23 September 2013

Disasters such as Tropical Cyclone Usagi that closed airports in Hong Kong at the weekend, leading to the cancellation of hundreds of flights, can have catastrophic effects on tourism, causing traveller numbers to plummet and decimating tourism providers’ incomes.

Reducing the Australian tourism industry’s vulnerability to such external shocks is the focus of a study by University of Queensland School of Tourism Research Director Professor Sara Dolnicar and Associate Professor Ulrike Gretzel from the University of Wollongong.

Professor Dolnicar said the key to the project was identifying the resilient traveller – those who would pack their bags and grab their passports regardless of what had hit their bank balance or their destination.

She said that knowing the characteristics of such a traveller could lead to a more durable tourism sector and one that recovered more quickly from disasters.

“We want to understand who these people are and how we can nurture them for times of crisis,’’ Professor Dolnicar said.

“Nurturing such individuals would, in turn, go a long way to creating a more resilient tourism industry but it’s not as simple as drawing up a list of resilient characteristics and ticking each box.

“We need to understand what motivates them to go on holiday, what they consider to be a risk and just how risk averse they are.’’

In an earlier study, Professor Dolnicar found that about 10 per cent of respondents said going on holiday was essential for personal wellbeing.

“Surely, if it’s so fundamental to their wellbeing, they’re less likely to cancel the holiday regardless of the circumstances,’’ she said.

“Because they rate it so highly in the scheme of things, we could hypothesise that maybe this is the sort of person who is also more resilient.’’

Another aspect Professor Dolnicar and Associate Professor Gretzel are investigating is a tourist’s emotional attachment to their holiday destination.

Are there strong memories associated with it? Is it a family beach retreat they’ve been going to for 20 years and nothing would make them cancel the trip?

Professor Dolnicar said that fundamentally the study was about finding the market segment made up of the kinds of tourism and the type of individuals less prone to over-reacting to external events.

Media: Bernadette Condren, 0413 881 597, b.condren@uq.edu.au