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Tourisme, sécurité et violence multidimensionnelle

Sensationalisation of Reported Violent Crimes: Perceptions of Vacationing Tourists

Sensacionalización de los Delitos Violentos Denunciados: percepciones de turistas vacacionistas
Sensationalisation des crimes violents signalés : perceptions des touristes en vacances
Acolla Lewis-Cameron et Corise Mason

Résumés

Le document se concentre sur la mesure dans laquelle les reportages des médias sur les crimes violents affectent la perception que les touristes ont de la destination. L’enquête a montré une corrélation entre les personnes qui étaient plus exposées aux reportages négatifs des médias avant de partir en vacances et celles qui avaient une vision plus négative de leur sécurité à destination. Les personnes exposées à ces signalements étaient moins touchées puisqu’elles affichaient un comportement moins restrictif à destination. Les visiteurs qui avaient des liens socioculturels plus étroits avec la région étaient plus exposés aux rapports négatifs et avaient une vision plus négative. Les résultats présentent des implications pour les stratégies de couverture médiatique et la gestion de l’image des destinations.

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Entrées d’index

Palabras claves:

turismo, crimen, medios, percepción, turista
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Texte intégral

Introduction

1The operating environment for tourism continues to evolve in the increasingly competitive global tourism marketplace. This puts destinations under tremendous pressure in some instances to remain competitive whilst others strive to become competitive. For tourism-dependent small island states, particularly in the Caribbean, their ability to effectively compete in the global space is threatened by a number of factors including the financial challenges facing some of their main source markets including the USA and Western Europe; strident marketing by other “sun” and “fun” destinations with strong (and cheap) airlift capacities; and the islands’ susceptibility to natural disasters, most notably, hurricanes. A more recent emerging threat for Caribbean islands is the gradual increase in the incidences of crime and its impact on the destination’s image. More specifically, of concern to Caribbean destinations is the media’s handling of reported crime and how that influences vacationing tourists’ perception of the destination.

2The media is often considered a credible source and as such is a key player in the formation of the destination’s image. A destination’s reputation can therefore be adversely affected by negative reports about crime in the media. According to Jackson (2002), the media frequently sensationalise and shock through lurid and alarmist descriptions of rare events and by excessively reporting more banal episodes of crime. Peter Horrocks (2008) writing for the BBC online noted, “it is clear to me that commercial media has an interest in reporting increasing crime because it knows it sells. There is no particular obligation on them – or commercial interest – in reporting falling crime”. The interests of the media and that of the destination are diametrically opposed which is the premise for this study. It is against this background that the purpose of this paper is to determine the extent to which the media’s reporting of violent crime in particular affects tourists’ perception of and behaviour at the destination. The paper begins with an examination of the relationship between destination image, tourist behaviour and the influence of the media on tourism as it relates to reporting of violent crime. This is followed by a discussion on the context for the study, the Caribbean island of Trinidad. The paper concludes with an analysis of the views of the vacationing tourists and recommendations for small island states on strategic image management.

1. Literature Review

1.1. Understanding Tourist Perception

3According to Chon (1990), an image is formulated as the net result of the person’s beliefs, ideas, feelings, expectations and impressions. A traveller chooses one destination over another because of the perceived attributes as input factors in order to estimate the satisfaction that will be derived while at the location. Gunn (1972: 120) purports that there are different stages in the decision-making process which ultimately result in a variety of images, which is dependent on the amount, source and objectivity of the information available. Gunn’s (1972) seven-phase decision-making model makes an important distinction between the “official projected image” provided by the tourism authorities and the “organic image” from non-tourist sources. Organic image is given to the formation of images based on non-commercial sources such as art, literature, education, family and friends and the mass media. The more commercial sources of information and representations are formed as contributing to an “induced image”. Gunn (1972) suggests these are formed from advertisements, brochures, guidebooks, and the activities of intermediaries such as travel agents, destination marketing organisations and marketing groups. Additionally, the modified induced image is formed with the addition of first-hand experience of the destination and can actually be changed through a return visit and reflection after the visit. The modified result can be seen as a more “realistic, objective, differentiated and complex image” (Echtner & Ritchie, 1991:4).

