Discounts can outweigh safety fears: our latest holiday research reveals

By Jon Young

After the tragic terrorist attacks at Westminster and London Bridge earlier this year, London tourism has declined slightly.  Many of London’s Zone 1 attractions are reporting a drop in visitor numbers compared to the same period in 2016, with similar reports from West End shows and transport providers.  The future isn’t looking too rosy either, with holiday bookings for 2018 down, particularly from the security-conscious USA.  It isn’t just a London problem though.  The Louvre in Paris blames terror attacks for a 2 million fall in visitor numbers in 2016, and destinations such as Turkey, Egypt and Tunisia are all suffering significant drops in holiday visitors in recent years.

At face value, the security argument appears quite straight-forward.  If a destination is perceived as dangerous, tourists are inclined to give it a wide berth.  However, two pieces of research we ran this year suggest that safety fears aren’t completely non-negotiable.  Both projects suggested that cost reductions can counter balance people’s safety fears and entice them into a visit.

The first study is our Holiday Trends 2017 survey.  Britons were asked how safe or unsafe they regarded a list of city destinations, and then to indicate the price ‘compared to normal’ at which they would be willing to visit (chart below).  Destinations such as Istanbul remain off-limits regardless of cost.  However, most of those who regarded Paris and London as unsafe were open to visiting at a lower price.  In other words, there seems to be a trade-off mechanism in operation.

The second piece of research, conducted in August this year, examined what would motivate Britons to visit attractions they are currently avoiding over safety concerns (chart below).  In addition to other reasons, 3 in 10 of these respondents stated ‘discounts’ would encourage them to visit, rising to nearly half of respondents living in London.

Both pieces of research were conducted amongst different audiences and at different times of the year.  The specifics may need to be taken with a pinch of salt – we don’t recommend tour operators start offering holidays at 75% or 50% discounts – but the clear theme is that safety fears are not insurmountable.  The results shouldn’t be that surprising.  Rationally, we know that the chances of being caught up in terrorism in London are slim (less so Istanbul).  Perhaps the offer of a hard cash discount shines a light on our rationality.

We’ve blogged about other ways destinations can overcome safety concerns here and here, and will be sharing more from the second survey in coming weeks.  We are keen to hear other opinions on this crucial topic – please drop a line to Jon Young or Emily Cronin if you have something to share.

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