A new study from the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Council's GeoBranding Center and AIG Travel reports one in four travelers has changed vacation plans in the past year due to global or local safety, security or health concerns, with terrorism activity topping the list of reasons tourists will avoid travel to certain destinations. Data for the report, entitled "How Global Voices Shape Travel Choices: The Impact of Consumer Apprehension on Travel Intention," was collected from more than 2,000 American, European and other global travelers worldwide during October 2015 via an online survey by the CMO Council and Travelzoo. 58 percent of the travelers surveyed were female, and the majority of respondents were over the age of 45. 55 percent were residents of the U.S. and Canada, 16 percent lived in the United Kingdom and 23 percent lived in Germany. Other respondents lived in countries throughout Europe and the Asia-Pacific region.
In addition to the study, the CMO Council also interviewed travel industry leaders, including senior travel and destination marketing officials at Kenya Airways, Turkish Culture and Tourism, Air Arabia, Malaysia Airlines, Sao Paulo Tourism, the German National Tourist Office, Israel Ministry of Tourism and others.
Have Travelers Changed Plans Due to Safety Concerns?
The study aimed to gather information on consumer views and areas of concern that lead travelers to alter their travel plans and intentions, including terrorist attacks, natural disasters, disease outbreaks, regional conflicts, political upheaval, crime and violence, civil unrest, plane crashes, and cruise line accidents or food safety issues. According to the survey, more than 60 percent of survey respondents report that turmoil, health hazards or active conflicts could sway or deter their travel to a specific country or region.
That figure is higher than the impact shown by other research conducted by major travel industry organizations over the past month. For example, a set of studies by the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) showed that business travel in Europe "remains resilient" following November's terrorist attacks in Paris and threats in Brussels. Three-quarters of European business travel buyers said that their company's travel within Europe remained largely unaffected by the attacks in a GBTA poll. A GBTA poll of U.S.-based travel buyers showed similar results, with 57 percent of respondents reporting "no change" and another 16 percent reporting "slight reductions" in their company's travel to Europe.
Additionally, at last week's United States Tour Operators Association (USTOA) conference in Chicago, when discusing the recent terrorist attacks the USTOA executive committee said that their companies would only modify their itineraries following careful consideration.
The Survey's Most and Least Safe Travel Destinations
The CMO report also surveyed consumers on which destinations they rated as being most and least safe. Australia and New Zealand were high on the list of safest destinations, as well as islands in the Pacific and Western Europe. More than 62 percent of travelers would like to visit Australia and New Zealand, as both countries showed a zero rate of travel concern or anxiety in the study. 10 percent or less of respondents wanted to visit North, Central or West Africa and the Middle East. 20 percent, however, said they would visit Southern Africa. A few survey participants also said Antarctica, Iceland, Greenland and the Arctic were desirable destinations.
Top Five Reasons Cited for Altering Travel Plans
The top five reasons cited in the study for avoiding travel to certain destinations include:
- Terrorist activity (77 percent)
- Military conflict or fighting (59 percent)
- Outbreak of disease or health risks (46 percent)
- High incidence of crime (25 percent)
- Political upheaval (25 percent)
Ebola was cited as the number one infections disease that travelers worry about.
In terms of trusted sources of travel safety information, 55 percent of respondents rely on government agencies and law enforcement alerts, while 36 percent believe trusted information comes from news media and travel journalists. These sources were followed by friends and family (34 percent), third-party crowd-sourced travel rating sites (25 percent), and social media networks (17 percent).
Worldwide, the United Nations World Tourism Organization's Tourism Barometer showed international tourist arrivals grew by 4.3 percent in the first eight months of 2015, with especially strong growth in Europe, a region named by CMO survey respondents as one of the safest travel destinations.