4Botterill and Jones (2010) however suggest that models such as Gunn’s (1972) model assumes that tourists undertake a research process that actively seeks to gather information to inform their decisions which is true in many cases but not all. They further suggest that a significant amount of tourists’ behaviour displays a habitual nature which indicates that destination preferences are not strongly influenced by information seeking however may be strongly influenced by inter-generational patterns of holiday taking and more structural influences, such as cultural familiarity, historical association and material resources. Similarly, Schutz (1970, 1972) suggests that experiences collected from childhood become sedimented in a “stock of knowledge” about localities. The author states that the stock of knowledge has a vital influence on future action, forming the basis of decision-making. It can be considered a compilation of past experiences, some first hand, and some socially transmitted. Knowledge is arranged into types and when little varying information is available stereotypes are formed. And it is only when an individual encounters contradictory information that he/she makes an active attempt to seek out more information. This contradicts with models such as Gunn’s (1972) model which assumes that persons naturally seek accurate and up-to-date information before choosing a destination.

5Botterill and Jones (2010) gave the example that the public debate regarding high levels of crime in South Africa and its relation to the country hosting the 1999 FIFA World Cup may have added to the stock of knowledge regarding crime in South Africa. The stock of knowledge of the individual travelling to the World Cup in South Africa would have also been affected by advice from family, travel advisories, television programmes, travel reviews, and newspaper articles over a prolonged period of time. More importantly the authors suggest that social relations and structures create intersubjective rather than individual stocks of knowledge, which in the context of tourism have the ability to affect the perception of entire groups of consumers and ultimately create intersubjective action.

6It should be noted that clearly defining the extent to which crime and a strong crime reputation has on a destination’s image and tourists’ perceptions are not always clear-cut. George (2010:809) noted that “the literature on tourist risk perceptions suggests that to understand the perception of crime-safety and risk associated with tourism, individual factors such as past travel experience, personality, age, gender, culture and nationality should be taken into account”. He further indicated that the purpose of the visit is an important consideration and may explain why repeat visitation takes place despite negative crime experiences or why individuals visit locations where someone they know personally has had an experience with crime. According to Selby (2004) first-time visitors often have a different view of safety at the destination when compared to return visitors.

7In a study of Cardiff, Wales Selby (2004) found that naïve images held by persons who have never visited the area before were compared with the re-evaluated image at the end of the visit. The results showed that the perception was positive in general at the end of the visits particularly for the construct “safe-unsafe”. The research revealed negative images for Cardiff as being “unsafe” and “industrial”, however, these images were less seen in persons that possessed first-hand experience of the destination. Additionally, the research showed that negative images were associated with mass media depictions, particularly newspapers and television programmes. The author stressed the fact that first-hand experience evaluations take place only in the final stage and as such emphasises the importance of images formed without it. Mawby, Brunt and Hambly (2000) found that 45 percent of responders never considered crime when choosing a destination, however, 42 percent ruled out at least one locale due to crime. It is generally accepted that safety, security and peace are essential prerequisites for a tourist destination since tourists act based on their image of the destination rather than the “reality” of the situation (Pizam and Mansfeld, 1996).

8Some authors have considered the characteristics of the source market in analysing the risk perception of the destination under consideration. Selby (2004b) suggests that negative typifications regarding issues such as crime are shared by individuals with similar cultural, social, lifestyle and personality characteristics. Similarly, Desivilya (2015) found that the environment that one has been developed in plays a part in their analysis of risk and ultimately their assessment of risk when travelling abroad. The author suggests that contextual aspects such as harsh experiences of danger or exposure to terror events will affect one’s perception and risk assessment processes. The study noted that Israelis possessed significantly higher assessments of risks concerning destinations with terror, health and natural disasters hazards when compared to Polish students. Israeli students also exhibited lesser intentions to travel to Turkey, Egypt and India than the Poles. Additionally, young students with a strong aversion to health hazards exhibit a lower intention to travel to India and those refraining from economic crisis were hesitant to travel to Egypt. Japan and India showed a high perception of destination risks. This may be important in understanding tourism consumer behaviour and in determining why some persons are still willing to travel to areas of reported high crime and why others may be less inclined. According to Schutz (1970) everyday life should be the focus of research into images of crime since it is this that forms an array of experiences which are then accepted and taken for “common sense”.

