Effects of Oil in Coastal Waters on Tourism-Impacted Business' Preparedness and Response
Rebecca Powers and Whitney Knollenberg, East Carolina University and Virginia Tech University
17 Feb 2012
The possible impacts of an oil-related hazard on North Carolina’s oceanfront tourism industry are currently hypothetical. Using unique and recently collected data from tourism-impacted business owners, we ask, “How does ambiguity both in terms of probability of occurrence and the severity of impact affect respondent perceptions of the risk?” Multiple social science research methods were employed including a quantitative questionnaire administered via telephone interviews with a random sample of non-agricultural businesses and organizations in the eight NC coastal counties (N=553), semi-structured telephone interviews with NC emergency managers, public land managers and tourism officials (N=10), and an internet based quantitative survey (N=68). Respondents were asked about their perceptions of the impacts on business operations if oil was in coastal waters and about their preparedness for an oil related incident. An experimental design was embedded into the questionnaires that allows for examining how ambiguity of risk impacts responses. Analyses reveal that the variation in the scenarios did not affect respondents’ probability estimates of an oil disaster happening. The majority of business owners felt very confident that their business would continue operation as usual should any of the scenarios actually occur. In contrast, key informant responses suggested that an oil spill would have a serious impact on the coastal counties’ economies. These results can be applied to informing NC coastal business owners about the potential for an oil-related incident occurrence, the potential impacts, and sources of reliable information should an event occur.
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