Severe acute respiratory syndrome, tourism and the media [Summary]

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Virginia Tech


By late 2003, the SARS outbreak appeared to over and was actually declared over by the WHO in July 2003. The diagnosis of new cases in Singapore in September 2003 and in China in January and April 2004, however, called into question this declaration. Nevertheless, the outbreak was at its height during the first half of 2003 and caused major damaging impacts to global tourism in general and was particularly disruptive in a number of tourism destinations in both developed and developing countries. In terms of the way SARS was reported, it also demonstrated the power of the media. It would appear that media focus on SARS followed the ‘issue attention cycle’ (Hall, 2002). Although the large-scale outbreak of SARS ended apparently in mid-July and media attention, as predicted in the ‘attention cycle’ waned, the emergence of new cases in September 2003 and again in 2004, returned the disease albeit briefly, to the focus of the media spotlight. Severe acute respiratory syndrome also raised issues about the reaction and responsibilities of national and international bodies. There are still many unanswered questions about SARS, however, including those relating to its impacts on global tourism. Therefore much remains to be researched about SARS and tourism and findings from such research should be particularly useful if (or when, as predicted) a major new outbreak of the disease occurs in the near future. Such research also should be particularly helpful with decision making in the context of other crises that may yet affect global tourism.

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