1.2. Crime and Tourist Behaviour

9Swart, Bob and Turco (2010) noted that crime restricts movement, options, participation in activities and opportunities. This poses a serious threat to the sustainability of the tourism industry. The problem here is that persons feel unsafe because of high crime levels, often, however, they may still choose to visit the destination but may consciously or subconsciously adjust their behaviour to suit their perception and maintain their safety. Authors such as Garofalo (1981), Jackson (2002) and DuBow, et al. (1979, cited in Garofalo, 1981) noted that there are consequences to fear of crime. DuBow et al. (1979) noted that there are five (5) consequences to the fear of crime phenomenon. Firstly, Avoidance which refers to the actions taken to decrease one’s exposure to crime by either removing oneself or distancing oneself from possible risk where one believes criminal victimisation is likely. Secondly, the authors describe Protective behaviour which refers to increasing resistance to victimisation. This may take the form of buying protective security devices to make the home safer or actions when outside the home which seek to reduce vulnerability when met with possible threatening situations. Thirdly the authors referred to Insurance behaviour which seeks to “minimize the cost of victimization”. Fourthly, Communicative behaviour which refers to the sharing of information and emotions related to crime with others. And lastly, Participation behaviour; which speaks to actions while at an event with others which are driven by a particular crime or crime in general. Garofalo (1981) noted that the categorisation is useful since it describes the possible behaviours that persons exhibit once experiencing fear of crime, however, more importantly he noted that the concept was flexible and can be applied to different scenarios. For example, insurance may not be pertinent to a person or persons who are fearful about victimisation regarding physical harm but rather those that are concerned about theft (Garofalo, 1981).

1.3. The Media, Crime and Tourist Perception

10The type of coverage that a destination gets over a prolonged period of time is the main area of focus for destinations represented in the literature. According to Manheim and Albritton (1984) countries, cities and tourist destinations are presented in the media in four (4) ways:

  1. Places that receive much negative coverage

  2. Places not covered by the media except in a negative context, usually related to crime, social problems, natural disasters, etc.

  3. Places that receive much positive coverage such as cultural events, tourist activity, or investments

  4. Places largely ignored by the media but when noticed they receive primarily positive coverage.

11Naturally the authors noted that destinations will prefer an image represented by point 3. Similarly, Avraham and Ketter (2008, 31) suggested that after analysing different destinations coverage in the media, they found that places were either covered in a one-dimensional or multidimensional manner. A multi-dimensional image in the news media are those that receive coverage for a wide variety of subjects and events that occur in them, such as politics, economics, social events and cultural developments. Places with a one-dimensional image are those that only receive coverage when events of a certain nature take place there, such as crime or disasters.”

12Researchers have agreed that news from credible media sources on negative events has a great impact on the image of a destination. Gartner and Shen (1992) suggested that media reports are able to cause a remarkable shift in the image of a destination because of their high credibility and mass crowds. The existing lack of knowledge about the country is said to enhance the power of the media compared to better-known destinations. According to Avraham and Ketter (2008) the role of the media in building place image is crucial since consumers receive information from various sources and since people become aware of occurrences in their immediate environment from direct contact with the events, they acquire information about distant places which are often not considered crucial and as such little attempt is made to corroborate whether it is in fact the reality of the situation. According to the authors, the “reality” that the media transfer from distant places is conceptualised as their objective or “true” by those who do not live there. Additionally some authors have claimed that media coverage of natural or human-caused disasters have a greater more immediate impact on the public’s consciousness (Gartner & Shen 1992) since it seems plausible for consumers to be imperfectly informed and to be exposed to more bad news than good ones (Mc Cluskey and Swinnen, 2004). For example, Ajagunna (2006) noted that the tourism industry in Jamaica has suffered from bad publicity in foreign news due to issues with crime and also harassment. Similarly, Peel and Steen (2007) discussed extensive media coverage in 1993 and 1996 as a result of memorable crimes committed against backpackers in Australia. Brayshaw (1995) noted a reduction in tourist arrivals following a crime wave in Florida in 1993 and similar results were found in a study conducted by Pizam, Tarlow and Bloom (1997) in their analysis of crimes committed against tourists in Johannesburg and Rio de Janeiro. Other researchers, however, are in disagreement with the impact that the media has on the tourism industry. West (2005) suggests that there are minor media effects amongst backpackers regarding coverage of terrorism compared to other tourist segments.

