One in four travellers changed their travel plans in 2015 because of safety, security or health concerns, according to a report published late last year.
The study by CMO Council's GeoBranding Center found that 83% of the travellers who cancelled their plans cited terrorist activity as the main reason for deciding to stay at home instead. Although published in December, the survey was conducted in October 2015 – a month before the terrorist attacks in Paris.
"While wanderlust inspires visions of Europe, expansive beaches, balmy islands and big-city adventures, fears over terrorism, disease outbreak and military conflict have prevented new excursions," the report stated.
Naturally, having a vested interest in seeing the travel industry flourish, it got us thinking about the ways in which travel companies can help ease travel anxiety. As we see it, travel companies have an obligation to give responsible advice, rather than just offer up the information that is conducive to a sale.
With that in mind, here are five ways you can encourage customers to "keep calm and travel on":
1. Be transparent
Just 21% of travellers stated travel companies as their "trusted source" for information about travel safety. Clearly, there is still a feeling among travellers that firms will stop short of telling them all of the potential dangers they face in a particular country because it's not in their interests to do so. The only way of increasing trust with travellers is to be honest and transparent with them, showing the country for what it really is.
2. Provide comprehensive advice
Being transparent means providing clients with all the information they need to make a considered decision about a destination. This is when it pays to have a blog full of content to guide customers to, but useful external URLs which guide travellers to official sources of information will have a similar effect, if not.
3. Don't pressurise clients
Whether you're a tourism bureau or a travel agent, your job is to sell a destination, but that doesn't mean pressurising customers into taking risks that they are not prepared to handle. After all, the hard sell no longer has the desired effect on consumers, serving only to make them suspicious of your intentions.
4. Be sensitive to customers' concerns
While you might not agree with a client's decision to abandon their travel plans, be sensitive to their concerns, rather than try to convince them to stay with their originally planned trip in order to keep the sale. That tactic might work as a one-off, but if the trip leaves them disappointed, or worse shaken, you can be sure they won't ask you for advice next time.
5. Be the pragmatic voice
All that said, it's worth reminding clients that although alerts and warnings related to specific countries are to be taken seriously, terrorism and other acts of violence are still extremely rare. Perhaps they just need some reassurance from a pragmatic and well-informed voice that likelihood is, all will be OK.