Perceptions of Risk at Meetings and Conferences: An Event Planner's Perspective
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Events are a part of every culture and community (Allen, et al., 2002; Getz, 1997; Getz, 2007; Rogers, 2003). They may differ in their purpose (celebration, education, marketing), but at the core they are a gathering of people (Goldblatt & Nelson, 2001). Economically, the event industry is an important sector of the tourism industries; in the USA it is estimated at $652 billion USD in revenues and to have created more than 1.7 million jobs in 2005 (Rutherford Silvers, 2008). Inherent within this industry are risks of varying types (financial, physical, legal, etc) that are the responsibility of the event planner to assess and manage. There are numerous proposed risk assessment and management strategies (GWU Tourism, 2007; MacLaurin & Wykes, 2003; Rutherford Silvers, 2008; Ryerson, 2008; Tarlow, 2002a), which are based on models presented in the general risk literature (Althaus, 2005; Johnson, 1993; Law, 2006; Sjoberg, 2000b; Slovic, 2000; Slovic, et al., 2004). However, there are no empirical data to support these proposed models, nor any research that has studied event planner perceptions of potential sources of risk. This study is an exploration of the socio-demographic influences of event planners on risk perception and how these support the current risk assessment and risk management strategies. A model was developed that outlined the manner in which experience, education, gender and country of residence influenced the risk concepts of “dread” and “familiarity”. These concepts then lead to risk perception that, in turn, influenced risk assessment and risk management. In order to test this model, a mixed-methods, two-stage approach was used (Creswell, 2003; Veal, 2006). In-depth interviews were used to develop a definition of risk specific to the event industry, followed by an on-line survey to measure perceptions of various risk elements and gather socio-demographic information. There was evidence to support education, experience, gender and country of residence as influencing perceptions of “dread” and “familiarity” that, in turn, directly correlated with levels of risk perception. This exploratory research has opened the way for many new facets of research in the event industry. Future research is suggested in the areas of cultural influence on risk perception, risk perception related to various event types (festivals, sports, mega-events, etc), and risk management strategies utilized by event planners.