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Tourists increasingly switching to ‘safer’ destinations

Apr 05 2017 17:37
Carin Smith

Cape Town - The global travel and tourism industry remains resilient as consumers continue to travel, but they are switching to destinations which are perceived to be "safer", according to a new report by the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC).

The report, therefore, emphasises that tourism destinations must continue to focus on security to ensure that their markets remain resilient.

The research found that in countries where attacks have happened, money spent by foreign visitors suffered. The impact of the initial attacks were furthermore compounded by inaccurate or extended travel advisories and consumer reaction to seek perceived "safer" places for their vacations.

“Travel and tourism is a resilient sector. People will not stop travelling, despite the security threats in the world. Nevertheless, destinations must focus on security, as we operate in a new ‘normal’ where the constant threat of terrorism exists," said David Scowsill, president and CEO of the WTTC.

“Governments must plan for handling crises. Travellers make decisions based on their perception of safety in a country. The reality is that the statistical likelihood of being caught in a terror attack while travelling is negligible. Travel is about exploring new cultures and doing business globally. Tourism is a force for good in the world”.

READ: Tourism trends to watch in 2017

The council calls on governments to work on four issues when preparing for a crisis. This includes integrating private sector tourism companies into all security planning; implementing electronic visas to enhance security and using biometrics and technology; creating crisis response plans, which encompass a cohesive media response; and increasing intelligence sharing across borders, as terrorists do not respect borders.

In North Africa, for instance, tourism visitor exports declined again in 2016 - by -16%. Egypt in particular is suffering from the impact of terrorism activity, followed by continued travel advisories. Inbound visitor spending continued to contract in the country and its travel and tourism gross domestic product (GDP) is now 50% below the 2008 peak level.

READ: Downgrade both good and challenging for SA tourism - experts

Following attacks in Europe in 2016 the contractions in inbound tourism spending included Belgium (-4.4%), France (-7.3%) and Turkey (-22%).

At the same time global tourism grew by 3.3% in 2016 despite ongoing terror threats around the world. At the macro level terrorism has had little impact on global business and leisure travel in 2016, according to the report.

For the sixth consecutive year the sector’s growth outpaced that of the global economy, contributing $7.6trn to global GDP and supporting 1 in 10 jobs worldwide.
Destinations in Europe which have gained due to their "safer" image include Bulgaria and Cyprus with tourism in 2016 up by 12.4% and 17.1% respectively. In Portugal and Spain it grew by 4.6% and 5.2% respectively, while in merging destinations like Slovakia, Poland and Hungary it increased by 13.2%, 8.6% and 6.8% respectively.

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