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Why does terrorism affect travel?

Why does terrorism affect travel?
Author: Natalie Williamson
3 Commentries

Travel risks have been widely examined by tourism researchers, the shocks that have occurred since 2000 have negatively impacted the worldwide tourism industry in the twenty-first century (Law, 2006).

Keywords: risk perceptions; terrorism, travel


According to Dickinson and Dolincar (2004) the concept of risk is central to tourist behaviour. Risk clearly plays a major role in the decision making process of tourists (Roehl and Fesenmaier, 1992). Tourism is an industry where both demand and supply can be sensitive to extreme events such as terrorism or political violence (Ritcher and Waugh 1986; Ryan 1993). The recent phenomena of terrorist attacks have imposed and unprecedented threat to the global tourism industry (Law, 2006). Such events are unpredictable and provide major difficulties for the tourism industry.

The need for travel has widely been documented in existing tourism literature. In the tourism industry, there are a number of factors that influence decisions about where to travel, whether it's for business purposes, leisure, relaxation, vacation, visiting friends and relatives and other reasons (Levantis and Gani, 2000; Gunn and Var, 2002).

Moreover, terrorism has an impact on tourists prior to travelling to a destination, as well as whilst there at that destination. Travel risks have been widely examined by tourism researchers, the shocks that have occurred since 2000 have negatively impacted the worldwide tourism industry in the twenty-first century (Law, 2006). Some examples include the September 11th terrorists' attacks in New York and the Bali bombing in 2002.

A number of studies have concentrated on the role the mass media plays in affecting people's perceptions of crises (Hall, 2002: Glaesser, 2004). Both disasters and what the media portrays cause changes in perceptions that affect people's intentions to travel (Sönmez and Graefe, 1998; Floyd et al., 2004) which has an effect upon a destination.

The Bali bombing in October 2002, which killed 202 people (most of whom were tourists) (BBC, 2002) is an example of the role the media plays in affecting people's perceptions. The terrorists gained power as a political weapon through the mass media coverage of the event. Tourists were targeted, which had both short- and long-term effects on Bali's tourism industry. Furthermore, the persistent acts of terrorism tarnished the image the destination's safety and attractiveness to such an extent that it jeopardised the tourism industry (Sönmez et al., 1999).

Scholars agree that terrorists have much to gain by targeting tourists. Terrorists achieve strategic objectives by targeting tourists. Terrorists have instrumental advantage by disrupting the tourism industry when targeting tourists. Not only, have attacking tourists provides terrorists with instrumental advantage by disrupting the tourism industry and assuring publicity also by gravitating toward international tourists and facilities (Sönmez et al, 1999). When countries are dependent on tourism receipts, terrorists attacks on tourists cause foreign exchange receipts to decline (Hall and O'Sullivan, 1996). This has caused tourists to avoid travelling to that destination.

George (2003) indicated that if a tourist felt unsafe or threatened at a holiday destination; he or she could develop a negative impression of the destination, which likely would result in several consequences. Tourists who have a negative impression may decide not to visit the destination due to the reputation it has, for example high crime rate. Additionally, if tourists feel unsafe at a destination, they are not likely to take part in activities outside their accommodation facility. However, this is due to the fact that tourists are more vulnerable to disasters than residents as they are unfamiliar with the destination, they are unaware of hazards and they are more prone than others. Finally, a tourist who feels threatened or unsafe is not likely to return to the destination, and they are not likely to recommend the destination to others (George, 2003).
Safety is a major factor that tourists consider when making destination choices (Shaw & Williams, 2002; Faulkner, 2001; Sönmez, 1998). Cases from around the world show that in places where tourists perceive a potential danger from crime, terrorism or political instability, those destinations experience large decreases in overall visitation (Seddighi and Theicharous, 2002; Pizam, 1999; Sönmez, 1998; Hall & O' Sullivan, 1996; O'Neil &Fritz, 1996; Schwarz, 1991).

Tourism activity has been found to increase when terrorism risk is removed (Sönmez et al., 1999). For example, after the terrorist attacks of September 11th, there was an influx of tourists to New York (Jones et al, 2006).
Safety is clearly a major factor that tourists consider when making destination choices. Tourists who have a negative impression of a destination in mind are unlikely to visit that destination due to the reputation it has. If a tourist feels unsafe or threatened at a holiday destination; it develops a negative impression of which leads to a decrease in visitor number to that destination.
The tourism industry's vulnerability to terrorism is proportionate to its reliance on peace and stability. With careful planning, sustainable tourism may diminish the causes of terrorism. This in return would reduce perceived travel risks and increase peace in communities.

Law, R (2006) The perceived impact of risks on travel decisions. International Journal of Tourism Research 8(4), 289-300

Pizam, A and Smith, G (2000) Tourism and terrorism: a quantitative analysis of major terrorist acts and their impact on tourism destinations. Tourism Economics, 6(2), 123-138.

