Disaster communication: An analysis of the digital communication strategies used by the medical tourism industry during the 2017 Caribbean hurricane season

Alicia Mason, Lynzee Flores, Pan Liu, Kenzie Tims, Elizabeth Spencer, T. Gabby Gire

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to understand the crisis communication strategies used by the Caribbean medical tourism industry in the 2017 hurricane season, and also evaluate the quality of the disaster communication messages delivered via digital mediums. Design/methodology/approach: This study includes a comprehensive, qualitative content analysis of 149 risk and crisis messages from 51 healthcare organizations distributed through digital media. The medical tourism providers (MTPs) include hospitals, medical tourism facilitators, practitioners/private physicians, specialty clinics, and dental and cosmetic providers. Findings: Nearly half of the MTPs included in the data set delivered no post-disaster information to external audiences. The most prominent post-disaster message strategy utilized was conveying operational messages. Furthermore, an unexpected finding was the sheer magnitude of unrelated health-oriented and promotional destination marketing content disseminated before, during and after these events. Research limitations/implications: This analysis excludes internal organizational channels of communication which may have been used to communicate risk and crisis messages during these events (i.e. employee e-mails, announcements made through intercom systems, etc.). Our analysis does not include content disseminated through medical tourism forums (i.e. Realself.com, Health Traveler’s Forum, FlyerTalk Forum). Practical implications: Small-scale MTPs can improve on any weaknesses through proactive planning and preparation by creating organizational goals to complete basic crisis communication training courses and in doing so support the applied professional development of disaster and crisis responders in the Caribbean region. Second, MTPs exposed to similar risks of natural disasters may use these findings for comparative analysis purposes to support their own organizational planning. Finally, this study supports the continued utility of the National Center for Food Protection & Defense guidelines for analyzing and evaluating organizational performance. Originality/value: Currently much of the academic scholarship of applied disaster communication narrowly focuses on the response strategies of one organization, or analyzes one social media platform at a time (i.e. Twitter). A strength of this analysis is the inclusion of an organizational sector (i.e. Caribbean medical tourism providers) and the range of platforms from which the content was captured (e.g. websites, org. blogs and social media networks).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)241-259
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Hospitality and Tourism Insights
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019, Emerald Publishing Limited.


  • Crisis communication
  • Digital media
  • Disaster communication
  • Medical tourism
  • Natural disasters
  • Risk communication

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Tourism, Leisure and Hospitality Management


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