Terrorism or Zika: What’s more of a Concern for Travelers?

With summer hitting its stride people are packing their bags and shipping (or flying) off to destinations across the globe for some much needed R&R. According to a recent survey, 88% of U.S. respondents are planning to vacation this summer, up 6% from those who took a summer trip last year.

As we get ready to roll out 200 new destination cities on our platform to allow travelers to easily plan awesome trips to the top destinations around the world, we wanted to take a look at how recent global events in a couple of cities on our platform may impact travel there. 

The cities we looked at were Istanbul, Turkey and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. With the recent terrorist attacks at Ataturk Airport in Istanbul and the growing concerns of the Zika Virus in Rio as the city prepares for the 2016 olympics, we asked more than 1,000 people across the US the following question:

If you had plans to visit the following places, which event/factor would impact your plans the most?

  • Rio de Janeiro/Zika Virus
  • Istanbul/Terrorist Attacks

Here’s a look at some of the results:

Terror is a bigger concern than Zika.

The general U.S. population reported that the recent Istanbul terror attacks would have more of an impact on their plans (56%) to travel there, than the Zika Virus (44%) would impact their plans to travel to Rio de Janeiro.

According to Euromonitor International’s 2014 ranking of most-visited cities by international travelers, Istanbul was the 9th most popular tourist destination in the word behind New York City (8). In 2015, A total of 36.2 million foreigners visited the country, according the Tourism Ministry data. 

Not surprisingly, the increase in violence in Turkey over the last year has caused these numbers to drop. According to Turkey’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism, the number of visiting tourists in May fell 34.7% to 2.48 million, compared with the previous year. It was the biggest decline in 22 years. Those numbers are likely to fall even further as a result of June's attacks and the more recent coup attempt.

According to our survey, women ages 55-64 were the most likely to report the Istanbul terror attacks as the event that would impact their travel plans the most. Those living in rural areas were more likely (65%) than urban populations (60%) to report that the Istanbul terror attacks would impact their travel plans the most. This was especially true amongst 18-24 year olds.


Men in their childbearing years more concerned about Zika than women?

When we look at those who reported Zika as the factor that would influence their plans the most there were some interesting results.

Men in their mid-twenties to mid-thirties (25-34) cited Zika as more of a concern (58%) than women (43%) of the same child bearing age. The difference in answers among genders is also noticeable with men in lower income brackets. Of men and women earning between $29-49K per year, 52% of men said Zika would impact their travel plans more than terrorism. Compare that with only 37% of women who said they would be impacted more by the threat of Zika.

The impact of Zika on the travel plans of men generally decreases as we look at older men, who may already have children. Around 46% of men aged 35-54 said they would be impacted by the mosquito carried virus. Older women (35-40) - on the other hand - were more likely to avoid Rio de Janeiro then their younger counterparts. 

Keep calm and travel on:

While it’s completely understandable to be impacted by either of these factors there are some important things to keep in mind before you change or cancel your travel plans.

For one, looking at Istanbul, security measures at Ataturk are considered stronger than at many other airports. Rest assured that those measures have been bolstered even further since the June attacks. This reminds us that with increased security at airports across the globe travelers need to keep the following in mind to ensure smooth traveling.

  • Arrive early. TSA recommends arriving up to two hours in advance of domestic departures and three hours in advance of international travel.
  • Prepare for security when you are packing. Put large liquids and gels such as shampoo, suntan lotion, shaving cream, etc., in your checked bags. If you only have a carry-on bag, make sure all of your liquids follow the 3-1-1 rule outlined below.
  • When packing a carry-on bag, remember that liquids, gels, aerosols, creams and pastes must be 3.4 ounces or less and all bottles must fit in a single quart-size plastic bag and be placed in a bin for screening. 
  • Be ready when you enter the checkpoint line. Have an acceptable ID and boarding pass out and ready to hand to the TSA officer.

For those who may be traveling to Rio de Janeiro for the Olympics there is good news as well. The World Health Organization has already confirmed that the 2016 Olympics do not need to be postponed or moved from Rio because there is a "very low risk" that the Games will further spread the Zika virus.

Also, the estimated 350,000 to 500,000 international visitors and athletes who are expected to travel to Rio de Janeiro for the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games represent a small fraction (.25%) of total travel to and from Zika-affected countries, according to a CDC report.

Even further, the Olympics are happening at a colder time of year in Rio, when mosquito activity is at a minimum, so with the proper precautions the likelihood of contracting the virus is much lower than one would think. 


If you do decide to change plans:

A typical travel insurance policy won't reimburse you for trip expenses if you cancel because you're afraid of traveling to a country where there have been reports of an outbreak of a disease such as the Zika virus, or you’re nervous about terrorism.

However, if you purchase a "cancel-for-any-reason" policy, your claim is more likely to be approved. Like standard trip cancellation policies, these policies provide financial protection for unreimbursed expenses if you have to cancel your trip before it starts or interrupt it once you're there. They typically cost a bit more than a standard policy. If you cancel, you'll generally be reimbursed for about 75 percent of your prepaid expenses.