"The Hostess City of the South": Destination Image and Risk Perception in Savannah, Georgia
Tourism is one of the largest and most powerful industries in the world today. On any given day millions of people are visiting destinations all across the world, domestically and internationally. Tourism literature suggests that cognitive, affective, and conative knowledge about locations shape "destination image" and inspire people to (re)visit destinations. These destination images are informed by a number of factors, including personal experience and knowledge, along with the things we see, hear, or read from media sources and others' experiences. However, tourists are not the only group that creates mental images of places. For residents, their "destination image" is referred to as an evaluative image of the city where they live. This study investigates how crime mediates the images and opinions we hold about the places we live and visit. Data collection took place in Savannah, Georgia, a popular tourist destination that experienced a severe spike in violent crime in 2015 and 2016. This study will address the questions, "Are the evaluative images towards crime in Savannah different between residents and tourists? If so, how are they different?" and "Do social media and/or online travel reviews influence tourists' destination image and risk perception of Savannah?" Evaluative mapping exercises and survey methods collected responses from 60 individuals (26 residents and 34 tourists) in the city's Historic District. Through spatial, cultural domain, and statistical analyses, residents' and tourists' images of the city were compared to find if significant differences in crime awareness, attitudes towards crime, and/or likelihood to recommend and revisit Savannah existed. Results showed that residents and tourists had similar evaluative images of the Savannah, both of which were positive. However, residents had statistically higher crime awareness and risk perceptions than tourists and were more likely to cite crime as a reason not to recommend the city to others. They also felt that greater areas of the city were unsafe. Sources where individuals gathered information about Savannah and crime were also investigated. Special attention was given to compare how these sources and the information collected impacted the risk perception and familiarity between tourists who used social media and/or online travel reviews and those who did not. While it appeared that these sources increased familiarity and reduced risk perception, the results were not statistically significant. Findings from this study provide insight into how various groups perceive Savannah's cultural landscape and crime risks. Currently, it does not seem that crime is affecting the city's tourism industry or experience of tourists, as 100% said they would recommend the city to others. City officials and tourism workers can use these results as validation to continue marketing and promoting Savannah's historical significance, natural beauty, and southern charm as these were common themes cited by residents and tourists. In particular, with over 70% of tourists reporting that they used social media and online travel reviews before making their trip, marketing through these avenues presents a great opportunity for the city and its businesses to generate interest and attract customers.
Thompson, Marla. (December 2017). "The Hostess City of the South": Destination Image and Risk Perception in Savannah, Georgia (Master's Thesis, East Carolina University). Retrieved from the Scholarship. (http://hdl.handle.net/10342/6472.)
Thompson, Marla. "The Hostess City of the South": Destination Image and Risk Perception in Savannah, Georgia. Master's Thesis. East Carolina University, December 2017. The Scholarship. http://hdl.handle.net/10342/6472. December 16, 2018.
Thompson, Marla, “"The Hostess City of the South": Destination Image and Risk Perception in Savannah, Georgia” (Master's Thesis., East Carolina University, December 2017).
Thompson, Marla. "The Hostess City of the South": Destination Image and Risk Perception in Savannah, Georgia [Master's Thesis]. Greenville, NC: East Carolina University; December 2017.
East Carolina University