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The impact of terrorism on tourist behaviour.

The impact of terrorism on tourist behaviour.
Author: Agnieszka Gwizdz
4 Commentries
This paper analyses the impact of terrorism on tourists' behaviour and their travel decisions. The extent to which tourists perceive risk and the extent to which risk influences tourists' decisions are also discussed.

Keywords: terrorism, risk perception, tourist behaviour, decision-making process

There are many factors which shape tourist behaviour, which therefore influence travel decisions in terms of selecting a destination. Undoubtedly, travel-related risk associated with terrorism is one of them. According to Sonmez and Graefe (1998), tourists compare destination alternatives according to perceived benefits and costs. One of the costs, apart from typical holiday expenses i.e. transportation or accommodation, is the risk associated with terrorism. It can be assumed that the threat of terrorism at a particular destination will cause it to be perceived as more costly than a safer destination. In consequence, the less costly option - one that is safe from threat - is more likely to be chosen. However, according to Swarbrooke and Horner (2007) the decision making process is much more complex.

The complexity of the decision making process is derived from a number of factors, which relate to the consumer and external influences that act upon them. For example, Page and Connell (2009) distinguished 2 groups of influences in the process of selecting a destination: personal and family influences (including age and family life-cycle) and social and situational influences. They noted that age is strongly related to variations in tourism participation. While young adults are mainly associated with seeking fun and new experiences, older travellers are more concerned about personal security and safety. Thus, it can be assumed that older travellers are more likely to go to destinations, which in their perspective are 'safer' than others, and only these will be considered seriously, while those perceived as risky will be rejected (Seddighi and Theocharous, 2002). In terms of family lifecycle it has been suggested that different personal interests and decisions of tourists can be determined by the fact of being in different stages in a lifecycle. For example, the presence of children in a household can determine the family to choose 'safer' destinations (Cooper et al., 2008).

According to Cooper et al., (2008) the perception of travel-related risk experienced by an individual, in other words the extent to which tourists perceive the risk from terrorist incidents, is determined by a variety of factors. These include: the individual's perception to risk, the scale of threat and frequency, and often the media coverage of earlier events (Kozak and Andreu, 2006). Every tourist holds a different personality, attitude and perceives situations in different ways, therefore there is no one way to determine to what extent tourists perceive risk (Pearce, 2007).

The magnitude of event, the frequency, the timing of the attack or even the type of attack also affects the tourists' perception of risk and in result, their travel decision (Cooper et al., 2008). For example, Egypt which has experienced sustained periods of political unrest, witnessed a drastic decline in tourist arrivals. Conversely Spain and UK, with only one year after the incidents, ended up with increased numbers of arrivals compared with the situation prior the attacks. The differences were, in Egypt attacks were focused mainly on international visitors whereas the attacks in Madrid and London were centred on the transport system. Summarising, terrorist activity causes only a slight decline in tourism arrivals provided that tourists are not explicitly defined as the target (Glaesser, 2007).

Central to the external factors influencing tourist behaviour is also the role of the media and its impact on public opinion and perception (Hall, 2002). Especially non-travel media (news programmes) is seen as very influential as it interprets issues, giving them more or less significance through the amount or type of coverage provided (Mansfeld and Pizam, 2006). It also plays a major part in informing consumers' images of destinations and transport modes, their relative safety and security. This is crucial, as the image can be considered as a 'pull' factor resulting for example, in a destination being selected. However, this is only the case when the image is positive; a negative image - influenced by terrorist attack, will destroy and tarnish the desire to travel to that particular destination or use of a particular type of transport (Cooper et al., 2008).

Additionally, word of mouth also influences, to a large degree, tourist behaviour. For instance, if any friends or relatives have had a bad experience or have strong negative views on a destination, this will discourage and influence travel decisions (Hall, 2002).

Summarising, in the early years of the 21st century the global tourism industry has been rocked by a series of major threats that have fundamentally affected tourist behaviour and as noticed by Swarbrooke and Horner (2007) the introduction of risk into tourist decisions disturbed routine decision-making. The extent to which tourists perceive risk and the extent to which risk influences a tourist's decision are dependent upon a variety of factors. These vary between tourists individual differences, including attitudes, and influences external to the tourist factors such as scale of incidents and media influence (Kozak and Andreu, 2006).


Cooper, C., Fletcher, J., Fyall, A., Gilbert, D. and Wanhill, S. (2008) Tourism: Principles and Practice, 4th ed. Essex: Pearson Education Limited.

Page, S. J. and Connell, J. (2009) Tourism: A Modern Synthesis, 3rd ed. UK: Cengage Learning.

