Skift data show gun violence hasn't led to mass trip cancellations in the United States for international travelers but shootings have definitely caused many to pause and consider whether the U.S. is a safe destination to visit. The country is much safer than many others, but the White House hasn't helped get that message out there.
The United States has been roiled in mass shootings in recent years and at least two of them — Orlando in June 2016 and Las Vegas in October 2017 — have occurred in major tourist destinations. The Orlando and Las Vegas shootings are the two deadliest in U.S. history and highlighted how gun violence can strike anytime, anywhere.
Orlando and Vegas, the Parkland, Florida shooting in February, and other mass shootings have made headlines around the world and in the United States’ top overseas visitor markets such as the United Kingdom, Japan, and Germany.
Skift recently surveyed travelers in the United Kingdom, Japan, and Germany through Google Consumer Surveys to analyze what, if any, impact recent mass shootings in the United States have had on their decisions to visit the country. They are among the countries with tourists to the United States.
We asked travelers two questions: Have recent mass shootings across the United States changed your mind about visiting the country? and Which of the following is more likely to discourage you from traveling to the United States? with general political climate, President Trump, mass shootings, and the U.S. dollar as answers.
Our findings are clear: travelers in all three countries feel recent gun violence hasn’t significantly impacted their decisions to travel to the United States. See charts below for data on both questions.
Some 33 percent of UK travelers said recent mass shootings have had no impact on their decision to travel to the United States (the largest percentage besides “I’m not planning to travel to the United States”), while 15 percent of both Germany and Japan respondents said no impact.
More than 15 percent of Germany respondents said they weren’t aware of any recent mass shootings, and 22 percent said they weren’t sure if recent mass shootings impacted their decisions to visit.
Nearly 29 percent of Japan respondents said they weren’t sure how gun violence has impacted their decisions to visit.
UK male and female traveler responses differed in how they felt gun violence has impacted their decisions to travel, but male and female responses for Germany and Japan were similar. More male respondents than female respondents felt that recent mass shootings have had no impact, 37 percent and 29 percent, respectively.
UK male and female traveler responses also differed with what factors are more likely to discourage them from visiting the United States. A higher percentage of UK female travelers than male travelers said mass shootings are more likely to discourage them from visiting (30 percent and 19.5 percent, respectively).
A higher percentage of UK female respondents compared to males also said President Trump was a factor that discourages them from visiting (20.9 percent and 17 percent, respectively).
Here are other notable findings from the data:
- Overall, about 7 percent of respondents are reconsidering their trips.
- UK travelers ages 18-34 were the highest percentage of respondents who said mass shootings were most likely to discourage them from visiting (31.6 percent).
- Germany had the highest percentage of respondents who said President Trump was most likely to discourage a visit (29.2 percent).
- The U.S. dollar is generally not a concern for respondents across the three countries compared to other factors.
- Japan had the overall highest percentage of respondents who said mass shootings and the general U.S. political climate were most likely to discourage a visit compared to other factors (29.4 percent and 16.7 percent, respectively).
- Travelers ages 18-34 were the highest percentage of respondents that said they weren’t sure how recent mass shootings impacted their decisions to visit across the three countries
Gun Violence in the United States
There have been 135 mass shootings in the United States so far in 2018, and nearly 6,700 people have been killed by gun violence across the country year-to-date, according to the Gun Violence Archive, a Washington, D.C.-based non-profit corporation formed in 2013 to provide online public access to accurate information about gun violence in the United States.
Gun Violence Archive data show there have been more than 27,000 gun-related incidents since January 1. The United States also has the world’s eleventh highest rate of violent gun deaths, with 3.85 deaths per 100,000 people in 2016, according to data from the University of Washington.
Most of the recent U.S. mass shootings have not been targeted at tourists or taken place in or near tourist attractions. But whether it was at a music festival on the Las Vegas Strip or at a gay nightclub in Orlando a few miles from some of the most popular theme parks on Earth, many travelers are increasingly concerned that they could unexpectedly find themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time and are also unsure how shootings impact their decisions to visit the United States, as Skift’s data show.
The Travel Industry’s Position
Brand USA, the organization responsible for marketing U.S. destinations to international travelers, said that it hasn’t done any research on how gun violence impacts travelers’ decisions to visit.
