Author

Chunsheng Jin

Date of Award

Summer 2021

Document Type

Open Access Thesis

Department

School of Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Management

First Advisor

Kevin Kam Fung So

Second Advisor

David A. Cárdenas

Abstract

Living in the information age, people acquire knowledge from various sources. These resources can play key roles in individuals’ perceptions during disease outbreaks. Especially amid COVID-19, risk perceptions are critical in determining individuals’ behavioral intentions. Researchers have investigated risk perceptions related to numerous diseases (e.g., swine flu, severe acute respiratory syndrome, Middle East respiratory syndrome, the Zika virus, and Ebola). However, few tourism studies have focused on health risks. Different from the above-mentioned illnesses, the relatively new virus of COVID-19 could have unique effects on individuals’ risk perceptions and behavioral intentions; the disease has been spreading worldwide for more than a year with a high infection rate. Moreover, little research has explored individuals’ emotional responses to information received via multiple communication channels. People’s emotions could play major roles in how individuals process information sources and perceive risk. This study investigated the effects of information sources on individuals’ risk perceptions and travel intentions during the COVID-19 pandemic. The study also explored the impacts of people’s emotional responses to pandemic-related information and self-efficacy on their risk perceptions and travel intentions amid COVID-19.

Online surveys were distributed via Amazon Mechanical Turk for the pilot study and main study. Two samples (pilot study: N = 149; main study: N = 388) were established. The hypothesized relationships among mass media exposure, social media exposure, interpersonal communication, emotion, self-efficacy, risk perception, and vi travel intention were tested using partial least squares structural equation modeling. Results demonstrated varied impacts of information sources on people’s emotions and risk perceptions. Mass media exposure significantly influenced individuals’ emotions (fear, anger, and anxiety) and risk perceptions, whereas social media exposure and interpersonal communication each had no direct impact on risk perceptions. Interpersonal communication had a significant effect on emotions; however, social media only influenced fear. Meanwhile, fear and anxiety each played a significant mediating role in the relationship between different information sources and risk perceptions. Unexpectedly, this study did not reveal a significant negative relationship between risk perception and travel intention during and after the COVID-19 pandemic.

This study contributes to hospitality and tourism both theoretically and practically. From a theoretical standpoint, the study extends the tourism literature by building a theoretical link between psychology, communication, and tourism. This research also improves understanding of individuals’ risk perceptions and travel intentions by examining the effects of information sources, emotions, and self-efficacy during the pandemic. From a practical perspective, findings offer service providers in the hospitality and tourism industry a comprehensive understanding of individuals’ risk perceptions and associated influencing factors, thus helping stakeholders develop recovery strategies.

Share

COinS