The purpose of this paper is to examine whether events such as acts of terrorism, political and social turmoil, military conflicts, epidemics, and similar influence preferences of Russian tourists for international and domestic travel (DT) and the role of psychographic and demographic factors in this process.
The study is a survey of 139 international tourists from a large Russian city. Variables representing the influence of instability in the world on selecting international vacations (unstable world, UW) and the willingness to turn to DT instead (domestic tourism, DT) were operationalized. The study operationalized the constructs of national attachment and consumer ethnocentrism and then converted them into manifest variables, NAT and CET. Hierarchical linear regression and logistic regression were conducted to investigate the relationship between UW and DT variables and personal factors. Supporting ANOVA and χ2 tests were conducted to further explore those relationships.
The study found that being a female, older and more attached to the homeland make Russian tourists more receptive to threats and risks of international travel; however, being wealthier, makes them less susceptible to those threats. Those with higher ethnocentric tendencies are more likely to turn to DT instead, while those with higher income are less likely.
The study does not pertain to a particular “destination-negative event” context. Nor the study is interested in a particular travel risk or whether or not Russian tourists perceive international travel as risky. The study focuses on to what degree those perceptions influence their decisions to travel internationally or domestically. Psychographic consumer ethnocentrism and national attachment variables that are rarely used in tourism studies were employed to better understand the destination selection process of Russian tourists in the UW.
Stepchenkova, S., Su, L. and Shichkova, E. (2019), "Intention to travel internationally and domestically in unstable world", International Journal of Tourism Cities, Vol. 5 No. 2, pp. 232-246. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJTC-01-2018-0012Download as .RIS
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Copyright © 2018, International Tourism Studies Association
Regional conflicts, inter-religious tensions, incidents of terrorism and new challenges with respect to epidemiologic situations around the globe are the factors of instability that tourists have to negotiate before, during, and after their travel. According to ourworldindata.org, terrorism-related incidents in the world have greatly increased in numbers since September 11, 2001, when the attack on the World Trade Center towers took more than 3,000 lives (Roser et al., 2017). In 2001, there were 1,907 terrorism-related incidents in the world in total, while in 2016, there were 13,488 of such incidents. The peak was the year of 2014 with 16,860 incidents. While Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria are currently in the leading positions by both the number of incidents and fatalities, the threat of terrorism has also been growing in established tourist destination countries like Egypt (0 in 2001 vs 365 in 2016), Turkey (19 vs 540) and Greece (14 vs 31). The long-time favorites such as the UK (94 vs 104), France (21 vs 26) and Germany (8 vs 41) have too been affected and have raised their counter-terrorism efforts (Roser et al., 2017).
At the same time, the tourism industry remarkably recovered from a decline caused by the 9–11 tragedy, and since 2010 has demonstrated a stable growth (UNWTO, 2017). In 2016, the international arrivals grew by 3.9 percent, reaching the record number of 1.2bn. Three nations that are leading the outbound tourism at present are China, the USA and the UK. Several countries, however, reported setbacks in international arrivals as compared to the previous 2015 year, apparently facing the aftermath of terrorism and security related incidents: France (−2 percent), Belgium (−10 percent), Russia (−9 percent), Turkey (−1 percent in 2015, no data for 2016) and Egypt (−42 percent) (UNWTO, 2017). The temporal dynamics of the arrival numbers suggest that incidents of terrorism have become a serious obstacle to destination countries and that tourists are carefully considering the new reality of increased threats to safety. Therefore, tourism risk research, with the emphasis on what influences decision making of actual and potential tourists in the destination selection process, continues to be timely and important.
The overall purpose of this study is to examine whether high profile negative events that involve acts of terrorism, political and social instability, inter-religious tensions, military conflicts around the world, epidemics and similar, affect desire of tourists to vacation abroad and make them turn to domestic travel (DT) as a substitute for international travel. The study uses Russian international tourists as a situational context, as in the recent years, the most favorite destinations of this tourist market, that is, Turkey, Egypt and Europe, have been affected by terrorism-related incidents of high visibility (ITE Travel and Tourism, 2016). International arrivals and expenditures from this previously very dynamic source market declined significantly in 2015. One reason for the decline is economic situation in Russia and depreciation of the ruble against virtually all other currencies (UNWTO, 2016). Another possible reason, we would speculate, is cultural: Russia has the score of 95 out of 100 on the uncertainty avoidance scale (Hofstede, 1980). For comparison, China, the USA and the UK have the scores of 30, 46 and 35, respectively.
