When disaster strikes, tourism for an entire region can sometimes be impacted--the Ebola outbreak did just that in 2014 when the entire African continent suffered from fewer international arrivals. Luckily that didn't happen in Europe after the Paris attacks with travelers by and large only perceiving that city as unsafe. Their fears have since subsided and Parisian tourism continues on a path back to normalization.
Tourism still hasn’t normalized in Paris following November’s terrorist attacks but American and European travelers’ security perceptions of the French capital have significantly rebounded.
Spain-based tourism data company Socialvane analyzed more than 4.4 million tourism-related Twitter and Instagram mentions about Paris during the past three months and created a perceived security index for how safe tourists feel Paris and other European cities are for travel. The data includes keywords and semantics related to fears about tourist security in Paris such as this example. Most mentions came from 10 countries with the U.S., France and the U.K. accounting for about 75%.
Before the attacks on November 13 the global index value for Paris varied between 80 and 90 out of 100. Immediately following the attacks the value nosedived to zero and remained there until the first week of December (see interactive charts below). As of last week that index was about 64 which is still slightly higher than the U.S. traveler index (at about 57).
The U.S. traveler index was the slowest to recover in comparison to indexes looking specifically at the U.K. and then the wider Western European region which includes France, Spain, Italy and Germany. On December 18 the U.K. index was 50, Western Europe (69) and the global index (48) while the U.S. was still at 16.
London and Madrid mentions were also included in the analysis to measure how security was perceived in two other European cities of similar size and visitor arrivals. London and Madrid’s global index values each dropped only a few points to 80 right after the attacks and both cities quickly bounced back to near 90.
“London and Madrid are once again getting close to having excellent ranges in the perceived security index,” said Hugo Sanchez, COO of Socialvane. “I was expecting to see other European cities much more affected by the Paris attacks. We also chose to analyze London and Madrid because they’ve had the worst terrorist attacks in Europe, London with the 7/7 bombings in 2005 and Madrid with its 2004 train bombings.”
“Measuring perception is a difficult task. When we measure security we’re measuring everything from robberies to murders to terrorism. So the list of keywords and semantic relations that we’re looking for here is really extensive.”
Although these cities are some of the most visited in Europe and the world their index values weren’t perfect even before the attacks. Paris was in the low 80s the week before November 13 and London and Madrid were in the high 80s on the global index. Sanchez said they’re still perceived as some of the safest cities and that no city has a perfect index score given general perceptions of crime in metropolitan areas.
“We found that tourists were more sensitive to [traveling to Europe] but were mostly just concerned about Paris as that was the site of the attacks,” said Sanchez.
“I think everyone in Europe right now is really sensitive about what happened in Paris. European tourists aren’t going to places like Tunisia anymore because of attacks that also happened there. In Spain we’re seeing a greater number of tourists from elsewhere in Europe because it’s a similar climate to Tunisia. But if [a terrorist attack] happens in Spain it could really hurt Spain and the entire European economy.”
Paris typically receives between 40,000 to 50,000 tourism-related mentions on Twitter and Instagram per day. That number soared to more than 210,000 in the days following the attacks and has since returned to normal, according to Socialvane. Following are four charts showing how index values changed from November to the beginning of February.
*The Continental Europe index includes data from France, Germany, Italy and Spain.
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Photo credit: An employee prepares breakfast in front of the Eiffel tower at the Parisian luxury hotel Le Plaza Athenee, France. Stephane Mahe / Reuters