AN INVESTIGATION INTO THE INFLUENCE OF THE MEDIA ON VISITOR PERCEPTIONS OF AMUSEMENT PARKS FOLLOWING A CRISIS.
Cardiff Metropolitan University
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Background This research project was designed to investigate the influence that the media has over visitor perceptions of amusement parks, following a crisis. The global amusement park industry is very influential, and is worth over $32 billion annually. In recent years, there have been numerous high profile incidents at amusement parks around the world. With the use of social media gaining popularity, news stories can be shared worldwide, and reach and even larger audience almost instantly. Visitors to amusement parks are motivated by numerous factors. This research project will discuss how these motivations and overall perceptions can be altered; and the strategies for crisis communications that amusement parks should use. Method Firstly, the researcher will critically analyse the existing literature. The areas under analysis will include visitor motivations, the perception of incidents which receive media attention, the power of the media and the importance of crisis communications management; all in the context of the amusement park setting. The methodology chapter, will provide an outline of the data collection methods and justify why they were chosen. Results The researcher collected primary data via 125 online questionnaires posted on online forums and social media sites. The results were quantitative and formatted into various charts and graphs. These results were analysed and discussed in relation to the pre-existing literature. The three main themes are Visitor Motivations and Typologies, Visitor Perceptions of incidents at Amusement Parks, and Crisis Communications and Public Relations management. The combination of the primary and secondary research helped the author to create a conceptual code of best practice for crisis communications in amusement parks. Conclusions The author concluded that both thrill and safety are desired and expected whilst visiting amusement parks. She discovered that media portrayals of accidents do have an influence on visitor perceptions, but they do not always impact decisions to visit. Whilst the impacts directly affect people involved incident, this study has shown that other people are only really impacted in the short term. They may be impacted by what they have heard, but this research shows how incidents are unlikely to affect visit motivations in the long term. Even the amusement park and rides will eventually make a recovery, both socially and economically.
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