In Russia, terrorism-related incidents grew during the First (1994–1996) and Second (1999–2009) Chechen Wars. They reached the peak in 2010 with 251 incidents and then rapidly declined to just 21 incidents in 2015 (Roser et al., 2017). Considering the vast tourist resources of the country and that the incidents are mostly contained to the Northern Caucasus region, DT is likely to be seen by Russian tourists as a viable, safe alternative to a riskier international travel. Further, besides the objective risks, there are subjective perceptions of those risks. These perceptions are not only culturally or demographically determined, they are highly influenced by how the incidents of instability are reported by government officials, public figures and by general and social media. In a situation of strained bilateral relations between Russia and a number of countries, most notably, the USA, Ukraine and Turkey (Levada Center, 2016), instances of instability in those countries receive intense, emotionally charged coverage in Russia (Herszenhorn, 2014), which contributes to perceptions of international travel as risky. In view of the discussed, Russian tourists constitute a suitable market to study the influence of world instability on tourist decision making.
The study, therefore, looks closely on decision making of Russian tourists regarding international and DT for leisure purposes and seeks understanding of how tourists navigate the threats of the unstable world (UW). More specifically, we are looking at how influenced tourists are by incidents of world instability and the news about these incidents in their decisions to select outbound destinations, and whether domestic tourism (DT) works as a substitute for a more dangerous international travel. Further, the study considers the influence of individual’s demographic characteristics, as well as their psychographic profile, namely, their level of national attachment and consumer ethnocentrism, that is, predisposition for protection of domestic economy in the individual’s consumption patterns, in the process of destination selection.
Academic literature on travel risks is extensive, and its development has been accelerated after the 9–11 (Yang et al., 2017). A systematic review of only one of its aspects, namely, travel risks and gender, counted 84 studies (Yang et al., 2017). Perceived travel risks are understood as the individual’s evaluation of the levels of uncertainty and negative consequences of going to a destination (Reisinger and Mavondo, 2005). They relate to a number of potential adverse conditions which may happen despite all careful planning on the part of the tourist. Perceived risks include issues with physical health and treatment, transportation, problems with service providers, crime against individual people and their property, as well as problems with destination environment, including ecology, natural disasters and situations of political and social turmoil. For example, young American adults indicate political instability, terrorism, political and religious dogma and crime among seven risks factors related to travel to Uganda (Lepp and Gibson, 2003). Risks of a more psychological nature include cultural barriers, inadequate language proficiency and fear of being lost or discriminated against (Simpson and Siguaw, 2008). Within the latter domain, Stepchenkova and Shichkova (2017) have identified risks of not being welcomed due to strained bilateral relations between country-destination and country-source market: the researchers found that Russian tourists are generally very positive to the idea to visit the USA, one of the most disliked countries in Russia (Levada Center, 2016); however, they want assurance that they will be welcomed there.
Personal safety has been a recurrent topic in the risk literature. Threats to personal safety stem not only from crime (e.g. Harper, 2006; Holcomb and Pizam, 2006) but from the violence that may happen when the incidents of terrorism as well as social and political conflicts in the country-destination occur (e.g. King and Berno, 2006; Tarlow, 2006); thus, tourists’ behavior following a terrorist attack is one of the prominent topics of current tourism research (Walters et al., 2018). While modeling with economic data generally indicate that such incidents result in decline of tourist numbers (Araña and León, 2008; McKercher and Hui, 2004), “of those who are likely to still travel to a destination threatened by terrorist activity, little is known as to how this threat, be it moderate or severe, will affect their travel related decisions” (Walters et al., 2018, p. 1). It has been shown, however, that factors such as past experience (Rittichainuwat and Chakraborty, 2009; Sönmez and Graefe, 1998; Yechiam et al., 2005), the costs associated with avoiding the risks (Yechiam et al., 2005), and culture in terms of Hofstede’s (1980) cultural dimensions (Reisinger and Mavondo, 2006; Yechiam et al., 2005) may play the role in this process (for a more detailed discussion, see Walters et al., 2018, p. 2).
Among those influential factors are general and social media translating “breaking news” about the incidents of instability, witnesses’ personal accounts, messages of opinion leaders and official advisory information. Propensity of the media to focus on negative news (Lexow and Edelheim, 2004) and sensationalized coverage of instability instances can potentially result in decreased arrival numbers regardless of the seriousness of the reported event (Walters et al., 2016). For example, the influence of the media is demonstrated by Fielding and Shortland (2009) who examined the effects of US television coverage of casualties in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on actual US tourist arrivals to Israel: the researchers found large statistical effects of actual Israeli casualties and reported Palestinian casualties on tourist flows. The findings suggest that reporting incidents of terrorism and instability by general and social media are likely to increase the subjective probability of such events in the mind of potential tourists and emotionally impact decision-making process of potential tourists. Most recently, Walters et al. (2018) examined changes in the tourists’ preference structures as a result of terrorist advisory information: the researchers found change in decisions related to such aspect of travel as accommodations and cancellation policy, independent vs group travel and price. The changes, however, are dependent on demographics, sensation seeking and travel knowledge factors. Not all studies, though, registered the effects of negative news on tourist arrivals: for example, Stepchenkova and Eales (2011) modeled arrivals from the UK to Russia and did not find the impact of news about terrorism and instability as reported in UK press on arrival numbers. A recent study by Wolffe and Larsen (2014) found that worries about terrorism of tourists to Norway, in fact, declined after the terrorist attack of July 22, 2011 when 77 people died and many more were injured as a result of two attacks by Anders Breivik. The research results indicate that the tourist behavior in response to terrorism and, wider, to instability incidents is likely to depend on characteristics of individuals, tourist market in general (its stable and situational characteristics), destination in question and the nature of negative events.
