Destination image and safety not only affect tourist decision-making but also the sustainable development of tourist destinations. Some tourist destinations are too vulnerable to defend against emergency tourist crises, and tourists’ perceived safety can be severely biased, which is then deepened by media panic caused by the publication of excessive negative reports. This paper discusses the mechanism of perceived safety and perceived image on tourist behavioral intention, as well as the inter-group difference. Our study is based on a survey in Southern Xinjiang in which the respondents were divided into four groups. Four structural equation models were established with “perceived safety” and “perceived image” as independent variables, “destination trust” and “perceived value” as mediating variables, and “behavioral intention” as the dependent variable. The final results show that a paradox of safety perception exists in tourists’ perception of Southern Xinjiang. The perceived safety differs sharply between the tourists who have traveled to Southern Xinjiang and those who have not. The mechanism of perceived safety on tourist behavioral intention differs from that of the perceived image on tourist behavioral intention. Destination image still plays a key role in tourist traveling decision-making. The findings are of great significance for the restoration of cognitive bias, management, and marketing activities, and the sustainable development in Southern Xinjiang and similar destinations.
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