Terrorism impact on tourism in the U.S. - Statistics & Facts

Tourism has long been negatively affected by unpredictable events. Financial crises, health epidemics, natural disasters and political unrest can all have negative impacts on the tourism industry. Since the 9/11 attacks, perpetrated by Al Qaeda, terrorism has gained unprecedented media attention and has become a source of anxiety for people around the world. Although terrorism has been in existence for many years, the number of suicide attacks globally has increased in the years since 9/11, with a record 652 suicide terrorist attacks in 2015.

In the United States, the fear of terrorism led newly elected President Donald Trump to issue an executive order which temporally banned entrance to the United States for citizens of seven Muslim Majority countries (Iran, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Sudan, and Libya). The order titled ‘Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States’ was critically dubbed the ‘Muslim Ban’ by the media. The effect of the ban had an immediate impact on the growth of net air bookings from the seven banned countries, with an 80 percent decrease in flight booking between January 28 and February 4, 2017. The ban affected countries were not the only ones which experienced a drop in bookings. In fact, only two regions (Central and Eastern Europe) experienced booking growth, all others including Northern and Western Europe, Asia-Pacific, and the Middle East and Africa, decreased their air travel to the United States. The ban was blocked by the courts, as it was deemed unconstitutional, and a newly revised version of the legislation was reintroduced in March 2017 with residents from six of the original countries remaining banned. This was problematic for many travel managers in the United States who were concerned that this legislation would make travel more difficult for U.S. citizens. It was also problematic for the tourism industry in the U.S., because in 2015, the majority of travelers from the six banned countries were visiting as either leisure or business tourists, with student entries, temporary workers and those arriving on fiancé visas accounting for less than half of the tourist numbers.

Travel manager’s fears may have been well founded as the way in which Americans travel have indeed been impacted by terrorism. In 2017, terrorism and / or terror warnings were the leading factors affecting the travel preferences of U.S. adults. That said, the largest share of U.S. travelers stated that they would not avoid any specific European country as a result of terrorist activities. Around 27 percent of these respondents specifically stated that they would not allow fear to dictate their travels. Travel agency workers are also reporting similar sentiments. After the attacks in France, around 35 percent of their clients continued unchanged with their current planned trips. Although some had chosen to delay their travel, less than 10 percent reported having clients cancelling their trips.

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