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A recent report from Resonance Consultancy reveals the top priorities for American travelers:

1. Safety

2. Favorable climate/weather

3. scenery and nature

4. Easily accessible by commercial flights

While that’s not a surprising list, it is discouraging to see “safety” take the top spot. Safety is important of course, but most people I know are not even considering trips to Iraq or Syria. They’re planning trips to, say, Rome or New York City — places where the odds of something “dangerous” happening are miniscule.

Other factors that make the list — weather, proximity to beaches, English speakers — further paint a picture of American travelers as a group looking for escapism rather than edification.

Reflecting on this data, I was reminded of the often detrimental role that reputation plays in travel decisions. I know numerous baby boomers, for example, who have avoided New York their entire lives because of it’s gritty reputation from the 1970s. That’s sad because A) New York is great and at least for the last two decades very safe in the tourist areas, and B) because according to many New Yorkers the city was actually better before it became somewhat more… sanitized.

In other words, if safety is your top priority you have and continue to miss out. And I know even more people who avoid foreign countries for the same reasons.

These are just examples, but the point is that the belief that a place isn’t “safe” shouldn’t the single most important factor when deciding where to go. It ought to be a factor, but the reality is that there are American tourists traveling to places like Iran and North Korea — aka the “axis of evil” — who are generally fine. And frankly, “safety” seems like a gentler way of saying that fear is one of the driving forces behind the way people travel.

There are a lot of things that could replace safety on the top of that list, but ultimately I’m particularly drawn to one of the main themes in Rick Steves’ Travel as a Political Act: “travel should bring us together.”

— Jim Dalrymple II

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Written by Jim Dalrymple II

Editor in Chief of Tripping Over the World. Also, reporter at BuzzFeed News.

10 comments

  1. We just returned from a great family trip to Costa Rica. While not a really difficult trip logistically and a very safe country, most of my sons’ classmates thought it strange that they were going somewhere other than orlando (all of an hour away). Agree with you and I really feel that Americans are often looking for a vacation rather than a stretching travel experience.

  2. I certainly agree that Americans as a group aren’t the most open minded about travel destinations. That said, I have to feel that this list speaks to the way that most Americans feel forced to live: working furiously until they can take a break, at which point they just want to relax a little. Adventure was a higher priority for me when I didn’t feel as worked into the ground.

    1. That’s a good point. Another interesting data point in the study was on the duration of American’s trips, which tend to be short. I think that backs up what you’re saying about many people just needing a break.

      1. And that many Americans only get 1 week off at a time! Hard to get to Asia let alone see anything. Thank goodness I’m a teacher. 😉

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