2022 Conference
All Conferences
TSVC | Tourism Students Virtual Conference

Does terrorism and disease impact upon how afraid tourists are to travel?

Does terrorism and disease impact upon how afraid tourists are to travel?
Author: Charlotte Turton
1 Commentries

The role of perceived risk in terms of terrorism and disease is an important factor in peoples motives as to where to travel. A heavy reliance people hold on the media can exaggerate the potential risk and create an extra fear factor. The study looks to examine the implications of terrorism and disease and how they are portrayed to the travelling tourist.


Terrorism, Disease, Media, Fear, Risk, Safety, Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Risk seems to be an important factor in determining peoples travel motives and the concerns people have will influence their decision to travel. The perceived risk people hold instead of actual facts or risk circumstances, influences tourists behaviour to avoid or cancel travel to a particular destination, in order to protect their safety. (Rittichainuwat, 2009: 411) In existing research, the two main risks that could affect a tourist's motive to travel including terrorism and disease.

Terrorism has come to represent capitalism, conspicuous consumption, or an attack on the Government, with attacks on tourists giving terrorists wide media coverage. (Lepp, 2003: 607) An example of this was at the Munich Olympic Games in 1972 where there was a television audience of 800 million people. (Lepp, 2003: 607) The more recent example found in the literature was the terrorist attack on New York's World Trade Centre on 11 September 2001. The attack on the Centre was so severe on airline demand that there were still repercussions two years after the attack. (Itoa, 2005: 75) People feared a succession of attacks after September 11 which had an impact all over the world with people being too afraid to travel by air. This example shows the perceived risk of another attack, with tourists fearing to travel by air and especially to the destination where the attack occurred.

Tourists can spread diseases to world populations; the SARS outbreak had an impact on not just the countries that encountered SARS but also through the ripple effect on neighbouring countries that had no incidents of SARS. The perceived risk of contracting it increased fear to travel. (Rittichainuwat, 2009: 412) The outbreak of swine flu scared many tourists not travel to Mexico or travel at all. Many people cancelled their holidays due the perceived risk of catching the illness but swine flu spread across the world, showing that the illness could be contracted whether travelling abroad or staying at home.

The media has the potential to increase fear in tourists due to its high credibility and the way it can reach a high number of audiences. (Rittichainuwat, 2009: 411) To some extent the media can exaggerate how dangerous the perceived risk is thus increasing their fear and anxiety. Potential travellers should check the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) before travelling which shows potential travel risks and offers travel advice. The website is the correct way of checking destinations that are at risk and lists the reasons why it is wise not to travel there.

Primary research was conducted in the form of a questionnaire to 50 participants. The research intended to find out if people check the FCO website, how long it takes for a destination to be safe again, how the media affects them and if terrorism or disease concerned them more.

Research found a low amount of people, 8 out of 50, said that they checked the FCO website indicating their concerns about risk. In relation to this all 50 people said that they would not visit a destination if the media had portrayed it as an unsafe place to visit, showing that the media is influential in changing peoples perceptions of a destination. As only 8 people said they checked the FCO website, it shows that unless notified by the media people generally perceive no major threat and will only check the website when the media alerts them to do so.

Terrorism seemed to be the most important factor that would affect peoples travel plans. A total of 39 out of 50 people selected terrorism and only 11 out of 50 selected disease. From the participants, no one selected the "nothing would affect my travel plans" option. This shows that when safety concerns are introduced into travel decisions, they have the potential to become overriding factors, causing travellers to amend plans. The length of time after an incident has occurred to a destination is also taken into account, with 25 out of the 50 participants saying that it would take over a year for them to consider visiting the destination in question, so the aftermath can last for a relatively long time.

It has been shown therefore that terrorism and disease can impact upon the fear among tourists to travel. In particular it can depend on the seriousness of the risk and this seriousness can affect how long it takes the industry to recover. Terrorism and disease are factors that will affect travel plans if they have been advertised. If not then the tourists may not hold any general knowledge to the fact that a particular destination may be at risk to them. It seems from the research that the media has a high influence in increasing fear among travellers and people may rely too much on what they see advertised.


Rittichainuwat, B & Chakraborty, G, (2009), Perceived travel risks regarding terrorism and disease: The case of Thailand, Tourism Management, 30, pp. 410-418

Lepp, A & Gibson, H, (2003), TOURIST ROLES, PERCEIVED RISK
AND INTERNATIONAL TOURISM, Annals of Tourism Research, 30 (3), pp. 606-624

Foreign and Commonwealth Office, (2010), Travel Advice by Country, Available from: http://www.fco.gov.uk/en/travel-and-living-abroad/travel-advice-by-country?action=noTravelAll#noTravelAll, [Accessed: April 2010]

Impacts of fear upon tourist behavior
Author: Teemu Jalli
I chose to comment on your paper because I find the subject very interesting and you are talking about fear and how it affects tourism and tourists, which is partly what my paper is dealing with although not as much in the sense of terrorism and disease as yours is. Nevertheless it was very interesting to read through your paper.

You are writing in your paper about how risks affect peoples motivation to travel and how fear of terrorism and disease influence their decision to travel. You have used good examples to support your arguments and I have no doubt that such risks as terrorism and disease would not affect tourist numbers. However, you are only writing about the negative sides of fear, which undoubtedly are numerous and serious, but it is also possible that fear creates new forms of tourism and especially in places which have not traditionally been considered as tourist destinations. As I wrote my paper about tourism in North Korea I'm going to use it as an example of this type of tourism. North Korea is the kind of country people would not normally visit, it has occasionally been listed as a terrorist country and people might even fear the country. Despite this, North Korea allows tourists to visit the country and every year several thousand tourists visit North Korea and I can not help thinking that, at least in some cases, fear might be one of the motives to go there.

Although you do write about media, I would have liked to read a little bit more about the role of media in spreading the fear of terrorism and disease. I believe media has a very big role, perhaps even the biggest, in increasing fear in tourists and therefore I think it could have been useful to write a little more about media's role, although I do understand that not everything can be included in 800 words. I also agree with you that media can exaggerate the perceived risk and thus increase the fear. Govers et al. (2007) have written about how people create images, (risks concerning destinations), and they describe the image formation process as the development of a mental construct which is based on impressions chosen from flood of information and that the flood consists of different sources like, magazines, news and documentaries.

The questionnaire you have carried out for the study was good and provided some important and useful information. However, I would have wanted to know how many males and females took part in the survey and what was the age distribution. I would have also been pleased to see a little bit more references used in this work but in general your paper is very good. You explain the topic very well and clearly as well as point out what kind of impacts terrorism, disease and different fears in general can have upon tourism behavior. You have used examples to support your arguments and the whole paper is constructed well and makes good and interesting points.


Govers R, Go F M, Kumar K, (2007), Promoting Tourism Destination Image, Journal of Travel Research, vol. 46, 15, pp 15-23