×
    Amid COVID-19 Crisis ‘Humanizing’ Hotel Brands Could Encourage Tourists to Return

    Amid COVID-19 Crisis ‘Humanizing’ Hotel Brands Could Encourage Tourists to Return

    The findings, said researchers, challenge the approach that dominates current communication strategies that focus on cancellation policy and commitment to cleanliness.

    By Robert Cameron - Jul 24, 2020

    According to recent research from the Universities of East Anglia (UEA), Bath and West of England, hotels should “build an emotional attachment with tourists when communicating during crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic” if they are looking to encourage consumers to return.

    The findings, published in the Annals of Tourism Research, provide insights on the impact of crisis communication during a sustained global crisis such as the coronavirus pandemic, whereas previous research on crisis and disaster management in tourism mainly focused on recovery after the event, said researchers.

    The study finds that crisis communication emphasizing shared emotional responses to risks enables tourists to “humanize the hotel,” which the researchers found “can subsequently create an emotional attachment.” This attachment can then increase tourists’ intentions to visit once the crisis ends, which is crucial if the industry is to recover following the massive impact of COVID-19 travel restrictions which by late April had spread to 185 countries.

    Researchers said their findings challenge the approach that dominates many hotels’ current COVID-19 communication, which is to focus on cancellation policy and commitment to cleanliness.

    “We argue that crisis communication focusing on shared emotions during the current coronavirus pandemic is very important, as it can establish emotional attachment with tourists better than rational statements can.”

    The study authors say hotel groups such as Four Seasons and Hilton all emphasized publicly their commitment to cleanliness to reduce tourist’s perceptions of the risk to health. However, researchers argue, this approach “only focuses on cognitive, or rational, aspects of risk perceptions and ignores emotional responses to risks.”

    “During COVID-19, fear and anxiety are the most common emotions among both tourists and the hotel sector,” said Dr. Haiming Hang, from the University of Bath’s School of Management. “Tourists experience fear and anxiety towards the health risks of COVID-19, while the hotel sector feels fear and anxiety about the uncertainty it faces.”

    “Understandably hotels wish to reassure customers about the practical precautions they are taking,” added Dr. Lukman Aroean, of UEA’s Norwich Business School.

    “However, we argue that crisis communication focusing on shared emotions during the current coronavirus pandemic is very important, as it can establish emotional attachment with tourists better than rational statements can. This can be crucial for tourism recovery because emotional attachment can increase tourists’ intentions to visit when the outbreak ends.”

    The study involved 405 American participants whose travel plans were disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic. The research team collected details about their travel plans (purpose and destination), and perceived severity, susceptibility, and emotions (fear, anxiety, worry, unease) towards the coronavirus pandemic.

    Hotels are looking for ways to fill those empty chairs post-pandemic.

    Participants were then randomly allocated to one of the three experimental conditions. In all conditions, they were exposed to the same experimental stimulus – a fictitious middle-market international hotel chain – to control participants’ pre-existing knowledge of real hotels.

    Participants in the control condition were not exposed to any crisis communication message. In the other two conditions, the hotel’s crisis communication focused on the same areas, commitment to cleanliness, and cancelation policy, but they differed on why the hotel wanted to do this.

    In the cognitive (rational) condition, consistent with many hotels’ current response, the crisis communication explained the hotel’s commitment to cleanliness was to reduce health risk.

    In the shared emotions condition, the crisis communication explained the hotel’s commitment to cleanliness was because it shared the same emotions as tourists: the hotel employees and their families are susceptible to coronavirus just like everyone else.

    The uncertainty surrounding the pandemic also makes the hotel anxious and worried because it is hard for them to know how exactly they will be impacted or how bad things might get.

    ‘Building emotional attachment during COVID-19’, Haiming Hang, Lukman Aroean, and Zhifeng Chen, is published in Annals of Tourism Research.

     

    Get more brand in your diet

    We never share your info, we only share ours.