Responding to Hurricanes Irma and Maria: An Exploration of Puerto Rico Tourism's Image Repair Efforts
thesisposted on 23.05.2021, 12:56 authored by Allison Wiseman
Tourists’ perceived image of a destination, including perceptions of safety and risk, play important roles in deciding whether or not to visit a destination. When crises strike a tourist destination, tourism organizations must work towards restoring their images to a favourable state. In the fall of 2017, hurricanes Irma and Maria swept through the Caribbean with devastating consequences. Puerto Rico, whose tourism industry plays a vital role in its economy, was particularly devastated by the hurricanes. In the wake of hurricanes Irma and Maria, Puerto Rico’s tourism sector was in a state of crisis whereby its economic health depended on tourism revenue. Since image plays a vital role in the health of Puerto Rico’s tourism industry, this Major Research Paper (MRP) seeks to analyze the use of image repair strategies employed by Puerto Rico’s official tourism organization, See Puerto Rico, across multiple online platforms and across varying stages of the hurricane crisis. Drawing from image repair theory (Benoit, 1997), texts and images found on See Puerto Rico’s website and Facebook page were analyzed by identifying the presence of denial, evading responsibility, reducing offensiveness, corrective action, and mortification strategies with the addition of informational and suffering strategies. Findings indicate that See Puerto Rico primarily employed bolstering, informational, corrective action, minimization, and suffering strategies throughout its website and Facebook page. Puerto Rico strived to restore its image by providing tourists select pieces of information regarding the status of Puerto Rico’s tourism industry and by showcasing the positive attributes of the islands. Part of See Puerto Rico’s image repair efforts involved ignoring the hurricanes and minimizing their seriousness and impacts to reassure tourists that they could still travel to Puerto Rico. The application of image repair theory in this study suggests that it can be used to help understand tourism organizations’ crisis responses to natural disasters.