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Tourists more put off by epidemic than by terrorist attack

Tourists more put off by epidemic than by terrorist attack

New research from cheap flight comparison site Skyscanner ( reveals a third of travellers (31%) felt an epidemic would put them off of a destination for longest with 21% citing a terrorist attack, 20%, civil unrest and 17%, a natural disaster.

The research provides positive reading for the Thai Tourist Board, who may be concerned that the unrest in Bangkok will have a negative impact on their tourist industry, however, when travellers were canvassed about how long it would be before they would go back to an affected destination respondents would wait a full 12 months before travelling to a country affected by civil unrest.

The survey of over 300 Skyscanner users showed the same number would also wait 12 months before visiting an area hit by an epidemic, while most tourists would feel comfortable returning to somewhere hit by natural disaster or terrorist attack, just three months after the event.

Skyscanner’s flight search data supports the notion that recovery can come quickly. Despite experiencing a series of disasters over the last six years, including civil unrest and the tsumami, Thailand remains a very popular destination for UK visitors with flights to Bangkok rising 11 places in Skyscanner’s flight search index compared to 2009.

Following flooding and mudslides that killed at least 42 on the popular holiday island of Madeira, interest in the destination immediately fell 37%. However, just two months on, flight searches are back up to pre-flood levels suggesting that tourists are undeterred.


The swine flu outbreak in Mexico during April 2009 resulted in plummeting interest in the country. However, one year on, in April 2010, thoughts of swine flu appear to be long gone with flight searches up by a significant 164%.

Evidence shows a disaster can actually lead to an increase of visitors in the long term due to raising the profile of a destination. New York, for example, claims that after an initial dip in tourists following 9/11, visitor figures ticked up and have now surpassed original numbers, with Ground Zero becoming a tourist attraction itself. The city of Madrid also reported a similar pattern with hotel bookings up, following the 2004 Madrid bombings.

Barry Smith, Skyscanner Co-founder and Market Development Director commented:

“Skyscanner typically sees an immediate fall in interest for any destination that is hit by disaster. But as long as that event is not sustained, we tend to see appetite for travel quickly recovering as the tourists return.”

For access to additional tourist board quotes, annual visitor figures, disaster response strategies and photographs for these and other destinations please contact [email protected]