Study examines keys to success for contact tracing
Research examining the effectiveness of contact tracing systems in the hospitality sector has identified factors that influence buy-in from the public.
Associate investigator of the study Dr Raymond Xia says a key for restaurants, cafes, and bars to encourage customer participation in contact tracing is to build trust by stimulating their thinking rather than their feelings.
“Appealing to customers’ brains rather than their hearts can increase the effectiveness of contact tracing as people are more likely to participate.
“Essentially – if a customer is confident in the establishment and their contact tracing system, they are more likely to provide their details. In establishments where there is scepticism over the establishment or the contact tracing system, then buy-in decreases.”
With contact tracing systems being a vital tool in limiting any potential community spread of COVID-19, their effectiveness is diminished if people are reluctant to use them. If they fail, the length of restrictions such as lockdowns or social distancing could be increased. The economic implications for restaurants and hospitality could be rising unemployment, loss of income, and disruption in the food supply chain.
Raymond Xia, a specialist in marketing, consumer behaviour and methodology at the University of Otago says venues need to be careful with using relationship tactics to acquire personal information because relationship pressure can be a double-edged sword.
“Instead, venues need to demonstrate professionalism, competence, and reliability through a good data protection policy, strong data collection ethics, and by gaining popularity. Customers are more likely to participate if they see venues show genuine concern for public safety rather than profit.”
He says demonstrating competency could be through clear and concise signage that talks with the customer rather than to them, with language such as ‘let’s all beat the virus together’ preferred over ‘you must sign in or you will not be served’.
Also, the study explains how governments can encourage people to cooperate with contact tracing at hospitality venues through strong data protection policy and regulation. Findings showed people felt safer to disclose truthful information for contact tracing if they had faith in their government’s policies and practices.
Hospitality was one of hardest-hit sectors by COVID-19. During New Zealand’s first lockdown in 2020, spending on hospitality business fell 95 per cent compared with the previous year.