13Romer, Jamieson and Aday (2003:89) noted the significance of local news sources in the formation of perceptions. They state that “one news source that has the potential to cultivate stable expectations in the public is local television news. Not only has it become the most widely used news source but it also has unique conventions that make its content especially relevant for the public’s views of crime (Mc Manus 2004). Although this news source is often seen as providing factual stories about their media’s situations and events, it frequently relies heavily on sensational coverage of crime and other mayhem with particular emphasis on homicide and violence (Hamilton, 1998; Klite, Bardwell and Salzman, 1997). Romer et al. (2003) states that this type of coverage could well increase fear of crime by cultivating expectations that victimisation is both likely and beyond our control. According to the author, the availability of the heuristic suggests that repeated exposure to violent crime stories on the news promotes their availability in memory thus increasing the salience of crime independently of actual trends of local crime and of viewer characteristics.

14On the other hand, there are authors who question the effect of strength of sensationalism in the media, suggesting that the public uses their personal experience or the experience of others in their social networks to decide their level of concern for crime matters (Sacco, 1995). According to Sacco (1995:153):

Overall, it would appear that as crime news related to matters of personal safety, consumers appear to exercise a healthy dose of scepticism. They are more likely to put what is learned from the media in the context of what they learn from other sources (in their social networks), and they may be well aware when the media are behaving in a highly sensationalistic manner.

15Known as the diffusion of fear through social networks or interpersonal hypothesis and from this perspective media’s reporting of crime may add very little to the public’s fear of crime beyond the effects of actual crime rates.

2. The Case of Trinidad

16Trinidad is an island, on the southernmost end of the archipelagic chain of the Caribbean, which is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. It is to the northeast of Venezuela and is heavily dependent on its energy sector, having one of the highest per capita incomes in Latin America (CIA World Factbook 2017). Trinidad lies within one of the world’s most tourism-intensive regions, the Caribbean. Yet, unlike its neighbours, it has not relied heavily on income from travel and tourism since its economy is dominated by the energy sector that contributes approximately 34.1% of the country’s GDP. The government of Trinidad and Tobago, in its aim for developed nation status by 2020, recognizes that the energy sector is unable to fully sustain the economy in order to achieve this goal. Therefore, tourism has been identified as one of the economic development tools that the Government can use to reduce the country’s reliance on the energy sector.

17The challenge for the tourism industry in Trinidad and Tobago (T&T) is the fact that violent crimes such as murders often mar the front pages of the local newspapers and news headlines. Crime on the islands is considered the most serious ill plaguing the destination at this time. T&T has an abnormally high murder rate per capita and a relatively low detection rate. The Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC) mimics these concerns suggesting that crime in the destination was at a critical level whereby 31 murders are committed per 100,000 inhabitants (OSAC 2013). The Trinidad and Tobago Police Service records an overall drop in the category of “serious crime” over the last few years, however, the murder rate remains a challenge.

3. Methodology

18Visitors at the Piarco International Airport were surveyed using a simple random sampling method. A self-administered questionnaire in three (3) languages (English, French and Spanish) was distributed among visitors in the departure terminal. This location was chosen since it was believed that it would yield the numbers needed as well as provide the representative cross-section of the visitors to Trinidad. The questionnaire was divided into three (3) main sections including Demographics and Trip Details, Media Interaction & Impact and Safety Perception & Behaviour at the destination. The population size was derived from statistics from the Trinidad and Tobago Ministry of Tourism. The average arrival of tourists to Trinidad for 1 year is 372,000 (using figures from 2004-2010). The population size was estimated for one (1) day by taking the yearly figure and dividing by 365 to arrive at 1019. The confidence level used was 90%, Margin of Error was 5% and a normal distribution of 50% was utilized on order to calculate the optimum sample. Accordingly, the sample size was 214, however, 234 questionnaires were distributed and returned with no missing data.