Risk perceptions vary among people, depending on socio-demographic and psychographic profile of a particular individual, strength of their risk beliefs and the destination’s characteristics (Cahyanto et al., 2014). Empirical studies, however, have provided mixed results with respect to the existence of relationships between perceptions of various risks and virtually any demographic variable, including gender, age, marital status, country of residence and income (Simpson and Siguaw, 2008; Yang et al., 2017). This study, therefore, focuses not on a particular risk type but on the overall perception of instability of the world for travel. More specifically, it examines to what degree these perceptions influence tourist decision-making process to travel internationally or domestically. This approach allows to “depart” from looking at the tourist behavior in a particular “destination-negative event” context but rather focuses on characteristics of individual tourists and tourist market in general (in this case, current Russian market). Demographic variables of gender, age, education, life stage, travel experience (number of trips abroad) and income were used in the study. Two psychographic factors, an individual’s attachment to their home country and tourists’ ethnocentric tendencies, have been identified as theoretically relevant (Klein et al., 1998; Shimp and Sharma, 1987; Verlegh, 2007) in the current Russian context. They were also judged potentially influential in negotiating between international or DT decisions, particularly in view of the situation in Russia described in the next section.
The study was carried out in March 2016. A number of high profile events manifesting instability in the world and dangers of international travel happened in less than a year and a half prior to the study that could have negatively affected the desire of Russian tourists for outbound travel and increased the propensity to vacation domestically. To outline the contextual situation for the study, we list below just seven of them – those that were widely publicized and discussed in Russia, in both general and social media. References are given using primarily Wikipedia.org as the most egalitarian information source where factual accuracy and writer’s bias is controlled by the multiple authors contributing to a particular entry (Giles, 2005; West and Williamson, 2009). Links to primary sources at the end of wiki entries allow for a more comprehensive and detailed descriptions of events for interested readers:
January 7-9, 2015. January 2015 Île-de-France attacks, a mass shooting at the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo office in Paris (Wikipedia, 2017a).
October 31, 2015. The passenger plane of the Kogalymavia airline A321, which flew from Egypt’s Sharm el-Sheikh to St. Petersburg, crashed over the Sinai Peninsula. After investigation by Russian, British and Egyptian authorities, the reason for the crash has identified as terrorism (Wikipedia, 2017b).
November 13, 2015. A series of coordinated terrorist attacks in Paris, France and the city’s northern suburb Saint-Denis: 137 deaths (130 victims, 7 perpetrators) (Wikipedia, 2017c).
November 24, 2015. A Russian Sukhoi Su-24M shot down by Turkish Air Force F-16 fighter jet at the Syria-Turkey border. An ensued diplomatic Russia-Turkey crisis led to a number of economic sanctions on Turkey issued by the Russian government (Wikipedia, 2017d).
December 31, 2015. Mass sexual assaults happened in Germany during the celebrations on the New Year Eve, mainly in the city of Cologne. Police report that 1,200 women were sexually assaulted and estimate that at least 2,000 men were involved, acting in groups. The attacks have been tied up to the migrant crisis in Europe (Wikipedia, 2017e).
January 2016. A 13-year-old Russian-German girl was reported missing for over a day in Berlin and, after returning, claimed that that she had been kidnaped and raped by three strangers. While the case later had been proven false, Russia accused Germany of tolerating and covering up child abuse (Wikipedia, 2017f).
The UW situation and bilateral conflicts between Russia with a number of countries affected the tourism landscape as well. In May 22, 2015, advisory was issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation (registry item 1005-22-05-2015) for Russian citizens to carefully assess the risks of traveling to the USA. After the crash of A321 plane, the flights to Egypt from Russia have been suspended indefinitely. Economic sanctions on Turkey issued by the Russian government after Turkey gunned down the Russian jet included termination of charter flights from Russia to Turkey, ban on the sales of holiday packages to Turkey resorts and calls for an end to visa-free travel between Russia and Turkey. In addition, foreign travel was restricted for large groups of civil servants many of whom constitute the Russian middle class: personnel of the Ministry of Internal Affairs; the Ministry of Defense; the Federal Penitentiary Service; the Federal Prosecutor’s Office; and police officers (Lemondzhava, 2016). At the same time, programs to develop, support and encourage DT have been initiated by the Russian government; for example, the number of subsidized flights to Crimea has been increased (Montag-Girmes, 2017).
