How travellers respond to crises and disasters and what destinations can do to minimise cancellations

How travellers respond to crises and disasters and what destinations can do to minimise cancellations

A primary goal of any tourist destination impacted by a crisis or disaster is to minimise short- and long-term visitor cancellations. Often tourists will cancel unnecessarily due to a lack of understanding of what actually took place or unfounded concerns that arise due to sensationalised media coverage. For optimal crisis recovery marketing success, tourism operators and destination marketers need to understand the psychology behind a tourist’s decision to travel or not to travel. 

Here is what we know:

1. Crises and disasters create uncertainty

Holidays, unlike the purchase of tangible goods, entail a significant amount of planning and expense. There is already a level of uncertainty involved in holiday planning as often we are booking and paying for something that we have no way of experiencing prior to purchase. This is why online travel platforms such as Tripadvisor and Expedia are so popular as such sites provide some form of assurance as to our travel choices. 

2. Tourist cancellations are not limited to destinations directly impacted

The way the media refers to destinations geographically can cause great confusion. For example, when the 2009 Black Saturday Fires were ablaze in parts of the Australian state of Victoria, in other states this event was referred to by the media as the “Victorian Bushfires” while overseas the event was reported as the “Australian Bushfires”. This means that this crisis became a whole-of-Australia issue when it came to mitigating concerns among international tourists and managing demand. 

3. Tourists want to feel safe and welcome

Destinations impacted by crisis are often presented in the media as being in a state of chaos and despair; two things tourists want to avoid in their travels. Safety is a priority for travellers and even more so given the recent pandemic. Tourism operators therefore must convince visitors that their safety and well-being come first. Fair cancellation policies and visible compliance with relevant regulatory measures will reassure travellers of this.

4. Discounting is not a good idea

A common recovery strategy is to offer discounted experiences, whether that be applied to transport, accommodation, or all-inclusive packages. This approach needs to be treated with caution as often when something is discounted people assume there is something wrong with it. If tourists are already concerned that a destination may not be able to offer a rewarding travel experience, think about the kind of message ‘discounting’ might send.

This is an excerpt of an article by Gabby Walters, originally published by The “Good Tourism” Blog.

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