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Research explores travel risk perceptions

6 May 2010

Dr Yeganeh Morakabati BU's Dr Yeganeh Morakabati looks at the effect man-made conflict has on the tourism industry.

In light of the recent political unrest in Thailand and the attempted terrorist attack in New York’s Times Square, BU research has identified that travellers show more concern for financial security when choosing where to travel abroad.

BU’s Dr Yeganeh Morakabati – an expert in tourism disaster management, impacts and recovery – and Professor John Fletcher, Director of the International Centre for Tourism & Hospitality Research (ICTHR), explored travellers’ risk perceptions towards man-made conflict (terrorism, political unrest etc) and how these perceptions influenced their destination choice.

Aimed at helping tourism policy makers to reduce the negative effects of travel risk aversion, the research discovered that:

  • Contrary to the opinions of the media and tourism experts, when choosing where to travel, travellers showed more concern for financial security (credit-card fraud etc) than terrorism or political unrest
  • Travellers’ perceptions are significantly influenced by ‘travel-warnings’ which tend to be dominated by politics rather than actual incidents
  • Political unrest/terrorism affects tourism flows regardless of their intensity
  • Frequency of incidents is a major determinant of the magnitude and nature of impacts (frequency acting as a proxy for likelihood of future attacks)
  • The magnitude of an incident, combined with the level of tourism development, is a significant factor in determining recovery periods.

The study also revealed that previous experience of travellers and where they come from were significant factors in determining travel-risk perceptions.

Latin Americans have lower perceptions of crime-related risks than those travelling from Europe and similarly Middle Eastern travellers do not perceive countries such as Iran as ‘high-risk’ unlike European travellers.

Dr Morakabati states: “Discretionary tourism takes place on the basis of consumer faith and the travellers’ perceptions of the journey and the destination.

“Although mechanisms are in place to compensate travellers when trips do not live up to marketing promises travellers’ risk perceptions are internalised and these influence the consumers’ choice."

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