Global anxiety audit highlights fears of travelling to Africa, Middle East

SAN JOSE — Roughly half of more than 2,000 active travelers surveyed in major Western markets are avoiding destinations in Africa due to increasing fears of personal safety, crime, terrorism and disease. This represents a critical branding and marketing challenge for African tourism economies, such as Egypt, Tunisia, Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa, Botswana and Namibia.

A new global travel survey reveals that—despite favorable exchange rates and few actual incidents involving foreign tourists—perceptions of risk from conflict and diseases like Ebola are overwhelming traditional “reasons to go” and are driving the decline of long-haul visitor numbers to the global cradle of humanity and wildlife.

The study shows that global leisure travelers regard Southern Africa to be as risky as Mexico and Central America (22 percent of respondents) while 56 percent viewed North Africa and 58 percent viewed Central/West Africa as the sites of most travel concern, trailing only the Middle East (91 percent).

By contrast, Australia and New Zealand registered zero safety concern, while 3 percent had worries about visits within the Pacific Islands or North America.

However, word-of-mouth accounts from returning visitors to Africa remain extremely positive about experiences and service, with only 5 percent of travelers reporting that negative stories from others have affected their decision not to travel to Africa. This has helped positioned Africa as the one major destination that consistently under-promises and over-delivers.

Entitled “How Global Voices Shape Travel Choices: The Impact of Consumer Apprehension on Travel Intention,” the study was undertaken by the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Council’s GeoBranding Center in partnership with AIG Travel.

“In line with the findings from this study, we’ve received many questions recently about the role of travel insurance amid the perception of increased risk to personal safety while traveling,” said Jeff Rutledge, CEO of AIG Travel. “In truth, travel insurance is as crucial today as it was last month or last year. The risk of unforeseen events has always been a travel reality, and insurance helps travelers prepare for this risk, providing assurance that assistance will be available if their trip doesn’t go according to plan.”

The report and infographics based on the quantitative and qualitative findings of this study are available for download, visit geobrandingcenter.org/how-global-voices-shape-travel-choices.php.