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Caldeira, A.M.;  Seabra, C.;  Alashry, M.S. Safety and Risk Perceptions in Tourism. Encyclopedia. Available online: (accessed on 26 February 2024).
Caldeira AM,  Seabra C,  Alashry MS. Safety and Risk Perceptions in Tourism. Encyclopedia. Available at: Accessed February 26, 2024.
Caldeira, Ana Maria, Claudia Seabra, Miral Sabry Alashry. "Safety and Risk Perceptions in Tourism" Encyclopedia, (accessed February 26, 2024).
Caldeira, A.M.,  Seabra, C., & Alashry, M.S. (2022, July 08). Safety and Risk Perceptions in Tourism. In Encyclopedia.
Caldeira, Ana Maria, et al. "Safety and Risk Perceptions in Tourism." Encyclopedia. Web. 08 July, 2022.
Safety and Risk Perceptions in Tourism

Given the global character of the COVID-19 pandemic, tourism recovery should be addressed by enhancing the governmental safety measures, as well as studying the perceived travel risks and individual coping behavior. In public health crisis contexts, people deal with their fear by employing different coping strategies, which foster individual adaptability and mitigate related contextual losses. Addressing the main constructs under analysis, perceived risks and tourism safety perceptions are discussed, as well as the resulting coping behavior in post-pandemic times, namely the acceptance of restrictions and adaptative behavioral intentions.

risk severity risk susceptibility tourism safety perceptions coping behavior acceptance of restrictions

1. Introduction

A number of major events with global impact have had significant negative effects on tourism flows during the past decades, such as terrorist attacks, war and military conflicts, natural disasters, such as the destructive tsunami in the Indian Ocean in 2004, and health hazards, such as severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in 2003 [1][2]. Since tourism operates in a network system, combining numerous services, goods, and destinations [3][4], and plays a vital economic role in many economies around the world [5][6][7], this unprecedented health crisis has produced colossal economic impacts [8][9]. Among travel risk factors, health and well-being are a crucial concern for tourists [10][11][12]. The fall in the number of outbound trips, job loss, and the economic crisis were huge in east Asia after the outbreak of SARS in 2003 and in West Africa after the outbreak of the Ebola epidemic in 2014 [13], Since 2020, people have stopped travelling due to the restrictions and lockdowns imposed worldwide [14], as well as the perceived risk for exposure to SARS-CoV-2 [15]. Currently, it is a fact that COVID-19 is “larger in size and scope than previous epidemics” [13] (p. 2), with unprecedented impacts on the tourism and hospitality industry [16], which is very sensitive to the health crisis and subsequent slow recoveries [17][18].
There are multiple theories that have been advanced for safety and risk in the context of tourism [19]. The risk perception attitude (RPA) is a theoretical framework that provides a broad understanding of the risk perception attitudes of individuals in the tourism context [20]. Within the RPA framework [12], perceived risk includes two main dimensions: (i) perceived severity: fear and stress provoked by the fear of being infected by the disease in the individual and public sphere; (ii) perceived susceptibility: risk perceptions of travel and participation in leisure activities. The efficacy beliefs also comprise two dimensions: (i) self-efficacy: acceptance of control and civilian restriction measures; (ii) response efficacy: intentions to adopt protective behaviors. Accordingly, the health belief model (HBM), a theoretical framework frequently used in the analysis of health-related behaviors, considers that perceived risk comprises two dimensions: risk susceptibility (people’s perception of vulnerability towards a particular health risk) and risk severity (which pertains to individuals’ subjective perception of the seriousness of the health risk) [21][22]. Taking the theory of planned behavior [23] as a framework, negative emotions and susceptibility have been studied, among others, as antecedents of attitudes towards travel, travel avoidance behavior, and protection motivation [13][15].
In public health crisis contexts, people deal with their fear by employing different coping strategies, which foster individual adaptability and mitigate related contextual losses [13]. Addressing the main constructs under analysis, in the following sections, perceived risks and tourism safety perceptions are discussed, as well as the resulting coping behavior in post-pandemic times, namely the acceptance of restrictions and adaptative behavioral intentions.

