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Can Fear From Terrorist Attacks Deter People from Traveling?

An Analysis on Terrorism & Traveling Trends

An Introduction


Nightclub bombing killing 202 people.

Oct 2002

Suicide truck bombings at 2 synagogues, killed more than 50.

Nov 2003

Bombs on trains killed 191 at Madrid's Atocha station.

March 2004

Suicide bombers killed 52 at a subway train and bus.

July 2005

Gunmen attacked buildings, 164 killed.

Nov 2008

bomb and youth camp attack, killed 77.

July 2011

A gunman claimed links to al-Qaida killed 3 Jewish students.

March 2012

4 people killed at Jewish Museum, attacker linked to Islamic State.

May 2014

A massacre at Sousse Beach killed 38 people.

June 2015

Cargo truck drove into crowd killed 86 people.

July 2016

Suicide bombing killed 22 people, injured 119.

May 2017

Shooting and stabbing killed 4, injured 16 people

March 2018 
sri lanka.jpg

Suicide bombing killed 258 people at 3 churches and hotels.

April 2019
Sri Lanka

          Since the age of mass air travel, people have traveled internationally for leisure, work, and other reasons. Travel agencies and guides are quintessential of tourism, an important source of income for some developing countries in South America and Africa, Southeast Asia.

          So where do people go and does fear from terrorist attacks affect their international air travels? In this assignment, I'm interested in using the data of U.S traffic volume and destinations from U.S International Air Travel Statistics, the travel advisory rankings from U.S Department of State - Bureau of Consular Affairs, the terrorist attacks data from Global Terrorism Database and social media posts from Twitter.

          My hypothesis is that fear from terrorist attack is one of the factors that deter people from traveling abroad. Since the 9/11 attack in 2001 and the subsequent increasing number of terrorist attacks in major cities publicized, U.S travelers are less likely to travel abroad to the affected regions. The parameters for this research question are as follow:

  1. Travelers who are U.S citizens, traveled outside of U.S from 1999 to 2018.

  2. Travel Advisories last updated April 2019.

  3. Global terrorist attacks from 1999 to 2017.

  4. Twitter posts with hashtags #travel AND #terrorism dating back to June 2009.

           While I recognize that there are limitations to my findings such as: the discretionary income of the individuals and or their employment and vacation policies, fears other than terrorism such as plane crashes and exposure may have all contributed to the reasons of people travel pattern, my findings may help shed light on how terrorist attacks affect international air travel.


 What is a terrorist attack?

A terrorist attack as defined by the Global Terrorism Database as an attack that "threatened or actual use of illegal force and violence by a non-state actor to attain a political, economic, religious, or social goal through fear, coercion, or intimidation."

Three of the following attributes must be present before considering additional criteria:​

1. The incident must be intentional.

2. The incident must entail some level of violence or immediate threat of violence.

3. The perpetrators of the incidents must be sub-national actors.

Additionally, two of these following criteria need to met for an event to be considered a terrorist attack:

Criteria 1: The act must be aimed at attaining a political, economic, religious, or social goal.

Criteria 2: There must be evidence of an intention to coerce, intimidate, or convey some other message to a larger audience (or audiences) than the immediate victims.

Criteria 3: The action must be outside the context of legitimate warfare activities.

What are U.S Travel Advisories?

Safety and security rankings created by the State in the interest of U.S citizens' safety abroad. Each country is ranked based on a list of risk indicators. A country that is ranked level 1 is the most safe for international travel than higher ranked countries. A country that is ranked level 4 is the most unsafe, U.S citizens are advised to "Do not travel". Terrorism is one of the indicators.

What are risk indicators?

CrimeWidespread violent or organized crime is present in areas of the country. Local law enforcement may have limited ability to respond to serious crimes.

TerrorismTerrorist attacks have occurred and/or specific threats against civilians, groups, or other targets may exist.

Civil Unrest: Political, economic, religious, and/or ethnic instability exists and may cause violence, major disruptions, and/or safety risks.

Health: Health risks, including current disease outbreaks or a crisis that disrupts a country’s medical infrastructure, are present. The issuance of a Centers for Disease Control Travel Notice may also be a factor.

Natural Disaster: A natural disaster, or its aftermath, poses danger.

Time-limited Event: Short-term event, such as elections, sporting events, or other incidents that may pose safety risks.

Other: There are potential risks not covered by previous risk indicators. Read the country’s Travel Advisory for details.

Kidnapping or Hostage Taking: Criminal or terrorist individuals or groups have threatened to and/or have seized or detained and threatened to kill, injure or continue to detain individuals in order to compel a third party (including a governmental organization) to do or abstain from doing something as a condition of release

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