News frames influence destination reputation. Research primarily focuses on social media impact relative to destination reputation. Newspaper reporting is a major source of information which remains a study area underexplored when assessing news media framing. This study fills the gap by analyzing how newspapers from tourist generating countries such as China, USA, and Australia portrayed reputable destinations like New Zealand's and Singapore's efforts to mitigate the COVID-19 pandemic. The ProQuest library database was used to collect 192 newspaper articles. The software Qualtrics Text iQ and Leximancer were used to track sentiments, identify themes and concepts correlating with literature on tourism crisis management. Responses to the COVID-19 pandemic yields a negatively lower sentiment value for New Zealand, than Singapore's higher sentiment value. The contribution lies in the relationship concept emphasizing shifts in destination reputation corollary to crisis management, and to account for reputation fluctuations in media framework theory.
An opinion column in the South China Morning Post newspaper reads:
Singapore was held up as the gold standard for virus containment, but it has proved to be hollow. The pandemic has exposed the cramped and dirty dormitories provided to migrant workers in Singapore, which enabled COVID-19 to breed and spread rapidly (De Kressal, 2020).
Another opinion column in the Time magazine reads:
But New Zealand's rise in the rankings is so much more than good geographic fortune…the orderly way which New Zealand did so was admirable, accompanied by Facebook Live videos by the country's Prime Minister, Jacinda Adern. Now the country is COVID-19 free(Bremmer, 2020).
These types of readings reflect the sentiments expressed in the newspapers as the pandemic crisis waxed and waned after January 2020. The praise of one tourist destination and the astonishment in the other's failure to contain the COVID-19 pandemic does clearly indicate a sentiment based on the mitigation efforts. This is even more true during a health-related crisis such as COVID-19 that exposes tourists' lives to risk and uncertainty.
To understand the relationship between media reporting of a destination's crisis management approach and the destination's reputation that such reporting creates, we selected two popular tourist destinations, New Zealand and Singapore, during the COVID-19 pandemic. New Zealand has witnessed a steady increase in tourist arrivals, with over 3.8 million in 2019 (MBIE, 2018; Stats, 2019). In fact, just before COVID-19 took a pandemic turn, New Zealand's Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (2018) forecasted 5.1 million visitors by 2024 representing 34.21% increase. From the beginning, the country had very few infections and seemed to be able to control the outbreak well. In fact, it was one of the first countries to respond swiftly to the crisis by controlling tourist arrivals, and by April, they were already emerging out of the crisis whereas the rest of the world, Singapore included, was still struggling to contain the virus.