4. Findings and Discussion

19An overall summary of the general findings shows that the sample was composed of 47% males, 53% females with the majority of persons within the 25-40 age range (62.2%). Participants were mainly from North America (30%) and the Caribbean (30%) and to a lesser extent, Europe (20%) Central and South America (15%). The main purpose of their visit was for leisure (30%) and visiting friends and relatives (32%). Most respondents (35%) had never been to Trinidad before while another 33% had visited once before. Trips were primarily for less than one month (39%) and less than a week (32%) and over half of the visitors were going to stay at the homes of friends and relatives. At the core of the discussion is the significant findings with respect to media exposure, media impact and safety perceptions.

4.1. Media Exposure

20As seen in Table 1, over half of the travellers sampled (53.8%) thought that Trinidad had a bad reputation in the media as it relates to crime. When compared to the overall sample, females, persons living in the Caribbean and other regions, ages 40 and over, and persons who have visited more than twice were more likely to think that Trinidad had a bad reputation for crime in the media. Firstly, the findings reveal that the destination has a moderately negative reputation regarding crime levels in the media. The study did not attempt to determine the quantity of media coverage received internationally but rather the overall “reach” of negative media reports. The findings suggest that exposure to negative media may vary in intensity, lessening its reach the further away the tourist is travelling from. Secondly, it appears that the negative reputation in the media has mostly affected the perception of persons within the region and as such the reach may not be as widespread. This is in keeping with the finding by Kunczic (1997), cited in Avraham (2000,364) where it was stated that “information about faraway places is not seen as crucial to most people and thus they do not attempt to locate first-hand sources to verify what happened there”. This explains why persons from more distant places have a more positive image of the destination. It can be argued that the image of the Caribbean region may still be positive and as such Trinidad as a destination in the Caribbean may be benefitting from this positive perception. For many, the Caribbean still represents “sun, sea and sand” and despite many negative reports in the media about violent crimes and murders, travellers from distant locales may still have the image of a safe paradise etched in their minds.

Table 1. Media Influence by Select Variables

Yes

No

Gender

Male

51.40%

48.60%

Female

56.00%

44.00%

Region of Origin

Caribbean

66.70%

33.30%

North America

45.70%

54.30%

Europe

47.80%

52.20%

Central and South America

50.00%

50.00%

Other

58.30%

41.70%

Age

18-24

37.50%

62.50%

25-30

50.00%

50.00%

31-40

58.40%

41.60%

40+

60.70%

39.30%

Reason for Travel

Leisure

50.00%

50.00%

Visiting friends/relatives

58.10%

41.90%

Business Trip

53.20%

46.80%

Other

53.70%

46.30%

Previous Visit

Never, this is my first trip

54.20%

45.80%

Yes once before

52.00%

48.00%

Yes Twice before

52.90%

47.10%

More than twice

59.00%

41.00%

Overall Sample

53.8%

46.20%

21In terms of accessing information on the destination, 42.1% of respondents did research about the destination before travel. These persons (68%) accessed information on the destination primarily from online sources. A smaller group (12%) got information on the Trinidad and Tobago destination website only, another (12%) from consulting with friends and relatives and (9%) from a travel agent. Those visitors who actively sought information mainly did so using the internet which suggests that having a strong but positive online presence appears to be ever more significant and should not be overlooked by tourism practitioners. More germane to this discussion is the fact that the findings did not fully support Gunn’s (1972) position that tourists actively seek out information (both organic and induced) before embarking on their trip. In this study, there was greater support for Botterill and Jones (2010) position that many persons travel to a destination because of habitual nature and due to inter-generational patterns. This is supported by the fact that those who encountered negative crime reports but still travelled to the destination gave (2) main reasons – (1) I have family and friends here so I knew I would be safe (33.3%) and (2) I have visited before so I feel safe here (21.9%). The study therefore shows the importance of past experiences and networks in perception formation and behaviour.

