A Quantitative Study of Students’ Covid - 19 Health Risk Perceptions When Visiting Free-Standing Hospitality Businesses (FSHB) Post Restrictions
Keywords:Free Standing Hospitality Businesses (FSHB), Hygiene Measures, Pandemic, Pre and Post COVID – 19, Restrictions, Risk Perceptions, Students
COVID-19 emerged in China in late 2019 and spread both rapidly and globally, resulting in a pandemic which started in March 2020 and is currently ongoing. Over 5.5 million deaths have been registered globally with 174,233 of those in the United Kingdom (UK). Risk is not the same for everyone with regards to infection and outcomes, nevertheless the UK government enforced three national lockdowns to limit the spread and impact. Furthermore, restrictions were imposed on the general public and the hospitality industry e.g., social distancing and seated table service, to name a few. Lockdowns and restrictions did reduce the spread and protected health services, although wider economic impacts are evident. Between April 2020 and March 2021, the UK hospitality industry lost £126.8 billion. In June 2021, all restrictions were lifted in England. However, COVID-19 is still prevalent and continues to have a substantial impact on student risk perceptions and how hospitality businesses operate. The goal of this project was to explore students' perceptions of COVID-19 risk when deciding to visit free-standing hospitality businesses (FSHB) post COVID-19 restrictions. A key objective was to provide FSHB with information as to what restrictions and additional hygiene measures could help reduce student risk perceptions and thus achieve a balance between gaining their trust and loyalty, without impacting economic sustainability of their business. Convenience sampling was used to collect 114 data samples from Liverpool John Moores University (LJMU) students using both open and closed questions via an online survey. Less than half (43%) of the sample said that restrictions would help ease their risk perceptions, with 19.7 % of those supporting sectioning off seating, and 31.8% supporting the controlling of customer numbers, although 57% felt that the aforementioned or any other restrictions would not ease their perceptions of risk. The population sample has an imbalance of age, gender, and ethnicity. Thus, additional studies are needed, which provide a more representative demographic participation sample and which consider the new variants of COVID-19, vaccinations, and booster vaccinations. Restrictions will help establish the trust and loyalty of a large proportion of students; nevertheless, applying those restrictions could result in a decrease in customer turnover, which long-term is not economically sustainable, particularly for small FSHB.
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