Sonmez, S. F. and Graefe, A. R. (1998) Influence of terrorism risk on foreign tourism decisions. Annals of Tourism Research [online]. 25(1) pp. 112-144 [cited 19th April 2010]. Available at : <http://www.sciencedirect.com>
Which factors affect on tourist behaviour in an unstable world of risk and terrorism?
Author: Martta Pukki
This is a good article about the impacts of terrorism. The article stands out from other articles of the same subject by focusing on the impacts of terrorism on tourist behaviour. This makes it interesting to read and was one of the reasons I chose to comment on this paper. The article is well structured and well written with some good examples. The author explains the consequences of terrorist attacks on tourism and mentions some interesting points about the factors affecting the decision making process, such as age and family lifecycle. I found especially the age factor interesting, the distinction between the young risk takers and the older ones valuing safety. Also it was mentioned that the presence of children might affect on choosing a safer option, which is quite logical.

Many different aspects which are considered to affect the decision making process are covered. The author explains tourists' individuality well in the third chapter by saying "Every tourist holds a different personality, attitude and perceives situations in different ways, therefore there is no one way to determine to what extent tourists perceive risk (Pearce, 2007)". This is an important factor when thinking about the consumer behaviour of tourists and how they choose their holiday destinations or travelling methods.

The relationship between tourism and terrorism has been studied and the findings show that terrorists see tourists as easy targets because of the camouflage they provide being a group of many nationalities. Also it has been stated that quite often the terrorist attacks are not targeted on tourists or tourism industry only, but more widely on the governments of the targeted countries and even the world economy and politics as a whole. These facts make me wonder the findings about the distinction between the terrorism attacks in Egypt and in Spain and UK suggesting that the impacts of terrorism on tourism industry are not as severe when tourists are not the main target. Relating back to what I mentioned in the beginning of this chapter, are tourists ever the main target of the terrorism attacks? These points are interesting and this discussion could have been carried on a bit further.

Pointing out the role of media was good, as it is one of the main influences on tourists' decision making process. Tourism is highly dependent on media due to the intangible nature of tourism. And as the author explained media can be seen as a tool to improve the tourism industry if the attention given to a tourism destination or transport mode is positive. If however, the media attention is negative it can do more harm than good. Even more important than the media coverage in my opinion is the word of mouth, which the author also mentions. I think that a good word of mouth can be more influential than news media, especially in the case of a tourism destination with a longer period since the last terrorist attack, or a destination which is perceived risky or unsafe.

All in all, this was an interesting article with good points.
The impact of terrorism on tourism and politically unstable destinations. The media play a major role in influencing tourist travel decisions
Author: Anna Mawford
I have chosen to comment on this paper as many of the themes discussed are similar to those that I discussed in my paper. The paper makes an interesting read highlighting the factors that are likely to have an impact on tourists behaviour following a terrorist attack or in a political unstable destination.

I found it interesting that you have suggested that younger tourists are less likely to be bothered about terrorism when choosing a holiday destination then older people. This is an area that I didn't really go into in my paper so I found this an interesting finding.

Similarly to my paper you have discussed how the media have a role in the impact on tourism after a terrorist attack. Lexow & Edelheim, (2004), state that negative press tends to make better news. This means that international media are more likely to report about the crises and the show negative images of a destination after a terrorist attack then they are to focus on how the destination are trying to rebuild themselves to be a safe and attractive place for tourists to visit. Negative media images can lead to governments then introducing travel warnings advising people not to travel to places. Negative images given in the media can make the tourist question their safety in visiting a destination. (King & Bueno,2006). This suggests that governments also have an influence on tourists decisions to travel . If a government is issuing travel warnings then it is going to make tourists think that it is really not safe. Tourists like to feel that they are going to be have a relaxing holiday and not be at risk. If the media are producing negative images of a destination and the governments are responding to this by issuing travel warnings then the destination is likely to become very unappealing to tourists.

In your paper you mention about Egypt and how it has experienced periods of political unrest and how it had led to a decline in tourist numbers. I found that political unrest is a major problem for the tourist industry in a destination. My focus was Fiji, however Egypt have a similar dependence on tourism to Fiji so are decline in tourist arrivals will have an effect on their economy. Statistics on the Fiji Bureau of statistics showed how there was a decline in tourist arrivals at the time of the military coup attacks that had taken place in 1987,2000 and 2006. Lexow and Edelheim, (2004) also suggested that less developed country's and places of political unrest were less likely to be able to defend themselves from negative press about the destination after an attack or act of political violence. In the case of Fiji Australian and New Zealand governments were issued travel warnings to people not to travel. Australia and New Zealand are Fiji's biggest tourist generating regions so this had a big effect on the tourism industry for Fiji.

This paper has covered how terrorism can effect tourism demand in a clear and concise way. It mentions all the main factors that contribute to effecting tourist travel decisions following a terrorist attack.


Fiji Islands Bureau of Statistics: The official Statistical agency for Fiji's Government, (2006),
Visitor Arrival Statistics, accessed April 2010 from : http://www.statsfiji.gov.fj/Tourism/Visitor_Arrivals.htm

King,B,& Berno,T,(2006), Fiji Islands: Rebuilding Tourism in an Insecure World, in Mansfield,Y,& Pizam,A,(ed),Tourism,security and safety :from theory to Practice,Google Books, accessed April 2010 from :

Lexow,M,&Edelheim,J,(2004), Effects of negative media events on tourist, in Frost, W, Croy,G, & Beeton, S ,(eds),proceedings of International Tourism and Media Conference, Tourism Research Unit, Monash University, Melbourne. P55-56
The impact of terrorism on tourist behaviour.
Author: Niko Nurmentaus

I found this conference paper interesting, as similarities can be found with my study investigating young Finnish independent travelers' risk perceptions.

