“All these things have an effect on how people perceive a destination,” said Christopher Heywood, a spokesman for New York City’s tourism organization, NYC & Company. “Perception is everything.”
Has gun violence had an effect?
U.S. State Department advisories and warnings can have a powerful effect on travel. In the wake of violent events overseas, the State Department routinely updates its travel advisories. Following the July 2016 Bastille Day killing in Nice, France, the United States embassy in Paris and its consulate in Marseilles warned Americans about safety in France.
Other countries have similar systems. Britain, for example, has detailed advice for 225 countries and territories. The information is broken down into categories that include “safety and security,” “terrorism” and “local laws and customs.” The security page currently notes that in the United States, “violent crime, including gun crime, rarely involves tourists, but you should take care when traveling in unfamiliar areas.”
Following the shooting in Dayton, the Japanese consulate in Detroit released a statement calling the United States a “gun society” and urging Japanese citizens to be careful. Uruguay and Venezuela also released warnings after the shootings in Dayton and El Paso, joining Canada, Japan, Germany, Ireland, the Bahamas, China and New Zealand, which all had previously issued such warnings.
Although travel warnings can be political tools in larger international disagreements, more countries have linked those safety warnings specifically to gun violence.
While visiting New York City in June, Justine Whyte, a film producer from Toronto, said that she has in recent years noticed an increase in both violence and security measures in Canada and on a trip to Barcelona. But she still feels like “the odds of something like a shooting could be higher” in the United States.
The power of marketing
Countries compete for international travelers by funding tourism boards to promote their destinations. When suddenly everyone is going to Croatia, Iceland or Tulum, Mexico, the hidden hand of the tourist board is often at work.