Individual preferences for domestic goods or imports have been extensively studied in the marketing literature, mainly within the country-of-origin domain. Besides the influential “made in [country name]” variable, the factors of consumer ethnocentrism (Shimp and Sharma, 1987) and national attachment (Verlegh, 2007) have also been identified as affecting consumer decisions. The concept of consumer ethnocentrism understood as an individual’s tendency for protection of domestic economy has branched from a more encompassing sociological concept of ethnocentrism (Sumner, 1906), that is, a propensity of an individual to judge another culture by the values of their own culture (Levine and Campbell, 1972; Shimp and Sharma, 1987; Verlegh, 2007). In marketing, consumer ethnocentrism refers to beliefs that consumers may hold about the “appropriateness, indeed morality, of purchasing foreign-made products” (Shimp and Sharma, 1987, p. 280). In general, the higher consumer ethnocentrism, the less favorably an individual evaluates quality attributes of imported goods and intention to buy them. However, several studies have shown that consumers may actually prefer foreign goods when they are clearly superior to the domestic alternatives (Elliott and Cameron, 1994; Klein et al., 1998). For example, Klein et al. (2006) found that Russian consumers did not discriminate against imported products with superior characteristics. International tourism as a special kind of consumer product can be a subject to the same considerations; however, little research exists in the tourism domain which have tapped into this variable (Stepchenkova et al., 2017; Stepchenkova et al., 2018).
Patriotic sentiment has been running strong in Russia since the events in Crimea in 2014 and incorporation of the territory into the Russian Federation. Prior to the study, Russia organized the 2014 Winter Olympic Games, attracted the Formula One race in the same year, conducted a number of world championships in 2015, and had been getting ready to host the 2017 FIFA Confederation Cup and 2018 FIFA World Cup. Russia had conducted a successful military reform (Rykhtik, 2011) and entered the conflict in Syria. Further, since domestic or foreign products convey social and cultural connotations (Askegaard and Ger, 1998), consuming them is an act to affirm one’s national identity (Verlegh, 2007). In response to Western sanctions, the Russian government retaliated by banning from the Russian market a wide range of food products produced in the USA, the European Union and other countries (Felgenhauer, 2014). This action was largely approved by the Russian population because it was seen as providing opportunities to develop domestic food industries. In the words of Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, “the ban will bring Russia much good—the shelves in our malls will be cleared and filled with Russian produce—we must not miss such an opportunity to expand import replacement” (Felgenhauer, 2014, citing Russian news agency Interfax, August 7, 2014). Against such a backdrop, a number of people turned to DT, especially to Crimea, for patriotic reasons (Kirillova et al., 2018; Stepchenkova and Shichkova, 2017).
The discussion above sets the stage for formulation of the study’s main question: How do concerns with the world instability influence Russian tourists’ decisions to travel internationally and domestically? More specifically, the study aims to answer several inter-related questions: (1) To what degree perceptions of world instability affect travel decisions of Russian tourists? (2) Which demographic (gender, age, education, life stage, income, and travel experience) and psychographic (national attachment and consumer ethnocentrism) characteristics make a person more susceptible to threats of instability in their decision making? (3) Do risks to travel internationally translate to increased desire for DT? and (4) How demographics of tourists, consumer ethnocentrism, and national attachment affect a desire of Russian tourists to travel domestically?
The study was conducted on March 26, 2016 on a campus of a renowned Russian university, in a city of Nizhni Novgorod (population: 1.3m people) located in Central Russia. The city itself is a place of historic and cultural significance and also an industrial and educational center that serves as a transportation hub as well. More than 70 travel agencies operate in the city and the surrounding region, and the city is well connected by regular and charter flights with multiple tourist destinations in Russia and abroad. The university’s Tourism Research Center actively recruited participants for the study targeting outbound tourists from the Russian middle class, whose lifestyles and consumption patterns increasingly include leisure travel (Ipsos Comcon Report, 2017). Participants had to be at least 18 years old; not to be students at the university, and had to have traveled internationally at least once in the three years prior to the study. International travel was defined as visiting countries outside the current boarders of the Russian Federation and could have included travel to CIS states (the former Soviet Union republics). For a study purpose different from the one reported in this paper, there was one more requirement to the participants: none of them visited the USA. Thus, on a particular date, 139 people came to the designated campus location to take part in the study.
