When disaster strikes a country in the form of an epidemic, earthquakes or civil unrest, the devastating consequences of the crisis are often compounded by longer term economic fallout.
Many countries count tourism as a key revenue source and – inevitably – tourist visits plummet in the immediate aftermath of a natural disaster.
However, a new survey by flights comparison site Skyscanner has revealed that mass media coverage of a negative event may have a positive rebound impact on tourism in the long term.
Over 2500 travellers responded to the survey which found that over a third (36%) of Skyscanner users said that seeing TV and press reports of a country undergoing a natural disaster or other problems raised their interest in the country and would actually make them more likely to travel to there in future.
Sam Baldwin, Skyscanner travel editor, commented:
“Skyscanner’s data shows that most disasters tend to have only a short lived impact on visitor numbers. Initially when a country falls victim to a disaster we see a decline in interest as safety concerns are paramount, but medium to long term, interest recovers and the results of this survey show that widespread media coverage can actually have a positive influence on the attitude of potential visitors.
“In the case of the recent Japan earthquake, there is a lot of empathy for how the Japanese have coped and the images of determination and resilience that were broadcast around the world may have led to much admiration, and encouraged tourists to explore the culture of Japan further in future.”
Several respondents from the survey stated that disasters would not dissuade them from visiting, and would in many cases encourage them to make a trip there:
“The media coverage of the event drew my attention and got me interested in visiting.”
“The bravery and compassion of the people has made me want to go to Japan.”
“I flew to New York in October ’11 – I didn’t want terrorism to stop my first visit there.”
The survey also questioned travellers on which events people found to be most of a deterrent to visit a destination for longest.
Only 10% of respondents said a natural disaster was the most off putting event and the majority said they would feel comfortable returning just three months or less after the event.
The results however were bad news for troubled Greece, as civil unrest topped the poll with 37% of respondents saying it was the most off putting event, with the majority stating it would dissuade them from visiting for at least 12 months.
Epidemics were the second most off-putting event with 31% of the vote, also deterring visitors for one year.
A ‘terrorist attack’ was the third biggest deterrent with 16% of the vote, although the majority of respondents said it would only put them off visiting for a maximum of three months.