The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on travel prestige – an experimental study

Activity: Talk or presentationConference PresentationsResearch

Friedericke Kuhn - Speaker

Background of the study The research experimentally examines prestige effects of holiday travel before and after the pandemic outbreak of SARS-CoV-2. Understanding travel as a form of conspicuous consumption, recent studies document that holiday travel has the potential to result in prestige enhancement for travellers (Boley et al., 2018; Bui & Trupp, 2019). Changes in prestige effects of product types occur within long-term societal changes (Bourdieu, 1984), yet the impact of the pandemic on public discussions on holiday travel presumably led to a rapid change of perceptions of travelling and resulting prestige enhancement for consumers. The entry of international tourists has been restricted in many countries (Salcedo et al., 2020) and recent media articles have depicted ‘the tourist’ as a potentially dangerous infectious intruder (Müller, 2020). This implies that travelling may be regarded differently in a post-pandemic era, potentially changing the role of travel as a conspicuous consumption vehicle. Purpose of the study Using experimental quantitative methods, this study tests personal prestige of tourists shown on social media posts at different destinations before and during the Covid-19 pandemic in Germany. Results shed light on the impact of the Covid-19 crisis on the public perception of tourism as a means for prestige enhancement. Methodology We developed a scale measuring personal prestige conceptualized along six dimensions (conspicuousness, wealth, power, social, hedonism, achievements). Data was collected at three timepoints during the Covid-19 pandemic in February (N=101), April (N=66) and August 2020 (N=151). Samples were drawn from a research participation system at Leuphana University. Respondents were randomly assigned to experimental groups and asked to rate persons on social media posts. The IV, travel content, was operationalized through stimuli design. For T1 and T2, the conditions ‘at home’, ‘common touristic destination’ (i.e. Rome) and ‘exotic destination’ (i.e. Brunei) were selected. The design for T3 presented three stimuli, showing the conditions ‘at home’, and ‘destination with negative Covid-19 news coverage’ (i.e. Mallorca; St. Peter-Ording). Data was analyzed using ANOVAS. Results An analysis of variance on T1 data shows significant differences in personal prestige for one of the people shown on the stimuli. Further, the results of a comparison of personal prestige measured at T1 and T2 show significant differences in the power dimension of personal prestige under the condition ‘common touristic destination’ (i.e. Rome). This result is specifically interesting with regards to the critical pandemic situation in Italy during T2 measurement. T3 data is in the process of data analysis and will expose differences in personal prestige of tourists travelling to destinations strongly affected by the pandemic. Conclusions Results of the study give an insight into prestige effects of travelling, and further show how societal changes of the perception of travel due to the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic decrease the role of travel as a conspicuous consumption vehicle. Research implications and limitations A limitation of this study is the scale measuring personal prestige. T1 data was originally collected for further scale development, which has not yet been finalized. Theoretically, we adopted to brands (Fonrouge & Vigneron, 2012; Vigneron & Johnson, 1998), prestige-needs of consumers (Vigneron & Johnson, 1999, 2003), models and scales applied in tourism (Boley et al., 2018; Correia & Kozak, 2012; Kuhn, 2020). Statistical validity was checked with initial factor analyses and reliability analyses.


13th Consumer Behaviour in Tourism Symposium - CBTS 2020: "Consumers' travel behavior in transition: Between persistence and change"


Event: Conference