Studies Show Tourist Safety is a Genuine Concern
The last thing people tend to think about when heading out the door on holiday is safety. That is understandable. Rather than thinking about all the possible risks that lie ahead, they are imagining the thrills and exciting opportunities their holidays hold in store. Perhaps we need to have a more serious discussion about tourism safety.
Years of studies consistently show that tourism safety is a genuine and serious concern – even if people aren’t thinking about it. For example, a 2017 study out of Bowling Green State University estimated that as many as 50% of all travellers either fall ill or are injured while on their trips.
The study went further to document more than 3,000 tourist fatalities reported between 2013 and 2015. How many more went unreported? How many injuries that did not result in death were reported during the same period?
If safety is important in the workplace – and it is – shouldn’t it be equally important when travelling? Absolutely. Tourism safety is just as important as safety in any other environment. Thus, it is reasonable to start a safety discussion among tour operators, hospitality providers, local authorities, and even travellers themselves.
General First Aid Issues
A good place to start the safety discussion is with general first aid. We render first aid when emergency situations arise and no professional medical help is nearby. That might mean applying sunburn cream, bandaging a wound, or temporarily stabilising a fractured bone. Moreover, proper first aid can mean the difference in preventing more serious injury or death.
A discussion of general first aid could include things like taking first aid training and learning the basics of automated external defibrillators. From online videos to first aid kits for holidaymakers, there is a lot that can be done in this area.
Weather Related Issues
Any discussion of tourism safety should include weather related issues. Say you have a family from the UK travelling to the US to visit Walt Disney World. UK residents are not used to the blistering sun, high temperatures, and excessive humidity of Central Florida. They need to be made aware of potential risks, including sunburn and heatstroke.
By the same token, a family travelling from Jamaica to the Canadian Rockies for a ski holiday probably doesn’t know all of the dangers of the wintry environment. They need to be made aware of frostbite, hypothermia, and the like. Leaving for a holiday unprepared for the weather is an open invitation to trouble.
Next up are safety concerns surrounding specific activities. The Bowling Green study showed that water activities are the single biggest cause of tourist fatalities worldwide. Among all of the incidents reported between 2013 and 2015, more than 33% of them were attributed to water-based activities.
According to the European Child Safety Alliance, the risk of injury caused by water-based activities increases when personal watercraft, boats, scuba diving, and a variety of water sports are involved. Their data also concluded that tourists are more likely to be injured as compared to local residents because they are unfamiliar with the environment.
Believe it or not, the Bowling Green University study showed that accidents involving transportation were second only to water-based activities in terms of the total number of tourist deaths between 2013 and 2015. The data relates to motor vehicle accidents, boating accidents, and so forth.
Tourists should be made aware that transportation may be more dangerous in some circumstances than in others. For example, a UK resident travelling to the US should be aware that American drivers drive on the right side of the road instead of the left.
This may seem a minor thing but driving in a foreign country and not necessarily knowing where you’re going could create just enough distraction to cause a fatal accident by driving on the wrong side. It happens.
Terrorism and Local Crime
Finally, tourism safety should include a discussion of any terrorism or criminal issues that may be of concern. This is one area that we do pretty well at, thanks to government travel alerts. Even so, tour operators and travel agents can help their clients by staying abreast of safety issues and keeping their clients informed. Travellers themselves should also stay on top of things in the months and weeks leading up to departure.
With the speed in which things can change, it is a good idea for those travelling to potential hotspots to obtain travel insurance. Good travel insurance will cover having to cancel plans in the event a travel warning is issued. Having insurance makes it easier to do the safe thing when necessary.
Likewise, travel insurance can protect against loss in the event of activity-related injuries. However, policies often have to be tailored to the activities the traveller will be participating in.
In a perfect world, travel would be free of any and all safety risks. But we do not live in a perfect world. Accidents happen. Travellers get sick and people are injured and killed. The best way to stay safe is to plan and prepare for potential risks. And to do that, travellers need to be willing to have the safety discussion.