The world can be a dangerous place, especially for careless travellers. Though the US State Department focuses on alerting American tourists of the risks, its warnings can also provide Australians with additional information when deciding upon a holiday destination. However, those warnings don't always paint a clear picture. Turns out, the countries issued the most travel warnings aren't always the most dangerous.
Image via Travel.State.Gov.
Is travelling to countries that have been issued alerts and warnings, like Mexico, Mali, Israel and Pakistan, deadly for tourists? Sort of. Data gathered by Data.World and Priceonomics shows there is definitely a significant relationship between the number of tourists killed in a country and the number of travel warnings issued. But there's some confusion about which places are actually the most dangerous
Mexico, for example, has been issued the most travel warnings by the US State Department between 2009 and 2016, with a total of 28. Mali is in second place having been issued 26, then Israel with 25, Pakistan with 25, and Iraq with 24. If you compare that to the number of American tourist deaths in the same time span — filtered to only include homicides, executions and terrorist attacks — Mexico does, in fact, come out on top with 598 Americans killed. That seems enormous compared to the eight Americans killed in Pakistan during that time, making Mexico seem like the worst place for tourists to be right now. But that doesn't account for the actual likelihood of being killed based on the number of people that travel to these locations. Mexico saw over 71 million American travellers between 2009 and 2016, meaning only 0.84 Americans were killed per 100,000 visitors. Not to mention the fact that Mexico has also seen a high rate of American suicides (over 250 since 2002).
On the other hand, Pakistan sees the highest number of Americans killed per capita at 3.54 per 100,000 visitors. That's a 421 per cent higher chance of being killed in Pakistan than Mexico. And both Thailand and the Philippines are right behind Pakistan with 3.2 deaths per 100,000 visitors and 2.28 respectively, despite the fact that the Philippines have only been issued 20 travel warnings since 2009 and Thailand isn't even in the top 25.
So, do US State Department travel warnings reflect actual danger for tourists? Yes, but the number of travel warnings issued are not a good metric to go by. In fact, many countries like Belize, Guyana and Guatemala see high rates of American death, but haven't been issued a single travel warning in the past seven years. And it goes the other way too. Countries like Israel, Turkey and Saudi Arabia have all been issued many travel warnings over the years, but they have very low death rates for American travellers. Even so, most countries issued travel warnings by the US government don't see a significant decline of American travellers after the fact. If you want to check out the data yourself, you can find it all here.