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Navigating Uncertainty: The Influence of Risk on Consumer Decision-Making in Ocean Cruising. Part II.

Update to PhD Study

This guest article is submitted by Jennifer Holland, a Canadian researcher currently completing her PhD at the University of Brighton in England. Her PhD is titled “Navigating Uncertainty: The Influence of Risk on Consumer Decision-Making in Ocean Cruising” This is an update to a previous article in September 2016 which can be accessed here. 

While this PhD study on exploring perception for risk in cruising is still in process, some initial findings have emerged and suggest both expected and surprising preliminary findings. After the two focus groups were conducted in the UK in September 2016, eight themes emerged from using thematic analysis of the data. Preliminary findings indicate that the perception of risk in cruising differs significantly between participants who have cruised and participants who have not cruised. Findings from the non-cruiser group revealed themes relating to Time, in that time on the cruise was wasted getting to the destination, spent waiting in lines and there was no time to do anything in port. Themes of Constrained Experience and Inauthentic Experience revealed a perception that on a cruise there is no freedom, lack of spontaneity and a feeling of being 'herded'. There is also a perception that a cruise experience feels manufactured, transient, superficial, and lacking in meaningful connections with the host community. The fourth theme to emerge was Uncertainty, which related to anxiety and apprehension related to concerns about health, cost and enjoyment.

Findings from the cruiser group revealed themes related to Relationships, where a cruise is perceived to provide opportunities to connect with family, friends, and also with the ship's crew who become extended family. Other themes include Perception of Restfulness, where everything is taken care of and an extension of the ship as home, and Sense of Motion. Sense of Motion refers to the participants' experience of a cruise being connected to the sea and a sense of movement through the ocean, as well as visiting many destinations on one holiday. The fourth theme to emerge was Perception of Trust, which referred to the participants' feeling safe and secure both on the ship and in the destination, and the confidence in the cruise line to take care of them in case of a risk event. It was surprising how much faith was placed by the participants in the cruise lines to look after them. The underlying reasons for this implicit trust in the cruise companies are not clear and worthy of further exploration as they would appear to influence decision-making and influence the perception of risk. Overall, the findings from the focus groups support previous research on cruise passenger decision-making and risk handling. Cruise passenger decision-making processes have been investigated and have shown that cruise tourists tend to be either very brand loyal to a specific cruise line, or go through a complex decision-making process with a comprehensive information search (Park & Petrick, 2009; Petrick et al, 2007; De la Vina & Ford, 2001).

Additionally, the findings from both groups indicate that there are indeed elements of consumer risk for a cruise purchase. This suggests that consumer risk does exist in some manner for each of the participants in this study. Of the eight themes, five directly relate to consumer risk (time, constrained environment, inauthentic experience, uncertainty, perception of trust). These initial findings point to consumer risk existing in cruising, and support the existing literature on consumer and tourist decision-making (Jacoby & Kaplan, 1972, Roselius, 1971; Simpson & Siguaw, 2008). The theme of sense of motion also supports previous research on decision-making regarding a cruise as an emotive leisure product with a strong connection to the physical environment of the sea (Kwortnik, 2007; Lusby & Anderson, 2010). The findings from the cruise group also supports previous research identifying that two of the main benefits sought by taking a cruise are relaxation and to spend time with family and friends (Elliot & Choi, 2011; Fan & Hsu, 2014; Qu & Ping, 1999).

These preliminary findings from the focus groups are now guiding phase two of data collection, in which interviews are being conducted with non-cruisers and cruisers to further explore these themes. Although this second phase has not been completed yet, initial interviews have revealed complexities of risk perception and possible new types of consumer risk unique to the cruise product, including dimensions of environmental irresponsibility, class, race and colonialism. Final results for the interviews and overall PhD study are expected in the autumn of 2017.


De La Vina, L. & Ford, J. (2001). Logistic regression analysis of cruise vacation market potential: demographic and trip attribute perception factors. Journal of Travel Marketing, 39(4), pp. 406-410. DOI: 10.1177/004728750103900407

Elliot, S., & Choi, H. C. (2011). Motivational considerations of the new generations of cruising. Journal of Hospitality and Tourism Management, 18(1), pp. 41-47. DOI: 10.1375/jhtm.18.1.41

Fan, D. X., & Hsu, C. H. (2014). Potential mainland Chinese cruise travelers’ expectations, motivations, and intentions. Journal of Travel & Tourism Marketing, 31(4), pp. 522-535. DOI: 10.1080/10548408.2014.883948

Jacoby, J. & Kaplan, L. (1972). The components of perceived risk. In M. Venkatesan (Ed.), SV- Proceedings of the Third Annual Convention of the Association for Consumer Research (pp. 382-393). Duluth, MN: Association for Consumer Research.

Kwortnik, R. J., & Ross, W. T. (2007). The role of positive emotions in experiential decisions. International Journal of Research in Marketing, 24(4), pp. 324-335. DOI: 10.1016/j.ijresmar.2007.09.002

Lusby, C., & Anderson, S. (2010). Ocean cruising–A lifestyle process. Leisure/Loisir, 34(1), pp. 85-105. DOI: 10.1080/14927710903550031

Park, S.-Y., & Petrick, J. F. (2009). Examining current non-customers: A cruise vacation case. Journal of Vacation Marketing, 15(3), pp. 275-293.

Petrick, J. F., Li, X., & Park, S. Y. (2007). Cruise passengers' decision-making processes. Journal of Travel & Tourism Marketing, 23(1), pp. 1-14. DOI: 10.1300/J073v23n01_01

Qu, H., & Ping, E. W. Y. (1999). A service performance model of Hong Kong cruise travelers’ motivation factors and satisfaction. Tourism Management, 20(2), pp. 237-244. DOI: 10.1016/S0261-5177(98)00073-9 

Roselius, T. (1971). Consumer rankings of risk reduction methods. The Journal of Marketing, 35(1), pp. 56-61. DOI: 10.2307/1250565 

Simpson, P. M., & Siguaw, J. A. (2008). Perceived travel risks: The traveller perspective and manageability. International Journal of Tourism Research, 10(4), pp. 315-327. DOI: 10.1002/jtr.664

Article details

  • Author(s)
  • Jennifer Holland
  • Date
  • 19 July 2017
  • Subject(s)
  • Tourism