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Publication Date

2017

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this study was to provide insights into developing effective crisis responses within the cruise industry. Particularly, this study tested the effects of different crisis responses on individuals’ safety perceptions and cruise travel intentions. This study also tested how individual characteristics; such as past cruise experience and demographic characteristics, may affect the communication outcomes.

Originality/Value

Using an interdisciplinary approach, this study applied crisis communication theories to a cruise travel context. The findings of this study can be directly applied to develop effective crisis responses for hospitality practitioners, which exemplify the essence of translational research.

Relevance of the Topic

Although cruise travel is considered as one of the safest mode of travel, traveling by sea is associated with multiple types of risks, including health outbreaks and operational incidents. Managing a tourism crisis response becomes important in this context. The current research stream in hospitality and tourism, however, has not yet fully addressed this topic. Based on a comprehensive analysis of current cruise lines’ practices and relevant literature, this study tested individuals’ reactions after being exposed to different crisis responses. This study also tested the effects of individual variables on the communication outcomes and explored how people process crisis communication messages.

Design/Methodology or Approach

This study was constituted of two phases. Phase I analyzed current cruise lines’ crisis responses and related literature. The findings of Phase I resulted in the development of a template entitled strategic crisis response (SCR), which explicated how to construct effective tourism crisis response. Phase II conducted a between-subjects experiment and compared the SCR with current cruise lines’ crisis responses regarding their effects on audiences’ safety perceptions and purchase intentions. A series of post-hoc analyses were also conducted to test the effects of individual variables on the communication outcomes.

Key Findings

The findings of this study revealed that current cruise lines’ responses normally don’t include enough public safety information. The findings also showed that the SCR can lead to stronger safety perceptions and purchase intentions than cruise line’s current response. Additionally, the results showed that individual demographic characteristics influenced the communication outcomes, where the SCR can lead to stronger purchase intentions for the target market constituted of individuals that are over 25 years old and have an annual household income of more than $40,000.

Implications for Practice and Policy

The findings of this study can directly help practitioners understand cruise tourists’ considerations and produce effective and appropriate crisis responses. The findings indicate that when responding to a crisis, cruise lines should include public safety information, which provides instruction on how individuals can protect themselves during a crisis situation and/or against the risks associated with the crisis. This type of information will be especially useful for the cruise industry’s target market, as they will be more likely to accept the message and maintain stronger purchase intentions even during crisis times.

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