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Application of the health belief model to explain public perceptions, travel intentions and actions during COVID-19: a sequential transformative design

Kerstin Bremser (Pforzheim University of Applied Sciences, Pforzheim, Germany)
Lynda Crowley-Cyr (University of Southern Queensland, Toowoomba, Australia)
Villy Abraham (Sapir College, Hof Ashkelon, Israel)
Maria J. Moreno-Martin (Escuela de Turismo de Baleares, Palma de Mallorca, Spain)
Mercedes Carreño (Universidad de La Coruña, A Coruña, Spain)

Journal of Hospitality and Tourism Insights

ISSN: 2514-9792

Article publication date: 17 September 2021

Issue publication date: 7 December 2022




This paper uses a supplemented health belief model (HBM) to explain the risk perception of COVID-19 coronavirus infection by potential and actual domestic and international travelers (from primarily European countries) in the early pre-vaccine phase of the pandemic and its influence on their travel intentions, decisions, and actions. With a health crisis of this magnitude, it is vital to understand the effect of COVID-19-associated containment measures and safety industry strategies in abating public fear and apprehension associated with non-essential travel.


The authors used a sequential transformative design consisting of a (QUAN + Qual) survey to explore the HBM dimensions. The questions in the quantitative part of the survey were disseminated online examine perceptions of the severity and susceptibility of the disease, travel risks and willingness to travel. The questions in the qualitative face-to-face survey examined, how international/cross-border travelers (from Spain and Germany) perceive the benefits and barriers of personal protective behavior and the potential influence of cues to action.


Results suggest that despite potential fear arousal and confusion associated with this infectious disease, people were willing to travel during periodic on-and-off travel restrictions and perceive the benefits of such travel as outweighing barriers like wearing masks, social distancing and other containment measures.

Research limitations/implications

The conceptual model enabled the capture of real-time traveler's feelings about the benefits of traveling in the presence of the coronavirus and their perceptions of COVID-19 safety strategies used at destinations. This study adds to the lack of existing knowledge about potential psychological factors influencing travel decisions and behavior, including self-protective behavior. As borders reopen and we progress towards tourism and hospitality recovery, the results of this study can assist organizations, including health officials and governments, by reminding them of the likelihood of residual public fear when planning their COVID-19 safety strategies.


Given the scarcity of COVID-19 research on people's travel intentions and behavior following periods of social isolation due to lockdowns and border closures, this study captures sample public perceptions at two stages early in the pandemic. It is the first to apply all of the HBM dimensions with the addition of travel risk as a construct to investigate people's travel intentions and behaviors without vaccinations or treatments and to include cues to action in the investigation.



Bremser, K., Crowley-Cyr, L., Abraham, V., Moreno-Martin, M.J. and Carreño, M. (2022), "Application of the health belief model to explain public perceptions, travel intentions and actions during COVID-19: a sequential transformative design", Journal of Hospitality and Tourism Insights, Vol. 5 No. 5, pp. 865-885.



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