This research theorizes and empirically investigates the concept of brand anthropomorphism in the context of tourist destinations, namely, destination anthropomorphism. First, we demonstrate that anthropomorphizing a culturally distant tourist destination (e.g., Tokyo, Japan; Hanoi, Vietnam) leads to consumers’ lower intentions to travel to the destinations, whereas this negative destination anthropomorphism effect is attenuated for culturally close tourist destinations (e.g., London, United Kingdom; Sydney, Australia). In contrast, as anticipated, this research reveals that destination anthropomorphism leads to positive consumer reactions for destinations within the same culture (e.g., Seward, Alaska, USA). As such, we provide insights into the effects of anthropomorphizing in-group versus out-group entities in the realm of tourism and travel. Specifically, we show the negative downstream effects of anthropomorphizing entities that belong to a different group (i.e., out-group), which results in tourists’ heightened perceptions of a key perceived travel risk, social risk, that manifests as lower intentions to visit that destination. Finally, this research provides critical managerial recommendations that can be incorporated into advertising strategies not only to enhance communication effectiveness but also to avoid negative repercussions of destination anthropomorphism.
ASJC Scopus subject areas