“As we monitor motivations for coming to the USA compared to other countries, the USA tends to rank as one of the safer destinations to visit,” said Anne Madison, Brand USA’s chief strategy and communications officer.
Chris Thompson, president and CEO of Brand USA, spoke to Bloomberg earlier this month on factors that are impacting international arrivals to the United States in 2018. “There was some moderation in the dollar but it was hard to tell if there was an uptick,” said Thompson. “The numbers that we get are lagging numbers from the Department of Commerce. But we did see some increases in numbers going into 2018. But now I think it’s heading back in the other direction.”
Speaking during the World Travel & Tourism Council Global Summit in April, Thompson said interest for visiting remains high from the country’s top 14 visitor markets, based on the organization’s survey data. “We asked ‘how likely are you to travel to the United States in the next two years?’ in December 2016 and 79 percent said very likely to visit,” he said.
“We asked the same question in December, 2017, and 81 percent said very likely to visit,” said Thompson.
Las Vegas, one of the largest destinations for international travelers in the United States, saw a drop off in overall visitation after the October 1, 2017 shooting. But arrivals were already down year-over-year in the months leading up to the shooting, with overall domestic and international arrivals down more than 4 percent in October, but it’s unclear how much the shooting factors into the decline. Arrivals were up only 0.1 percent in April, the most recent month data is available.
Thomas Cook, one of Europe’s largest tour operators, said that gun violence typically isn’t a factor with the UK and European markets in deciding to travel to the United States.
The company’s UK business was up 20 percent year-over-year for this past winter but is flat for the summer for trips to the United States. “We’ve grown our bookings substantially to the USA over recent years, largely on a seat-only basis and we’re pleased that demand remains at that high level,” said Matthew Magee, a spokesperson for Thomas Cook Group. “I had wondered if perhaps currency might be a factor for the UK business, given that long haul is usually booked further in advance, so last year’s bookings may have been made prior to the Brexit vote.”
“Whereas this year could have been impacted by the weaker sterling against the dollar,” said Magee. “However given we are flat, it would only suggest we’d see continued stronger growth otherwise.”
Skift’s data, however, show that the U.S. dollar isn’t a significant factor that would deter UK, German, or Japanese travelers from visiting.
Jonathan Tisch, CEO of Loews Hotels, said he hadn’t heard gun violence has been worrying possible inbound international travelers to the United States. “These are isolated incidents,” he said.”Unfortunately, the press does play them up, and they get a lot of airtime outside of the United States. So it is another concern, and it’s probably a legitimate concern.”
“And so if that is becoming a concern, and I think it’s something that is legitimate, then it’s just another area that we need to be working with our elected officials so that the message does get out that it is safe to be in this country,” said Tisch.
But the Trump administration has done everything but make international travelers or foreigners feel welcome and safe. The migrant children crisis and family separation at the U.S.-Mexico border in recent weeks has only exacerbated the United States’ image as a foe to outsiders.
The prospects of a trade war between the United States and Canada, Mexico, the European Union, and China are also weighing on global economies and could impact jobs and disposable income for travel.
Skift’s data show mass shootings have had some impact on international travelers’ decisions to visit, but those events are only top of mind for as long as a couple of news cycles. Trade wars and the long-term impact could be more of a setback for tourism.
Please note that answers are listed in the same order as the UK questions for the Germany and Japan questions. Both questions were not served to the same set of travelers.
Also, note that China is the third largest overseas visitor market in the United States, but Google Consumer Surveys does not offer surveys in China. We chose to survey Germany, the fourth largest overseas visitor market, instead.
Google deemed “President Trump” as an offensive term in the three countries Skift surveyed, and we used the term “U.S. president” instead.
Some of the German and Japanese translations are not exact translations from English.
Important: This two-question survey — not served to Skift users — was administered to the UK, Germany, and Japan internet populations in June, 2018, through Google Consumer Surveys, with more than 1,000 responses. The methodology is explained here.
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Photo credit: Many international travelers feel like recent gun violence in the United States hasn't impacted their decision to visit, but many are also unsure. Pictured are Reed Broschart, center, hugging his girlfriend Aria James on the Las Vegas Strip in the aftermath of a mass shooting at a concert Monday, Oct. 2, 2017, in Las Vegas. The couple, both of Ventura, Calif., attended the concert. Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated Press