The author's point of view on the comparison of the terrorist attacks in Egypt to those that occurred in UK and Madrid is very interesting. The author argues that the target of the attack is what in these cases has influenced tourists' behaviour. Although other influencing factors were mentioned, it is important to pinpoint that the frequency of the attacks has a worse impact on the inbound tourists flows rather than the scale of the attacks (Pizam and Fleischer 2002). In the case of Egypt, several terrorist attacks have occurred and numerous international tourists suffered. On other hand the terrorist attacks in London (2005) and Madrid (2004) were medium scale attacks if the death toll is taken into account. Furthermore, New York City was still able to recover despite 9/11, considered a large-scale terrorist attack. Aspects such as political unrest, as mentioned by the author, are however part of the risks considered by tourists and could therefore constitute a negative influence in the decision's making process.

A tourist destination's image is, as mentioned in the paper, a significant pull factor, as it is about the attractiveness of a location. Bali is a perfect example of a destination image ruined by terrorism, as before the blast the major pull factors for young Australian's tourists were its natural beauty followed by the good value for money (Reindrawati, 2008). The costs of the terrorist attacks in Bali were enormous: approximately 440,000 foreign visitors cancelled their trips to the destination and Australian tourists decided to travel to alternative beach resorts (Suter, 2003). As stated by the author, the media play a significant role in this respect as they paint the 'destination's picture', therefore influencing the tourists' choice.

In conclusion, although diverse attitudes and social factors represent an obstacle in determining the extent to which tourists perceive risk and how it affects their decisions, it is possible to determine what aspects have the strongest influence in the decision making process of a destination, so that patterns and similarities amongst different age groups and socioeconomic situations can be established.

Pizam A., Fleischer A. (2002), Severity versus Frequency of Acts of Terrorism: Which Has a Larger Impact on Tourism Demand?, Journal of Travel Research, Vol. 40, pp 337-339

Reindrawati D. (2008), The Impacts of the Bali Blast: Assessing Young Australians' Perceptions and Intent to Travel, Available from http://www.journal.unair.ac.id/
filerPDF/04-Dian%20Yuli-the%20impacts%20of%20bali%20blasts.pdf [Accessed 20 April 2010]

Suter K. (2003), Terror in paradise: The Bali bombing - Australian perspective [Online], Available from: http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m2242/is_1644_282/ai_97228016/ [Accessed 15 April]
The impact of terrorism on tourist behaviour
Author: Benjamin Mugglestone
The reason why I have chosen this paper is because it is closely linked to my paper and I feel that due to this point that I am in a good position to give feedback and firsthand knowledge on this topic.

This paper gives a very strong account of tourist behaviour and how it shapes tourists choices when deciding to go on holiday. The paper starts of well and goes into good detail about tourist behaviour and refers to Sonmez and Graefe (1998) by going on to say that tourists compare destinations alternatives according to perceived benefits and costs. I do agree with this statement as some destinations that have had problems with terrorist threats will have problems attracting tourists because of this and therefore it will affect tourist's behaviour.

I feel that this paper has distinguished a difference between the age of the tourist and the destination that they visit. I also agree with the statement that is in the paper which is quoted by Seddighi and Theocharous, (2002) and which in simply terms says that older travellers are more likely to go to safer destinations compared to younger tourists. I do agree with this statement as being young myself I do have totally different holiday patterns then my parents for example.

This paper goes on to talk about Egypt and how its terrorist attacks have had a different affect to the attacks in Madrid and London although all three have been affect and had at one point or another recorded a decline in tourism. It can be said that there is a difference and I do agree that there has been a difference because of the previous problems in Egypt being the political instability.

The author of this paper looks into the role that the media play in influencing tourist behaviour I believe that this is one of the most important tools in influencing tourists on when and where they go on holiday. I completely agree with Hall, (2002) statement about the role of the media and its impact on public opinion and perception. I feel that this is a key part of how terrorism affects tourism and I believe that the author has done well incorporating this in this paper. Cooper et al., (2008) also talks about how the role of the media can affect tourist's behaviour and how by what they publish and report can change tourist's minds so easily. I do feel though that maybe this paper could have perhaps gone into a little bit more detail and perhaps gave some examples of how the media has created positive and negative images of destinations.

Overall though this paper is well written and does address the topic very well, I think there is the possibility to develop this further and to go on and to find out whether the media does play as big a role as it is currently thought to and why that is. The paper does however include all of the major factor and problems that do affect tourist decisions after a terrorist attack and more importantly why that is.

Sonmez, S. F. and Graefe, A. R. (1998) Influence of terrorism risk on foreign tourism decisions. Annals of Tourism Research [online]. 25(1) pp. 112-144 [cited 19th April 2010]. Available at : <http://www.sciencedirect.com>