22In reviewing the exposure to crime reports at the destination, it was noted that 57.9% of persons surveyed paid attention to local news while vacationing and 65.2% expressed having been exposed to many reports or a few reports while at the destination regarding violent crime (i.e. murder, robbery, rape, etc.). Clearly, the results show that more persons were exposed to violent crime reports while at the destination than before they arrived. The news presence locally may therefore be more negative than its international news media presence. Avraham (2000) noted that in analysing a city’s news media coverage patterns one needs to consider both the quantity and nature of the coverage patterns. Nature refers to the type of topics most covered about the place such as those related to crime, poverty, violence, social and community events, etc. and quantity referring to the visibility the destination gets, for example whether stories about the place appears on the front page of the newspapers, the length of the articles and the number of reports about the place. Considering this premise one can consider analysing local news coverage patterns in a similar manner. What types of stories dominate the front pages and news headline and the quantity or percentage of crime reports that are included in the nightly news, for example. This study did not set out to analyse coverage patterns at the destination, however, 65.2% is a high enough percentage to discuss the notion that the quantity of violent crime reports in the media may be excessive at the destination and the study has shown that a large percentage of tourists are paying attention.

4.2. Safety Perceptions

23Persons travelling from regions further away from Trinidad (e.g. Europe) had higher stated safety perceptions while persons from the Caribbean region had lower stated perceptions of safety. An important finding of this study was that persons staying in hotels were more outgoing than persons staying with friends and family. Persons travelling from regions far away were also seen as more outgoing. This finding coincides with other findings that show that persons from further regions have a higher sense of safety. It is reasonable to assume that persons who are less connected to the island (i.e. do not have family and friends or who are not part of the region) will more likely have to stay at hotels. This “distance factor” is seen as recurring in many of the findings. The European male over 40 staying at a hotel has more outgoing behaviour than a Caribbean female under the age of 40 who is staying at a friend’s house. Although the traveller coming from a further distance showed higher levels of activity, overall the respondents showed low to medium behaviour at the destination with only 7% having high interactive behaviour and engaged in activities without friends, family or a tour guide. In general, exposure to violent crime reports locally and exposure to negative travel advisories were not a significant predictor of safety perception as suggested by the bivariate correlations in Table 2.

Table 2: Multiple Regression Results: Safety Perception

Independent Variable

ɓ

SE B

β

Media exposure to violent crime prior to travel

-1.2

.31

-.26***

Media exposure to violent crime reports locally

.13

.21

.04

Exposure to negative travel advisories

.24

.36

.04

Note: * p < .05, ** p < .01, ***p <.001

4.3. Media Impact

24There are three significant findings with respect to media impact. Firstly, persons with higher exposure to crime reports of violence prior to visiting Trinidad had a lower sense of safety. Secondly, although several persons were exposed to violent crimes through the media while at the destination, these persons were not shown to be more affected in relation to their behaviour. The finding can be related to Garofalo’s (1981:845) model that included the component of “Actual” vs. “Anticipated” Fear of Crime. The author noted that “if a person anticipates feeling fearful in some hypothetical situation, he or she is more likely to experience actual fear upon encountering a comparable situation”. This study supports the statement since those persons that were already exposed before travel were seen as exhibiting more negative behaviour (i.e. avoidance, protective and less participatory behaviour) while at the destination. The study therefore implies that the international media coverage and reputation may have more significance to the tourist who already chooses to travel to the destination. Exposure to violent crime reports locally was not a significant predictor of behaviour as suggested by the bivariate correlations in Table 3.