Sonmez S, Apostolopoulous Y, Tarlow P (1999) Tourism in crisis: managing the effects of terrorism. Journal of Travel Research, 38(1), 13-18.

Terrorism, the afterthought
Author: Christopher Cross
The main reason why I am commenting on this post is that I have an interest in this area and it links well with my posting outlining the influential nature of terrorism on the tourism industry. Natalie, your commentary paper was a pleasure to read and you have made a fine contribution to this conference through your substantiated statements on terrorism influencing tourism activity. This summary outlines the vulnerabilities that the tourism industry and the risks tourists are subjects to within the 21st century and, the main features that have contributed to these vulnerabilities. The tourism industry remains a playground for terrorist groups/individuals to play on due to the sheer size, diversity and extend of the industry itself as it is totally a global affair (Henderson, 2007). A number of terror attacks that have been aimed at the tourism industry within the 21st century are clearly documented by the media creating a certain degree of perceived risks on tourists (scaremongering). It is these perceived risks that hinder decisions made when individuals think about taking part in tourism (Hall, 2002).

Your paper outlines the clear extent of perceived risks and the main contributors to them. Therefore, it can be argued that terror attacks do not necessarily have to be targeted at the tourism industry to contribute to the perceived risks of travel and to have impacts on the tourism industry overall. Also, the impacts on destinations remain fairly situational like in the cases of the bombing in Madrid 2003 and Bail 2005 (Toh et al, 2008; Mintel, 2003). The act of terror had long lasting impacts on Bail's tourism industry than it did in Madrid. Of course, there are some generic initial impacts on tourist destinations like the loss of attractiveness and its appeal as being safe (Henderson, 2007).

The mass media play a huge part in the contribution of travel decisions made in relation to the perceptions of terrorism on tourist destinations (Hall, 2002). It can be argued that if the media were to tone the coverage of terror attacks down the actual perception of risk, that it is no longer safe, would be reduced. As it is stated in your posting that tourism activity has been found to increase when the risk of terrorism happening is removed (Sonmez et al, 1999).

I am unsure how with careful planning, sustainable tourism can diminish the causes of terrorism as it is an external pressure that is simply uncontrollable. The causes of terrorism are diverse, it is important to reduce the worry that tourists have so they continue to travel. Moreover, it is important to remember that although destinations lose out from terrorism, surrounding countries and indeed, other tourist destinations are potentially at a gain (Sloboda, 2003).

In conclusion, the threat of terror and the impacts that it has on travel activity by influencing the demand for travel services threaten tourist destinations globally. It is important to remember that there are some positive impacts of terrorism on both the community and on nations, bringing them together to support each other to fight terrorism. Tourists need to think beyond the risk of terror attacks happening and enjoy life while it is possible to do so. 'We' live in a world that is uncontrollable so life is for living, not worrying about what if.


Hall, M. C (2002) Commentary travel safety, terrorism and the media: The significance of the issue-attention cycle. Current lssues in Tourism 5 (5),pp 458-466.

Henderson, C .J (2007) Tourism Crises: Causes, consequences and management. Oxford: Butterworth-Heinemann.

Mintel (2003) Impact of Terrorism on Tourism. [online] [accessed on 28 April 2010]
Available via: < http://academic.mintel.com/ >.

Sloboda, W. B (2003) Assessing the effects of terrorism on tourism by use of time series methods. Journal of Tourism Economics. 9 (2), pp 179-190.

Sonmez. F. S, Apostolopoulos, Y and Tarlow, P (1999) Tourism in Crisis: Managing the effects of terrorism. Journal of Travel research. 38, pp 13-18.

How does terrorism affect tourism
Author: Tomasz Jench
The reason why I commented on our summary is that I am really interested in the topic of tourism and the impacts that terrorism has on this phenomenon. Moreover I have chosen to comment on your work as it shows correlations to my chosen topic, which is "Impacts of terrorism on tourism".

Within your summary you mentioned that risk plays a major part in the decision making of the tourists. The attacks on Madrid, London and New York have changed the way that people perceive traveling and the risk related to it. This has had a major impact on the whole tourism economy, even though the attacks have not been directed at the tourists. However you did not mention that those countries did not suffer from sever consequences of the terrorism attacks, in terms of tourism. This occurred as these countries, invested huge amounts of funds, so that the image of the destination could be repaired and people would not perceive it as unsafe (Cooper et al, 2008). Moreover these destinations did not suffer from a long-term decrease in international arrivals, as the attacks were not target directly at the tourists. You mentioned the case of Bali, were exactly the opposite situation occurred and Bali suffered very severely from the attacks. This occurred, as Bali did not have the funds to invest in a public relations campaign, moreover a major factor was that the attacks in both Bali and Egypt have been targeted at the tourists themselves.

