Accidental Deaths of Overseas Visitors in Australia 1997-2000

By Wilks, Jeffrey; Pendergast, Donna et al. | Journal of Hospitality and Tourism Management, January 2003 | Go to article overview

Accidental Deaths of Overseas Visitors in Australia 1997-2000


Wilks, Jeffrey, Pendergast, Donna, Wood, Maryann, Journal of Hospitality and Tourism Management


By world standards, Australia is a safe travel destination for international visitors. Yet tourist safety can never be taken for granted, This paper reports on the deaths of 1513 overseas visitors to the country over a 4-year period, and focuses on the 307 deaths (20%) that were recorded as accidental. Motor vehicle crashes and drowning were the main causes of accidental death. The investigation identifies English, American, Japanese and German visitors as most frequently involved in fatal accidents. However, Irish, Swiss and Dutch visitors appear most "at risk" based on crude accidental death rates per 100,000 visitor arrivals. Strategies to prevent tourist accidents and protect Australia's reputation as a safe travel destination are examined within a risk management framework.

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Since the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001 in the United States most travellers worldwide have been conscious, if not concerned, about their personal safety (see Taylor, 2001). Surveys show that those destinations perceived to be "safe" have a very real competitive advantage in the current climate of uncertainty (Wanderlust Magazine, 2001). However, even in safe destinations like Australia, the current crisis in public liability insurance has pressured governments and tourist operators to look closely at visitor safety (Liability Insurance Taskforce, 2002; Trowbridge Consulting, 2002).

According to the World Tourism Organization (in press), risks to the safety and security of tourists can originate from four source areas:

1. the human and institutional environment outside the tourism sector

2. the tourism sector and related commercial sectors

3. the individual traveller (personal risks)

4. physical or environmental risks (natural, climatic, epidemic).

It is worth briefly expanding these areas to show the full extent that risk is present in each sector, and the most likely areas of risk to arise in Australia.

The Human and Institutional Environment

The risks from the human and institutional environment exist when visitors fall victim to the following:

* common delinquency (theft, pick-pocketing, assault, burglary, fraud, deception)

* indiscriminate and targeted violence (such as rape) and harassment

* organised crime (extortion, the slave trade, coercion)

* terrorism and unlawful interference (attacks against state institutions and the vital interests of the state), hijacking and hostage taking

* wars, social conflicts and political and religious unrest

* a lack of public and institutional protection services.

Tourism and Related Sectors

Through defective operation, tourism and sectors related to tourism such as transport, sports, retail trade, can endanger visitors' personal security, physical integrity and economic interests through the following:

* poor safety standards in tourism establishments (fire, construction errors, lack of anti-seismic protection)

* poor sanitation and disrespect for the environment's sustainability

* the absence of protection against unlawful interference, crime and delinquency at tourism facilities

* fraud in commercial transactions

* non-compliance with contracts

* strikes by staff.

Individual Travellers

Travellers or visitors can endanger their own safety and security, and those of their hosts by the following:

* practising dangerous sports and leisure activities, dangerous driving, and consuming unsafe food and drink

* travelling when in poor health, which deteriorates during the trip

* causing conflict and friction with local residents, through inadequate behaviour towards the local communities or by breaking local laws

* carrying out illicit or criminal activities (e.g., trafficking in illicit drugs)

* visiting dangerous areas

* losing personal effects, documents, and money through carelessness. …

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