Overall, the gender composition of the sample was skewed toward females (63 vs 37 percent). Age-wise, the respondents were fairly young: the mean age was 31 years old and standard deviation was 11 years. They were well educated overall: all of them were high school graduates while 73 percent had a degree from an institution of the higher education. Three observations fell in the other category and were treated as missing values, making education an ordinal variable with four categories. Income-wise, the respondents were distributed almost evenly among the provided income groups: approximately one-third of them belonged to the two lowest, medium and highest income categories. In total, 15 percent of respondents did not have children while 41 percent had one child or more. In three years prior to the study, 26 percent traveled to CIS countries only; beyond the CIS countries, 31 percent had one trip, 29 percent made two or three trips, while the remaining 14 percent traveled four or more times. It was concluded that the profile of respondents was consistent with the Russian middle class, that is, younger and educated urban residents who incorporate international travel into their lifestyle.
The study took a form of a self-completed questionnaire. The main variables of interest were named “unstable world” (UW) and “domestic travel” (DT). Variable UW measured respondents’ self-awareness of the influence that various risk factors associated with the travel in the UW exert on their decision to vacation internationally: on a scale of 1 (no influence) to 10 (high influence), how does the level of instability in the world (terrorism, military and ethnic conflicts, epidemics, etc.) influence your desire to vacation abroad? Variable DT was meant to serve as an indicator of to what degree the domestic travel was used as a substitute for international tourism in the UW. It was operationalized as: Did your desire to vacation in Russia change in the last 1.5 years? The answer choices were given as increased, decreased and did not change.
The operationalization of consumer ethnocentrism followed Shimp and Sharma (1987) and Verlegh (2007). It had six indicator items: e.g., a real Russian should always buy Russian-made products or it is not right to buy foreign products because it puts Russians out of jobs. The national attachment variable was represented by three items (Verlegh, 2007): to live in Russia means a lot to me; I am proud to live in Russia; and I feel very strong connection with Russia. The psychographic variables were measured on the seven-point Likert scale (1=Strongly Disagree, 7=Strongly Agree), with larger scores indicating higher presence of a respective trait. The demographic block of variables included gender, age (number of full years at the time of the study), education (high school; some college; bachelor degree, postgraduate degree), life stage (seven categories: e.g., family no kids or family, at least one child left home), income (six categories) and travel experience (number of trips in three years prior to the study).
The Cronbach’s αs for six consumer ethnocentrism items and three national attachment items were 0.94 and 0.90, respectively. Therefore, two manifest variables, consumer ethnocentrism (CET) and national attachment (NAT), representing the psychographic profile of the respondents was created by averaging the original individual indicators. The correlation between the two manifest variables CET and NAT was 0.33, indicating sufficient discriminate validity of the two constructs. Overall, NAT and CET scores had the median value of 6.0 (Mean=5.6, SD=1.2) and 3.0 (Mean=3.1, SD=1.4), respectively, on the seven-point scale.
Using current situational context in Russia as a backdrop for the study, the researchers investigated whether tourists in their decisions regarding international travel are influenced by the external high profile events closely associated with travel risks. Judging by the descriptive statistics of the UW variable, high profile events such as terrorist attacks, military conflicts, diseases, etc., noticeably influence tourists’ desire to vacation abroad: Mean=6.5, Median=7.0 and SD=2.6 on a ten-point UW scale. Finally, the desire for DT increased for 54 respondents, decreased for seven respondents and stayed the same for 78 respondents. This variable was recoded into two categories: DT1 (increase: 54 responses, or 39 percent) and DT0 (no increase: 85 responses, or 61 percent). The descriptive statistics for NAT, CET, UW, and DT variables are given in Table I.
UW: regression analysis
With respect to which demographic and psychographic variables affect receptiveness to risks of traveling abroad, the hierarchical linear regression analysis was conducted. At the first step, demographic variables were entered, followed by the two psychographic variables at the second step. When all variables were used in the model, it exhibited the signs of multicollinearity. The two variables, age and life stage, were practically interchangeable, given their high bivariate correlation (r =0.83). To reduce multicollinearity, the age variable was retained and the life stage variable was excluded. Education was treated as a categorical and income as a numerical variables. The solution with gender, age, education, income, number of trips abroad, NAT, and CET acting as predictors explained 22 percent of the total variance in the dependent variable UW (Table II).
In the regression solution, 18 percent of the total variance was explained by demographic variables, and additional 4 percent by the psychographic variables; however, only gender, age, income and NAT variables were significant in the final model. The results indicate that women and older people (or those in later stages of life) are more influenced by incidents of world instability in their decisions to travel internationally; these variables were the two strongest predictors (t=−3.17, p=0.002 and t=2.65, p=0.009, respectively). Those with higher incomes are less influenced in their decision making by instability in the world (t=−2.14, p=0.034). Respondents, who are more attached to their own country, are also influenced more (t=2.19, p=0.030).