The terrorist attacks described in your comment have a significant implication on how people perceive risk related to traveling. Post 9/11 the risk is always packed into the tourist bag alongside other items. You mentioned that media has a significant role in how people perceive traveling, which has an affect upon the destination (Mansfeld and Pizam, 2006). The effects can be sever as the local communities and business suffer from a decreased amount of arrivals. According to Maslow, this occurs as the basic safety needs are not fulfilled and without felling safe the tourist will not enjoy his time in the given destination, or even worse he might not chose to pick that certain destination.
Coming back to the media, and the effects it can have on the tourism destinations and the industry itself, you mentioned the case study of Bali, were terrorist used media as a political tool to achieve their goal, and they have damaged the image of the destination. As a result of that tourist stop traveling to this country in such big numbers in comparison to previous years prior the attack (Hall and O'Sullivan, 1996) However Cooper et al (2008) states that Bali would of recovered quicker from the attacks if it would not been pressured from the negative publicity which has been broadcasted by western media, especially the British, American and Australian (Hall and Page, 2000) and (Cooper et at, 2008)

It can be seen that terrorism impacts a variety of factors of every the day life. As your summary showed, terrorist activity can change the way that people perceive traveling and the risk related to it. Since the tragic attack in 9/11 (New York) people always associate traveling with some sort of risk, even if the travel is in, tourism, family or business purposes, the risk is the same.


Cooper, C., Fletcher, J., Fyall, A., Gilbert, D. And Wanhill, S. (2008) Tourism principles and practice. 4th Ed., London: Prentice Hall.

Hall, C. And Page, S. (2000) Tourism in South and Southeast Asia: issues and cases. London: Butterworth-Heinemann.

Mansfeld, Y. And Pizam, A. (2006) Tourism, security and safety: from theory to practice. London: Butterworth-Heinemann.

Terrorism affects tourists strongly
Author: Outi Makinen
This paper is well structured, interesting and easy to read. The issues I am mostly interested in this paper are the risk perceptions and how they affect travelling, because they were similar to my own topic. The reasons how and why terrorism affect tourism are the main content of this paper and these are well explained.

As author has noted, risk plays important role in decision making and it is central to tourist behaviour. The important is that tourists are often controlled by fear of different things in this case terrorism. Fear is strongly related to risk taking because people are afraid of taking risks. (Wilson and Little, 2008) The fear of terrorism (which is often caused by media) has strong power to tourists and when attacks have happened people have changed their travel plans. (Sönmez et al, 1999)

This paper indicates very clearly how terrorism affects tourism prior the travelling and whilst on holiday. Mass media is playing a big role affecting people and their travel decisions and intentions to travel. Terrorism attacks are a political tool which means that attacking to tourists in a destination is the same than attacking to the government the terrorists are fighting against. And the publicity of the attacks is gained by the media. A good example that was mentioned in the paper as media's role affecting people's perceptions is the Bali Bombing in October 2002 which killed 202 people and most of them were tourists. The terrorists gained much power through the media using bombing as a political tool. Countries that suffer the bad publicity are suffering losses of tourists as well, because people change their travel behaviour because of the fear of terrorism. The reason why terrorist wants the attention from tourists' destinations is that media is more interested about international tourists and tourism centres which are very visible to the world (Sönmez et al, 1999).

Author indicates that tourists who are on holiday are dependent on the safety and it is the major factor when tourists consider the travel choices. This is noted in the literature especially between women travellers whose main concern on holiday is the personal safety (Wilson and Little, 2008). Also author brings out that if tourists are not happy in the destination and feel unsafe it is very unlikely that they will return to the destination and also while on holiday it's not very likely that they will participate in activities outside their accommodation facility. This is similar that I wrote in my paper about women and their safety in the destination. Women are often afraid of public places, and because of the fear they are restricting their movements to certain areas and times of a day (Wilson and Little, 2008).

It is obvious that destination needs good planning and I agree with the author that careful planning would possibly diminish the causes of terrorism, especially destinations that are recovering from terrorism attacks. Crisis management strategies need to be well planned and implemented before tourists can feel enough safe in the destination. (Pizam and Smith, 2000)

Pizam, A and Smith, G (2000) Tourism and terrorism: a quantitative analysis of major terrorist acts and their impact on tourism destinations, Tourism Economics, vol. 6(2), pp 123-138.

Sönmez S, Apostolopoulous Y, Tarlow P (1999) Tourism in crisis: managing the effects of terrorism, Journal of Travel Research, vol. 38(1), pp 13-18

Wilson, E & Little, D.E (2008), The Solo Female Travel Experience: Exploring the Geography of Women's Fear, Current Issues in Tourism, vol. 11(2), pp 167-186