Table 3: Multiple Regression Results: Behaviour at Destination

Independent Variable

ɓ

SE B

β

Media exposure to violent crime prior to travel

-.96

-.18

.36***

Media exposure to violent crime reports locally

-.56

-.12

.03

Exposure to negative travel advisories

.53

.20

.16**

Note: * p < .05, ** p < .01, ***p <.001

25Thirdly, arguably the most significant underlying observation from the study showed that many of the results imply that the inhabitants of the destination have been instrumental in their contribution to media effects since most of the negative perceptions are held by persons that have strong social ties to locals since persons staying with friends and family and those from the Caribbean region were seen to be more affected by negative reports. According to Sacco (1995:153), audiences are more likely to “put what is learnt in the media in the context of what is learnt through social networks”. This provides insight into why persons who stay with family and friends were seen as having less outgoing behaviour than visitors who stayed in hotels. Additionally, it was noted that outgoing behaviour was categorized by persons venturing out on the island alone and partaking in activities. Persons staying with friends and family were shown to have a lower sense of safety and less outgoing behaviour even though they were staying with familiar faces. However, it was this group of persons who were also more exposed to negative media about the island.

26

Conclusion

27The study was able to give good insight into the effect that negative news reports have on the perception of tourists while visiting the island of Trinidad. Firstly, the study showed that there was a moderate correlation between exposure to violent crime about the destination and perception and behaviour at the destination. The study found that persons who were more exposed to these negative reports prior to travel were more inclined to have a more negative perception of the island as well as exhibit less outgoing behaviour. Persons who were more exposed to violent crime reports locally while vacationing were less affected which suggests that “anticipated” fear and preconceived images were more powerful in affecting perception and behaviour when compared to information received while on vacation.

28Another significant finding of the study was that persons who have closer ties to the destination were more inclined to have a more negative perception of the destination and exhibit less outgoing behaviour. Persons who stayed with friends and family and those who have visited more than twice were more exposed to negative reports and as such exhibited more cautious behaviour while at the destination when compared to those who stayed in hotels and were first-time visitors.

29There was a definite “distance factor” emanating from the research. Persons from further regions were also more outgoing and had more positive perceptions of the destination which was consistent in several tests throughout the research. Persons within the region were more exposed to violent crime reports which resulted in less outgoing behaviour and negative perceptions of the island. These findings suggest that although the reports may have been generated in the media, interactions with locals and sharing a common heritage and closeness within the region have allowed for a stronger media effect on visitors to the island.

30For destination Trinidad and Tobago, and for other destinations that also face a similar or potential challenge of high crime rates, the findings point to the need for a two-pronged approach to strategically manage the image of the destination – internal and external marketing. In terms of the former, it is the social networks and family ties that have the greatest influence on safety perceptions and image formation, therefore, the onus is on the Destination Management Organisation (DMO) to educate the locals on the relationship between their actions and the impact on tourist perception. Furthermore, there has to be dialogue and negotiating between the DMO and the local media stakeholders on the approach taken to the reporting of violent crime that is mutually “beneficial” to the media houses and the DMO’s attempts at minimising the negative perception of the destination. A fully functional and effective Visitor Relations Management System is critical to assist in encouraging outgoing behaviour among visiting tourists.

31In reference to the latter, Trinidad is fortunate in one sense to be seen as an island destination within the Caribbean region where the overall image of the Caribbean in terms of safety is generally positive except in a few cases. The DMO for Trinidad needs to leverage this locational advantage in its external marketing particularly outside of the Caribbean region. For tourism-dependent small island developing states, strategic image management is critical to their survival and therefore continuous monitoring of local and international news coverage patterns and its impact is strongly encouraged.

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Acolla Lewis-Cameron et Corise Mason, « Sensationalisation of Reported Violent Crimes: Perceptions of Vacationing Tourists »Études caribéennes [En ligne], 57-58 | Avril-Août 2024, mis en ligne le 30 avril 2024, consulté le 18 juin 2024. URL : http://0-journals-openedition-org.catalogue.libraries.london.ac.uk/etudescaribeennes/30503 ; DOI : https://0-doi-org.catalogue.libraries.london.ac.uk/10.4000/etudescaribeennes.30503

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Acolla Lewis-Cameron

PhD, Dean and Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Social Sciences, The University of the West Indies, St. Augustine, Trinidad and Tobago,
acolla.lewis-cameron@sta.uwi.edu

Corise Mason

Former Postgraduate Student, Faculty of Social Sciences, The University of the West Indies, St. Augustine, Trinidad and Tobago

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