DT: logistic regression
Two research questions deal with the most influential variables affecting the propensity of Russian tourists to turn to domestic vacation in the world with increased risks for international travel. The domestic travel variable (DT) is categorical: 0 stands for “no increase in desire to travel in Russia” and 1 stands for “the desire to travel domestically increased.” To predict the binary outcomes, logistic regression was the method of choice (Pallant, 2016). The initial model, that included demographic, psychographic and UW predictors, correctly classified 69 percent of all cases (gender and education were treated as nominal variables, while income acted as a numerical predictor), but only income and UW variables had significant and marginally significant effects (p=0.007 and p=0.079, respectively) (Table III, Model 1). For the sake of model parsimony, variables with insignificant Wald’s statistic were removed, and three variables were identified as the most influential in predicting predisposition for DT: income, consumer ethnocentrism and UW (Table III, Model 2).
A test of the full model with three predictors against a “constant only” model was statistically significant, indicating that the three predictors combined reliably distinguished between increase (DT=1) and no increase (DT=0) respondents in the sample (χ2 20.26, df=3, p<0.001). The Homer–Lemeshov test statistic greater than 0.05 indicates support for the model (Pallant, 2016). The model explains between 14 percent (Cox & Snell R2) and 18 percent (Nagelkerke’s R2) of variation in the DT variable. Overall accuracy of the classification was 69 percent, same as in the model with all predictors; however, classification increase/no increase categories of respondents noticeably varied: 84 percent (DT=0) and 46 percent (DT=1). The Wald statistic demonstrated that income was the strongest of the three predictors (p=0.005). Contribution of CET was marginally significant (p=0.051). Odds ratio (exponentiated β) indicates change in odds to report increase in desire to vacation in Russia when the respective indicator moves up one unit, all other things being equal (Tabachnik and Fidell, 2007). With one unit increase in CET scores, the odds of reporting increased desire to vacation in Russia increase by the factor of 1.30, or 30 percent one unit increase in UW leads to 17 percent higher odds of DT taking value of 1. However, the larger the income, the less likely DT will take a value of 1. More specifically, with moving to a lower bracket by one step, the odds of reporting increased desire to vacation in Russia increase by the factor of 1/0.71= 1.41, or 41 percent (Pallant, 2016). Overall, the results indicate that those Russian tourists who are affected more by the world instability in their plans for international travel and those with higher ethnocentric tendencies are more likely to turn to the domestic alternative as a substitute. Those with higher incomes, however, are less likely to choose DT in the same situation.
While demographic variables and their influence on tourist decision making have been extensively studied, albeit with inconsistent results pertaining, at least to some degree, to different situational contexts (Yang et al., 2017), the psychographic variables of consumer ethnocentrism and national attachment have been examined noticeably less. This study was interested in the joint effect of these two groups of variables on decision making of Russian tourists in the context of increased travel risks to personal safety in international travel and turning to DT as a result of those risks. While it is acknowledged that there are multiple variables not included in the study that affect the desire to travel internationally and domestically (e.g. financial constraints, individual risk tolerance or lack of time due to personal circumstances), the analyses were seeking to estimate the exploratory power of the demographic characteristics and the effects of psychographic factors of national attachment and consumer ethnocentrism on decisions of Russian tourists. The inclusion of the psychographic variables and the context of the study, with its focus on the world instability, are considered as two main contributions of this research to the travel risks literature.
For a balanced appreciation of the study findings, we would like to remind the reader that the risks perceptions were examined “indirectly” in this research. The instability of the current situation in the world with respect to terrorism incidents and regional conflicts is a “given” in this study, as well as the higher risks of international travel associated with these events. The focus, therefore, is not on whether or not Russian tourists perceive travel as risky or what kind of risks they consider the most likely to materialize, but on to what degree those perceptions influence their decisions to travel internationally and domestically. As follows from the operationalization of the UW variable, the influence in affecting decisions does not necessarily mean that those who are highly influenced by incidents of instability in the world would automatically prefer DT. It rather means that negative events associated with travel risks would make tourists weigh more carefully various options and negotiate harder among pros and cons of several alternatives before choosing the one they are comfortable with. For example, sun seekers, one of the five large groups of the Russian tourist market (ITE Travel & Tourism, 2016), who had been going to Turkey every year, might decide to go to Greece or Mallorca instead; but there would also be those who would prefer to give up international travel altogether and opt for a vacation in Russia or simply travel less frequently.
