07 DEC 2015: What worries travellers the most amidst the never-ending diet of news and first-person social media accounts of conflict, upheaval and health risks around the world? Given recent events and the persistent, often hysterical tone of the media coverage, you won’t be surprised to hear that one in four travellers has changed vacation plans in the past year due to global or local safety, security or health concerns—and terrorism tops the list of reasons tourists will avoid travel to certain destinations.

You might however, be surprised to learn Ebola has become the number-one infectious disease that travellers worry about, according to 67 percent of travellers. And surprisingly, islands, large and small, are considered the safest places to have a vacation.

These findings are part of a new study undertaken by the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Council’s GeoBranding Center and AIG Travel.

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 travellers worldwide during October 2015 via an online survey by the CMO Council and Travelzoo.

The research aimed to gather consumer views and specific areas of concern that lead travellers to alter their plans, intentions or destination picks. Among these events and incidents are 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.

The study reveals that personal safety has become a major concern for tourists as real-time news channels multiply and social media postings bring first-hand accounts of incidents or situations to aspirational leisure travellers, impacting decision-making around desired destinations. More than 60 percent of survey respondents report that turmoil, health hazards or active conflicts could sway or even deter their travel to a specific country or region.

Insurance coverage

Almost half (43 percent) of all participants in the survey say they have purchased travel insurance due to safety concerns and uncertainty, and a notable 80 percent say they are likely to consider buying emergency medical coverage for future travel. Reflecting growing anxiety levels, nearly three quarters (74 percent) expect to add trip cancellation insurance, nearly half (47 percent) will consider political or emergency evacuation policies, and 42 percent are thinking about coverage that provides accidental death benefits.

"In line with the findings from this study, we’ve received many questions recently about the role of travel insurance amid the perception of increased risk to personal safety while travelling,” said Jeff Rutledge, CEO of AIG Travel.

“In truth, travel insurance is as crucial today as it was last month or last year. The risk of unforeseen events has always been a travel reality, and insurance helps travellers prepare for this risk, providing assurance that assistance will be available if their trip doesn’t go according to plan.”

Safe and not-so-safe

Topping the list of the most desirable and safe destinations are Australia and New Zealand, as well as islands in the Pacific and Western Europe.

More than 62 percent of travellers would like to visit ANZ, two countries which have a zero rate of travel concern or anxiety.

This compares to 10 percent or less who want to visit North, Central or West Africa and the Middle East.

Some 20 percent, however, said they were keen on visiting Southern Africa. With interest in distance and isolation, a few survey participants even named Antarctica, Iceland, Greenland and the Arctic as desirable destinations.

The top five reasons 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)

Examples of these issues include the Middle East and North Africa, where turmoil, terrorism, civic strife and refugee migration are unfortunately keeping popular destinations like Egypt, Turkey, Tunisia, Morocco, Saudi Arabia and other travel destinations in the news and at the top of the travel advisory lists of many affluent economies.

When it comes to the most trusted sources of travel planning relating to safety and security, government agencies and law enforcement alerts are relied upon by more than half (55 percent) of survey participants while 36 percent believe trusted information comes from news media and travel journalists for information.

This is ahead of friends and family (34 percent), third-party crowd-sourced travel rating sites (25 percent), and social media networks (17 percent).

According to the United Nations World Tourism Organization’s Tourism Barometer, international tourist arrivals grew by 4.3 percent in the first eight months of 2015, fuelled in particular by strong results in Europe, a region our survey respondents believe is one of the safest travel destinations.

International tourists (overnight visitors) traveling the world between January and August 2015 reached 810 million—33 million more than during the same period of 2014.

In addition to the quantified study, the CMO Council also interviewed key travel industry leaders. These included senior travel and destination marketing officials at Kenya Airways, Turkish Culture and Tourism, Air Arabia, Malaysia Airlines, São Paulo Tourism, the German National Tourist Office, Israel Ministry of Tourism and others.

More than 2,000 travellers (58 percent female) participated in the online research. The majority of respondents are over the age of 45. Fifty-five (55) percent are residents of the US and Canada, 16 percent live in the United Kingdom, 23 percent reside in Germany, and the balance of respondents live in other European and APAC countries.

Click here to download the whole report



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