Tourism researchers from the University of South Carolina’s School of Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Management are launching a 12-month study to investigate the impact of COVID-19 on South Carolina’s tourism and hospitality industry. The research team has been awarded a $53,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce and will focus on pandemic recovery by studying two key components of crisis response - strategic adaptation and crisis communication.
“The tourism and hospitality industry worldwide has been devastated by COVID-19”, says Simon Hudson, the principal investigator for the study. “Unfortunately for this industry, there are a limited number of studies and theoretical models that give guidance in terms of responding to a crisis. The purpose of this project, therefore, is to provide assistance and guidance to this sector — particularly in South Carolina — in terms of recovering from this and future crises.”
Hudson, author of a recent book called COVID-19 & Travel, will be supported by hospitality management Ph.D. students and fellow University of South Carolina faculty members on the research, including Robin DiPietro, director of the School of Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Management and professor Drew Martin. The research team will look at how organizations in the tourism and hospitality sector adapted in order to survive COVID-19, and what new innovations are likely to be sustainable. The team will also analyze the effectiveness of specific media policies, strategies and marketing initiatives that were employed by tourism organizations during and following the COVID-19 crisis. Finally, the researchers will survey consumer reactions and responses to crisis communication strategies and industry innovation.
The tourism and hospitality industry worldwide is currently in a precipitous decline. Experts including Hudson predict that the number of international tourist arrivals in the U.S. will fall by 60-80% in 2020 due to the pandemic, putting millions of jobs at risk.
South Carolina is particularly vulnerable. The hospitality industry employs 10% of the state’s workforce, or about 220,000 people. Hudson estimates South Carolina’s hotel industry alone could lose over 50,000 total jobs (including supporting positions) as a result of COVID-19.
The team hopes that information gleaned from the study will inform important policy decisions in the state, assisting organizations in the tourism and hospitality sector to cope effectively with any crisis.
The School of Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Management is part of the University of South Carolina’s College of Hospitality, Retail and Sport Management. South Carolina is recognized as one of the top ten schools in the U.S. for hospitality and tourism management. More information on about the school can be found here.