented in this chapter, the main conclusion is that a negative destination image leads to negative tourists perceptions of risk. This in turn affects tourists intention to visit the destination if there are other options to choose. Also of particular relevance to this study is the conclusion that tourists perceptions of risk is associated with factors such as socio-demographic variables (e.g. age, gender), previous travel experience, travel party size, education level and nationality. Travelling has been part of Singaporeans lifestyle as Singapore lacks the leisure activities and natural sceneries to entertain the locals in long run. Therefore, travelling to nearby countries like Thailand is an attractive destination choice as it is affordable and suitable for short holiday trips. There is however, no known data on how Singaporeans are affected by risk or crisis towards their holiday planning. In recent years, Thailand has been vulnerable towards risks such as the outbreak of diseases, natural disasters as well as political instability. Visitor arrivals were seen to have decreased during the occurrence of crises events, and various businesses were affected as a result. Thus, this study aims to study the following three researched question: Singaporeans have a low perception of risk with regards to travel to Thailand. Socio-demographic has a positive relationship with the perceptions of risk. Intention to travel has a positive relationship with the perception of risk.