2. Perceived Risks

Bauer [24], in his seminal work in the domain of behavioral studies, introduced the idea that consumption involves risk. Since then, the perceived risk theory has been widely used in subsequent research addressing consumer choice [25][26]. Perceived risk refers to the consumer’s perception of uncertainty of unfavorable outcomes and negative consequences [27].
Potential risks in different tourism contexts have been studied, which include financial, political, physical, health, equipment, and socio-psychological dimensions [28]. In the past decades, several factors affected the tourism industry worldwide. Disruptive events, such as terrorist attacks, crime and violence, wars and political instability, natural catastrophes, and diseases caused drastic tourism crises [11]. Health risks constitute one of the most impactful risk types, leading tourists to enhance self-protective measures and behaviors [28]. With the improvement of people’s safety awareness, as well as the global impact and flow of information regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, health risks have become a major concern for tourists [28] and, combined with governmental restrictions, have deterred travelling [18]. Referring to one’s evaluation of the likelihood of personal health harms and the assessment of their magnitude and effects, perceived health risks can be examined in terms of perceived susceptibility and perceived severity [29].

3. Tourism Safety Perceptions

In the tourism and recreation contexts, safety is a projected condition since tourists or recreationists want to avoid situations that can menace their integrity [30] during the buying and consumption processes of travelling services, especially factors such as diseases, accidents, violence and crime, terrorism, wars, and armed conflicts [31][32]. Considered as the perception of the absence of risk, perceived safety can be considered an affective element of perceived risk and is a central aspect of tourists’ decision-making, especially in threatening times and contexts [20].
In the present context, health risks are associated not only with travelling but also with tourism experiences. The tours and activities sector has been one of the fastest-growing categories for venture-capital investment [33]. Currently, tourism activities involving close contact with other participants and requiring people frequently touching surfaces and objects imply a major risk for people, resulting in “immunity pods” that stay away from conventional hotels, restaurants, activities, and crowds [34]. Limited travel activities are proven to be a risk-reducing mechanism during a health crisis [35]. Thus, it is pertinent to consider tourism safety perceptions regarding the whole tourism experience, detaching travelling from perceptions related to tourism activities.

4. Acceptance of Restrictions

The current pandemic has imposed lockdowns and quarantines, physical distancing, closure of public services and education institutions, and suspension of events [14][36]. Travel restrictions, by means of closed borders, travel bans, and cancelled flights, have affected over 90% of the world’s population, both at the international and domestic level, negatively impacting economies and the tourism systems [18]. Additionally, although governmental and individual measures, such as distancing, self-isolation, and travel restrictions, have had a strong impact on citizens’ daily lives with regards to mobility, travel plans, mental health, and economic conditions, they have prevented millions of additional infections and have reduced the number of deaths during the pandemic [37]. Even if young people are less affected by severe SARS-CoV-2, they constitute active routes of transmission and may be more likely to ignore appropriate measures [38]. Therefore, it is pertinent to analyze their acceptance of the restrictions and security measures imposed by their national governments [18]. Within the risk perception attitude framework, acceptance of control and civilian restriction measures can be understood in the domain of self-efficacy beliefs.

5. Intentions to Change Behaviour

Health risk perceptions associated with the COVID-19 pandemic are expected to affect tourists’ behaviors and decisions [39]. In fact, the risk to health and wellbeing has been studied as an antecedent of coping or adaptative behavior [13][39]. As postulated by the risk perception attitude framework, response efficacy refers to the intentions to adopt protective behaviors. Negative emotions affect one’s risk perception attitude, as well as subsequent decisions on enacting preventive measures [12]. Furthermore, based on the protection motivation theory, perceived risk comprising the perceived vulnerability and severity toward health risk is understood as an antecedent of protective behavior, given that the perception of threats would encourage people to act in order to reduce their risk [28]. Moreover, the theory of planned behavior is widely used to predict various behaviors [40] and a salient model to measure travelers’ health risk perceptions and protective behaviors [31].
Age is a relevant influencing factor of the adoption of protective behavior [38], which should be further explored in this pandemic context, since young people’s higher perception of invulnerability may reduce risk-protective behavior [39]. Furthermore, the habituation model [41] provides an explanation for a desensitization phenomenon: throughout the evolution of the activation of fear, there is a minimization of anxiety and protective behaviors by means of habituation [42]. This makes it relevant to analyze the COVID-19 impacts on individual perceptions and intentions, while contrasting different pandemic periods.


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