MARKETING MESSAGES TO INFLUENCE POST-PANDEMIC INTERNATIONAL TRAVEL INTENTIONS
Reason: Part of the dissertation is currently submitted for publication while other parts maybe published in next couple of years.
until file(s) become available
DESTINATION MARKETING MESSAGES TO POSITIVELY INFLUENCE AMERICAN VISITORS’ POST-PANDEMIC INTERNATIONAL TRAVEL INTENTIONS
Understanding how best to communicate with the American outbound travel market in the wake of a global pandemic is essential for destination communities, tourism organizations, and hospitality businesses seeking to attract this market to recover from the pandemic. To date, the literature does not advise in terms of what messages to communicate in post-disaster destination marketing. Consequently, marketers often have to ad-lib their post-disaster communications that may or may not be effective in encouraging visitors. This timely study aimed to mend this knowledge gap. To this end, ideas were sought from industry and academic experts on what message features may positively influence American visitors’ international travel intentions following the COVID-19 pandemic. Three rounds of conventional Delphi research delivered a list of twenty-seven message features, eight of which attained panel consensus. Thus, panel experts in the Delphi study agreed that international destinations that 1) communicate the message of safety, 2) include factual pandemic information such as safety protocols at the destination, 3) feature open outdoor spaces, 4) build visitors’ confidence, 5) highlight positive destination attributes, 6) authentic local experience, 7) showcase locals’ support in welcoming visitors, and 8) remind [visitors] of the joys of travel may positively influence American visitors’ international travel intentions towards the destination after the COVID-19 pandemic.
Since the Delphi technique only offers plausible outcomes, this study further used Solomon’s four-group experimental methodology to examine the effect of a safety message on Americans’ post-pandemic international travel intentions. The following extraneous variables were statistically controlled in the experiment: the visitors’ age, gender, education, income, travel experience, COVID-19 experience, perceived severity, susceptibility, political views, and knowledge of COVID-19. Safety was selected for this examination because Delphi panel experts most frequently mentioned safety as a key feature of post-pandemic destination marketing messages to influence American visitors’ international travel intentions. Thus, a mock print advertisement presented a safety message to three independent samples promoting a hypothetical small island destination. The results revealed that the marketing message featuring safety did not enhance international travel intentions among American visitors in any of the three samples. On the contrary, the safety message had a deleterious effect on American visitors’ post-pandemic international travel intentions in this study. The findings also revealed a significant relationship between Americans’ political views, COVID-19 knowledge, travel experience, the experience of COVID-19, and their post-pandemic international travel intentions.
This study contributes to the research on post-disaster recovery, destination marketing, and safety communication in several ways. Best to the researchers’ knowledge, this study is the first to identify features of destination marketing messages that may influence the international travel intentions of American visitors in the unique context of the COVID-19 pandemic. Moreover, the Delphi portion of this study identified several new features of post-pandemic destination marketing messages that may positively influence American visitors’ international travel intentions in the unique context of the COVID-19 pandemic. The findings of the Delphi study isolated eight plausible message features with panel consensus that would need to be examined further with quantitative analyses. Hence, this study created avenues to expand the scientific knowledge of post-pandemic marketing message features. This study is also the first to examine the effect of safety messages on international travel intentions of American visitors after the COVID-19 pandemic in an experiment.
The findings of this study have several practical, theoretical, and methodological implications. The knowledge of message features that may positively influence the international travel intentions of American visitors will be beneficial for destinations interested in the North American market. The experimental study has important insights for destination communities, tourism organizations, and hospitality businesses in designing safety messages. Safety has been a sensitive issue in tourism marketing. Talking about destination safety in marketing messages is not a traditional approach. There is insufficient empirical evidence to advise destination communities, tourism organizations, and hospitality businesses on whether to include safety in their marketing messages for post-pandemic recovery. The present study addressed this gap and showed that safety messages might not increase or even reduce post-pandemic international travel intentions among some Americans. The findings of this study also have several theoretical implications. First, this study addressed the call for research on marketing communication for post-pandemic recovery. The findings of the experimental study showed the deleterious effect of safety messages on American visitors’ international travel intentions in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, adding a new perspective to the discussion of safety communication in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. Methodologically this research contributes to tourism crisis and disaster literature by demonstrating the use of conventional Delphi technique for generating new ideas on post-pandemic destination marketing communication. Further, it addressed the call to examine post-disaster marketing messages' effect through experiments. A set of recommendations are made for destination communities, tourism organizations, and hospitality businesses interested in the American outbound travel market based on the findings of this study and a review of extant literature. Limitations and directions for future research are also discussed in detail.
This study was approved by Purdue University's Institutional Review Board.