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Crisis Information, Communication Strategies And Customer Complaint Behaviours: The Case Of COVID-19

Xinyi Liu, Xiao Fu, Chang Hua, Zhiyong Li

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Purpose The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic plunged global tourism into a huge crisis in 2020. China was confronted with a wave of cancellations by tourism consumers due to COVID-19 and tourist complaints rose dramatically during this period. Although tourism enterprises have quickly introduced measures in response, the effectiveness of targeted policies is expected to be evaluated. Concerned about this phenomenon, this study aims to provide insights into the dim prospects of the tourism industry and to bridge the gap between tourists and enterprises. Design/methodology/approach The current study adopts a two-step method that combines automatic and manual content analysis to contrastively analyse 647 complaints from the Sina platform and the measures of five online travel agencies (OTAs) taken to deal with COVID-19. Findings The results reveal that the COVID-19-related information and policies issued by official departments had a promoting effect on tourist complaints. OTAs were the main target of complainers, and three themes of complaints were identified, namely, cancellation barriers, refund barriers and customer relationship management. Although tourism enterprises’ policies covered most dimensions of the three themes, more detailed and mutually beneficial policies need to be formulated in the face of a new round of cancellations. Originality/value This research attempts to investigate tourism customer complaint behaviours in the case of COVID-19 and to provide tourism enterprises receiving different complaints with practical insights into crisis management. It contributes to simultaneously minimizing business losses and maintaining customer relationships in the service industry, improving the industry’s performance under potential crises in the future.