Out of six demographic variables, gender had the strongest effect on influencing decisions to travel internationally in the situation of world instability. The finding that women are more receptive to perceived risks of travel abroad concurs with Yang et al. (2017): their literature review on risk and gender found that 70 percent of the surveyed studies report the same result. Those who are older have higher scores on the UW variable as well. The influence of gender and age variables, however, does not extend directly on decision to select a domestic destination for travel, as neither of them is significant in the logistic regression analysis. In contrast, the income variable is significant in both regression analyses. Those Russian tourists who are wealthier worry the least, possibly because if anything happens in their preferred vacation place, they can easily switch to a less dangerous and more stable international destination. This conclusion is supported by the influence that income exerts on the DT variable: wealthier people are less likely to choose a domestic destination.
Out of the two psychographic variables, only national attachment is significant in the hierarchical linear regression as a predictor of the UW variable. At the same time, national attachment is not influential for the increased desire in DT. We would speculate that Russian tourists with higher national attachment have already been predisposed to DT, and the latest negative incidents of world instability only confirmed their views that the world is a dangerous place and that they were right to prefer the domestic vacations in the first place. Conversely, consumer ethnocentrism was not significant in the linear regression analysis but became marginally significant in the logistic regression analysis. As ethnocentric tendencies of tourists reflect a propensity to defend the domestic economy, in a situation of conflict, economic sanctions, and increased risks for international travel, those with higher consumer ethnocentrism scores are more likely to turn to domestic destinations.
Domestic destinations may seem a safer choice in an unstable global environment for Russian tourists; thus, 39 percent of respondents reported increased desire to travel within Russia. Yet, for 61 percent of respondents, a desire to vacation in Russia did not increase. These results indicate that Russian tourists may not be ready to sacrifice the consumption of quality foreign tourism brands at present (Stepchenkova et al., 2017; Stepchenkova and Shichkova, 2017). The findings of the study also concur with what has been reported by Seabra et al. (2014) who found that a large share of tourists (almost 50 percent) will not be deterred from travel despite apparent risks to safety. For example, high uncertainty avoidance of the Russian society, its low tolerance of ambiguity, less willingness to take risks and higher dependency on structured rules (Hofstede, 1980) do not preclude Russians from going to Turkey despite the instances of political turmoil and terrorism in the country (Roser et al., 2017). In 2017, Russian arrivals to Turkey bounced back and are at a four-year high (Vasilchuk, 2017). Granted, the format of all-inclusive resorts, the main Turkish product that Russian tourists consume, is characterized, arguably, by the least amount of uncertainty. Nevertheless, travel behavior of Russian tourists in this example exhibits that “what is to be, will be” attitude expressed in the popular Russian sayings like “Man proposes: God disposes,” “One cannot escape from fate” and similar. This feature of the Russian psyche is famously examined in the novel “Fatalist” from the classical work of the Russian literature “Hero of Our Time” by M. Lermontov.
In the current situation, the economic aspect of decision making of Russian tourists seems to prevail, as the desire to travel abroad or chose the domestic destination is affected by income the most. The weakening of the ruble in relation to other main currencies noticeably increased price for international travel for Russian tourists. While the Russian government uses this situation to support DT, especially to Sochi and Crimea, the efforts of regional legislatures and offices responsible for tourism development can be directed to making their DT offer more attractive for those who cannot afford or unwilling to take international vacations in view of increased risks to safety. Currently, Russian people perceive domestic alternatives as inferior to international tourism offer, especially in terms of value for money (Stepchenkova and Shichkova, 2017). The patriotic demand for DT may dissipate if Russian governing bodies responsible for tourism development do not come up quickly with an affordable tourism quality product available domestically. For the city of Nizhni Novgorod and surrounding region, the timing is especially right as the city works on upgrading the existing and developing new tourism infrastructures as one of the host locations of 2018 FIFA World Cup.
Limitations and future research
From the statistical viewpoint, the overall variances explained by each regression models, HLR and LR, are relatively small. While in the explanatory studies (as opposed to the predictive models) researchers are less concerned with the size of the R2 and similar measures like Nagelkerke’s R2 (Frost, 2014), low R2 indicates that the models are likely to miss other important predictors. Only two psychographic variables, national attachment and consumer ethnocentrism, were considered in this study, while a number of potentially relevant psychographic (e.g. animosity toward the West Heinberg, 2017) and contextual (e.g. characteristics of tourism service offerings Sirakaya and Woodside, 2005) variables were not included. The logistic regression better models the no increase in interest in DT response than the increased interest response, further indicating that the number of potential influential factors needs to be expanded.
