Cite as: Kamlin, P., 2017, Tourists' perceptions of destinations in crisis: A case study of the European migrant crisis on the Greek islands of Kos and Lesbos. ΜΑ Thesis, Umeå University.
When tourists want to travel, they gather information about interesting destinations. In the information gathering, information about destinations are obtained through different channels, such as media, friends and relatives, travel intermediaries and advertisement. Tourists are very risk-averse, and if it appears in the information searching that there is a perceived risk at the destination, it might lead to the tourist’s unwillingness to travel to the specific destination. The purpose of this paper is to study tourists’ perceptions of destinations in crisis, with the specific studied crisis being the European migrant crisis on the Greek islands of Kos and Lesbos. The paper studies tourists’ perceptions of destinations based on promotional pictures from tour operators and pictures published in media during the migrant crisis. The study is based on semi-structured interviews, and the analysis is conducted through thematic analysis. The results indicate that the promotional pictures from tour operators attracted the respondents to visit the destinations, because their travel motives were linked to the perceptions they have of the destinations. However, when the respondents saw the pictures featuring the crisis from media, the destinations were no longer seen as places for tourism, but as places for helping people. The crisis environment was not something they wanted to see on a vacation, and the inequality between people was discussed. Enjoying a vacation in an environment with a humanitarian crisis was not preferred. However, if a destination that the respondents had booked a trip to suddenly got media coverage because of a crisis, safety, recommendations and practicalities would affect the decisions on whether to cancel the trip or not.
Keywords: Crisis, the European migrant crisis, Greece, place image, travel motives, destination