2022 Conference
All Conferences
TSVC | Tourism Students Virtual Conference

Risk Perceptions of Young Finnish Independent Travellers: Fear of terrorist attacks?

Risk Perceptions of Young Finnish Independent Travellers: Fear of terrorist attacks?
Author: Niko Nurmentaus
2 Commentries
Tourists in popular tourist destinations represent easy and vulnerable targets for terrorist attacks (Sönmez 1998) because of the guaranteed worldwide media coverage: the pictures of terrorist acts stretch around the globe within minutes. Terrorism in tourism destinations began gaining global media coverage in the 1970s and it continues to threat the highly variable industry. However, a contradiction can be seen in the studies of terrorism and tourism. Whilst some authors argue that terrorism does not significantly affect tourism demand, tourism arrivals statistics prove this argument incorrect.

Academics in the tourism industry have been trying to predict the tourism decision-making process since the 1970s. However this is a very complex process and several different models exist. The way in which tourists choose the destination where they will travel to, is affected by push and pull factors (Lam, 2006). The push factors can be considered socio-psychological motivations that make the traveller want to travel; these include escape and adventure. Pull factors on the other hand are the aspects that attract the traveller to a particular destination. These can be tangible or intangible such as food, attractions, climate and culture. Measuring the push and pull factors has been largely used when studying tourist motivations (Decrop 2006)

In the case of tourism in Bali, Reindrawati (2008) studied the impacts of the 2002 terrorist attack on the perceptions of young Australian tourists visiting the tropical island. One third of the tourists visiting Bali before the terrorist attacks were Australians and as a consequence of the 'Bali blast' 187 lost their lives. Reindrawati (2008) surveyed 200 Australian University students after the bombings and found that out of the 200 who filled the questionnaires 47 per cent would not travel to Bali because of the fear of terrorist attacks.

For the purpose of this study, Finnish young travellers risk perceptions were briefly analysed and compared to the findings from the existing literature. Eight short structured interviews consisting of three questions were conducted. The first question enquiring information about which popular tourist destination the interviewee considers as risky, for which the most popular answer was New York City (4), followed by India (2), Bali (1) and Israel (1).

Even if the respondents were requested to mention a destination that was considered unsafe, terrorism was not mentioned among the reasons not to travel to the chosen location. Even though the primary research was limited it can be concluded that the level of concern for terrorism among young independent Finnish travellers is rather low.

Lam T., Hsu C. (2006) Predicting behavioural intention of choosing a travel destination, Tourism Management, Vol. 27, pp. 589-599

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]

Sönmez S., Apostolopoulos Y., Tarlow P. (1998) Tourism in Crisis: Managing the Effects of Terrorism, Journal of Travel Research, Vol. 38, pp 13-18

Does terrorism affect on tourism demand or only visitor numbers?
Author: Martta Pukki
This article was interesting as it argued the suggestion that terrorism affects on tourism demand. As it has been mentioned in this discussion paper and the commentary posted by Dana, statistics and authors have stated that there is a clear link between terrorism and tourism. Tourists are a good target for terrorist acts, because when terrorism is targeted on tourism, the largest international industry in the world, the acts will affect not just the tourism industry but also the world economy and political situation. Tourists are explained to be easy targets, they provide camouflage to terrorists, being a large group of foreign people, speaking different foreign languages and looking foreign. This makes it easy for the terrorists to mingle within.

The suggestion that terrorism would not affect on tourism demand significantly is interesting as the statistics I found showed that terrorism clearly affected on the tourist arrivals, for example the decrease of 23% of arrivals from the United States of America to Europe, following the Palestinian terrorist attacks in the airports of Rome and Vienna and the hijacking of TWA flight 847 in Athens and the hijacking of the yacht called Achille Lauro in the territorial waters of Egypt (Pizam, A. & Smith, G., 2000), as well as the drop of 43% in tourism receipts that Egypt faced following the terrorist attacks in 1992 (Wahab, 1996, cited in Sönmez et al, 1999). Another such decrease in tourism receipts was a bombing in Had Yai International Airport in Thailand and in Carrefour hypermarket that resulted in cancellation of 20% of foreign and 30% of local tourists (Rittichainuwat, B. N. & Chakraborty, G., 2009).