While feasible explanation for the effect of income has been suggested and the findings with respect to gender are in concurrence with previous studies, the influence of the age variable needs further investigation. The experiential learning theory (Kolb, 1984) suggests that the learning process involves abstract conceptualizations and active experimentations. Since, arguably, the older people have accumulated more in-depth reflections and experimentations as compared to the younger people, the risk perceptions between people of different ages may vary. However, the theory does not specify which age group is more risk averse, as the knowledge gained from experience as well as critical reflections can point to opposing directions. With respect to the number of trips abroad, age groups in the sample did not differ (F(3, 135)=0.45, p=0.715), indicating the comparable travel experience. The respondents’ travel type (e.g. whether the person is a thrill seeker or sun seeker), however, has not been obtained in the study. Thus, further research is necessary to uncover the interplay of age, risk perceptions, travel experiences, and the tourist type.
The issue of the sample size may be considered as a limitation of the study. While the data collection focused on recruiting respondents with a profile of active Russian international tourist and achieved the sample size sufficient for conducted regression analyses (Hair et al., 2013), it would have been desirable to have a larger sample to increase the power of analyses. For example, with more respondents, the marginally significant influence of CET variable might have come out stronger. Results from two-way ANOVA on the interaction effect between age and income were not included, as a few cells were insufficiently populated (4–7 cases) to present the results with confidence. Unfortunately, a one-time data collection study design precluded the research team from collecting additional samples.
In conclusion, the study contributes to understanding of how tourists’ demographic and psychographic characteristics influence their perceptions of world instability and resulting travel decisions using the Russian tourist market as the context of the study. The study identified gender, age and income as the important factors influencing tourists’ decisions to vacation internationally. Being receptive to the risks of international travel, however, does not necessarily mean that the DT would be automatically preferred. Furthermore, wealthier Russian tourists are less likely to turn to domestic destinations as a response to threats of the UW. Those who are more influenced by the perceived risks of the international travel are more likely to turn to the domestic vacations; however, the overall conclusion is that DT is only a partial substitute for international travel for Russian tourists. National attachment is identified as a factor that contributes to negotiating harder between pros and cons of international travel in tourist decision-making process, in a situation of increased risks to personal safety while traveling internationally. Consumer ethnocentrism contributes to the increased desire for DT in the UW, together with the income and perceptions of risks factors. On the whole, the study findings indicate that in a context of global instability, personal demographic and psychological traits impact decision making of tourists with respect to selection of international or domestic destinations.
Respondents’ psychographic profile
|Consumer ethnocentrism (CET)||3.1||1.4||0.8||0.4|
|National attachment (NAT)||5.7||1.2||−1.3||2.2|
|Unstable world (UW)a||6.5||2.6||−0.5||−0.7|
|Domestic travel (DT)||Increase: freq (%)||No Increase: freq (%)|
|54 (38.8)||85 (61.2)|
Notes: aTen-point rating scale. Variables CET and NAT are summated seven-point Likert scale
Linear regression analysis
|Model||B||SE B||Std B||t||p-value||R2||Adj. R2||ΔR2||F||Sig.|
Notes: NAT, national attachment; CET, consumer ethnocentrism. Dependent variable: unstable world. Gender codes: male – 0; female – 1. ns, not significant at 0.10 level
Logistic regression analysis
|Model 1: variables||B Coeff.||SE||Wald||p-value||Odds ratio||Low||Upper|
|Percentage accuracy in classification: 69.1%|
|Hosmer–Lemeshov test: χ2=, df=8, p=0.074|
|Cox and Snell R2: 0.162|
|Nagelkerke R2: 0.221|
|Hosmer–Lemeshov test: χ2=6.085, df=8, p=0.638|
|Cox and Snell R2: 0.136|
|Nagelkerke R2: 0.184|
Notes: Dependent variable: domestic travel. Gender codes: male – 0; female – 1. ns, not significant at 0.10 level
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About the authors
Svetlana Stepchenkova, PhD, is Associate Professor at the Department of Tourism, Recreation & Sport Management, University of Florida. Her research focuses on destination marketing, branding and positive image building. She studies tourism behavior and the effectiveness of destination promotion in situations of strained bilateral relations between nations. She is also interested in usability of user-generated content for managerial decision making in destination marketing and social studies methodology.
Lijuan Su is Doctoral Student at the Department of Tourism, Recreation & Sport Management, University of Florida. She received the Master’s Degree in Urban and City Planning from Peking University and Bachelor’s Degree in Tourism Management from Zhejiang University. Her research deals with tourism and hospitality marketing, with the focus on issues of corporate image recovery and tourists’ spatial behavior after the highly publicized online incidents of service failure.
Elena Shichkova, PhD, is Associate Professor and Head of the Center for Tourism Education and Research, Institute of International Relations and World History, Lobachevsky State University of Nizhni Novgorod. Her research interests include political process and the methodology issues of political modernization, political socialization of youth, public relations, branding and corporate sustainability as a factor of development of destination and society, international and cultural tourism.