With these statistics in mind, could it be that terrorism affects on the tourist arrivals in the targeted destinations but tourism demand itself would not be as much affected and tourists would only change their travelling patterns and holiday destinations instead of not travelling due to the terrorism attacks? If a destination like Egypt, which has suffered a reputation of a risky and dangerous place to visit, will lose in visitor arrivals, will the tourists stop travelling or just find another safer destination? These factors that affect on tourist behaviour are difficult to measure and understand but the examples of push and pull factors could be useful in this process and be helpful when trying to predict the tourism demand.

The title of this discussion paper indicates the young independent Finnish travellers and I would have wanted to read more about the results of the survey about the risk perceptions. However, the findings of this survey is interesting, even if the destinations were considered risky, terrorism was not mentioned as a threat. This supports the findings of Pizam and Smith (2000) who state that it is more likely to be struck by a lightning or get killed in an accident on the roads at home than becoming a victim of terrorist attacks. And also this supports the statement above that terrorism does not affect on tourism demand, if terrorism is not seen as a threat and even if it would be for some destinations, tourists will hopefully keep on travelling but perhaps to destinations less risky.


Pizam, A., Smith, G. (2000) 'Tourism and Terrorism: A Quantitative Analysis of Major Terrorist Acts and Their Impact On Tourism Destinations', Tourism Economics, vol. 6 (iss. 2) pp 123-138

Sönmez, S. F., et al (1999) 'Tourism in Crisis: Managing the Effects of Terrorism', Journal of Travel Research, vol. 38 (iss. 1) pp 13-18

Rittichainuwat, B. N., Chakraborty, G. (2009) 'Perceived Travel Risks Regarding Terrorism and Disease: The Case of Thailand', Tourism Management, vol. 30, pp 410-418
Surprising result!
Author: Dana Kinzel
Terrorist groups choose a popular tourist destination for an attack because of several reasons but one of the most important is, like you said, the media coverage. Tourists in general are more vulnerable when travelling because they do not know their destination as good as locals and they visit sights of greater interest in the region. Latter means that bigger crowds can be expected which results in a higher media coverage when an attack occurs there. It is difficult to understand for most of us why terrorists injure or kill innocent people. Usually they hope to attract the general attention, communicate their message, spread fear among the population, receive what they want or damage the economy of a country. Some terrorist groups inform the media in advance so that they are at the location where the incident shall occur to make sure that the message will be communicated. Sometimes there is enough time to evacuate locals and tourists without causing any harm except material damage.

The media coverage increased from the 70s onwards which is also connected to the development of new technology, the globalisation but also because people started to become more aware and interested in the world's ongoing. Originally terrorism already goes back to the 1930s. One of the earliest incidents which is well-known to all of us was for example Pearl Harbour in 1941 (Chen and Noriega 2003: 81-96).

Your comment that "some authors argue that terrorism does not significantly affect tourism demand, […]." irritates me a little bit. Indeed statistics, surveys and most authors I looked at in the past take a different stand.

The case of Bali would be interested to look at including different age groups in order to see if just 25% of Australian's younger inhabitants react with not travelling there or if there might be even a stronger reaction from the older population. In my research I found out that next to the different reactions of international and domestic tourist numbers also the age plays a role. Chen and Noriega for example looked at the perception of students and faculty members after 9/11. The staff was estimating the situation and possible consequences more negative than the students what I drew back to the age difference, the herewith connected experience and the educational background.

What surprised me were the answers concerning the most risky destinations you received on your first question. I would have expected to hear names like Egypt and Spain. Many people lost their lives in New York, but nevertheless it occurred once and most theory and surveys show that the frequency weights stronger than the severity. In this context it would be interested to conduct more interviews with Finish students and maybe compare these to the results of another European country. I would imagine that German students might name different destinations as most risky.

Closing I want to indicate that Gray and Wilson (2009: 187-202) made the same observation that "terrorism was not mentioned among the reasons not to travel to the chosen location" like you did.


Chen, R. J. C. and Noriega, P. (2003) The Impacts of Terrorism: Perceptions of Faculty and Students on Safety and Security in Tourism, in: Journal of Travel & Tourism Marketing. 15: 2/3, 81-97.

Gray, J. M. and Wilson, M. A. (2009) The Relative Risk Perception of Travel Hazards, in: Environment and Behaviour. London: Sage Publications, 41, 185-202.