Mexico Border Cars

Visit Mexico: Sun, Sea… and Homicides

Not many people would choose to holiday in a dangerous area — although some would.

War torn countries often see foreign visitors in the form of armies and press personnel, not those who want to relax on the beach. As such, I believe countries seen as violent attract far fewer tourists than those deemed peaceful (one of the reasons you see Western countries heavily market their safe image to tourists following a terrorist event).

I’ve often heard friends debating visiting countries that I would classify as “safe”. Which left me thinking; should I be worried about visiting certain places that I didn’t immediately considered dangerous? Here are the numbers….

Methodology

The US State department regularly publishes travel warnings to citizens reflecting dangers within foreign countries. This not only includes warnings not to travel, but also deaths and injuries citizens have suffered in foreign countries. Data.World collated a series of data sets in March 2017 related to these travel warnings for the last 7 years (since 2009 – 2016). In total 240 countries were considered, only 53 of those were issues warnings by the US State Department.

Analysis

Top 20 Countries by Travel Warnings Issued

Country Region Travel Warnings Issued
Mexico Americas 28
Mali Africa 26
Israel Asia 25
Pakistan Asia 25
Iraq Asia 24
Afghanistan Asia 23
Nigeria Africa 23
Syria Asia 23
Algeria Africa 22
Iran Asia 22
Yemen Asia 22
Burundi Africa 21
Central African Republic Africa 21
Kenya Africa 20
Lebanon Asia 20
Philippines Asia 20
Chad Africa 19
Libya Africa 19
Sudan Africa 19
Colombia Americas 18
Congo Africa 18
Eritrea Africa 18

Full list.

If you expected Iraq or Afghanistan to be top of this list due to recent conflicts, you’d be wrong. Mexico, a country that received 71.5 million US visitors over period considered, had 28 travel warnings issued against it. Similarly Israel, a country that welcome 3.1 million tourists in 2015 of which 637,000 we’re by US citizens (4.77 million over period considered), had the third largest number of travel warning issues by the US State Department.

Top Regions by Travel Warnings Issued

Region Travel Warnings Issued
Africa 50
Asia 47
Americas 46
Europe 42
NA 33
Oceania 22

Full list.

The difference between total travel warnings issued by continent is smaller than you may have initially thought. Africa (54 countries) has just 8 more travel warnings than Europe (50 counties).

Note, NA region generally classifies many smaller island territories. See this table for list of countries classified NA.

Top Cause of Death

Cause of death Type Count
Homicide 1243
Suicide 927
Veh. Accid-Auto Vehicle 857
Drowning 776
Other Accident 740
Veh. Accid-Motorcy. Vehicle 247
Air Accident Air 164
Vehicle Accident – Auto Vehicle 152
Disaster 144
Drug-Related 144

Full list.

Homicides are by far the leading cause of deaths for US tourists (more than vehicle accents combined). 593 of these tourist homicides, almost half, were in Mexico! I was surprised to see suicides placed second on the list. Perhaps this is misrepresentation of reported cause of deaths (suicides do not necessarily reflect badly on the country).

Top 10 Countries by Death Count

country region num_deaths num_warnings num_travellers Probability of death
Mexico Americas 1653 28 71608500 0.00231%
Haiti Americas 221 10 3316700 0.00666%
Thailand Asia 191 4 343500 0.05560%
Costa Rica Americas 184 0 8137400 0.00226%
Philippines Asia 181 20 3240000 0.00559%
Dominican Republic Americas 149 0 18169700 0.00082%
Jamaica Americas 128 0 10606600 0.00121%
Germany Europe 125 0 32703500 0.00038%
China Asia 118 0 14593400 0.00081%
Afghanistan Asia 104 23 #N/A #N/A

Full list.

Mexico is looking pretty dangerous based on the death count, but you should pay close attention to the probability of death being relatively low (0.002%, ranked 23rd by probability of death).

Several countries with relatively high rates of American death have not been issued a single travel warning in ~7 years, including Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, and Jamaica. Many of the deaths in these countries are the result of natural disasters where very early warnings are hard to issue by any government.

Top 10 Countries by Probability of Death

country region num_deaths num_warnings num_travellers Probability of death
Thailand Asia 191 4 343500 0.05560%
Pakistan Asia 22 25 226200 0.00973%
Greece Europe 54 0 691800 0.00781%
Haiti Americas 221 10 3316700 0.00666%
Egypt Africa 35 11 579800 0.00604%
Philippines Asia 181 20 3240000 0.00559%
Ukraine Europe 13 15 276800 0.00470%
Saudi Arabia Asia 34 16 749100 0.00454%
Belize Americas 68 0 1563400 0.00435%
Nigeria Africa 32 23 780900 0.00410%

Full list.

The probability (US citizens) of dying in most countries is rarely low, with the exception being Thailand. Here US citizens have a 0.06% chance of death, that is 1 in every 43320 travellers is killed, whilst only 4 travel warning were issued. Pakistan, the country ranked 2nd most dangerous according to State Department data (also ranked 3rd by travel warning issued with 25), has a much lower probability of death, just 0.01%.

Change in travel behaviour based on warnings

travelcountries region num warnings travel pct change
Egypt Africa 11 -34.09
Thailand Asia 4 -15.00
Pakistan Asia 25 -3.00
Philippines Asia 20 -2.34
Venezuela Americas 7 -1.41
Honduras Americas 9 -1.18
Israel Asia 25 -0.06
Mexico Americas 28 0.52
Haiti Americas 10 0.53
El Salvador Americas 9 1.76
Russia Europe 6 4.03
Colombia Americas 18 5.97
Bahrain Asia 3 6.55
Nigeria Africa 23 10.99
Ukraine Europe 15 11.37
Saudi Arabia Asia 16 11.98

Full list.

Overall, countries subject to travel warnings do not see notable declines in American visitors in the 6 months after a warning is issued. Egypt saw the biggest decline in US travellers over the 7 year period between 2009 – 2016, a drop of 34%. Sadly this is the result of political unrest and security fears that have resulted in a significant decline in tourism from most countries around the world.

Improvements

Political tensions between nations are likely to have a significant effect on the travel warnings issued by countries. Being able to compare the travel warnings issued by each government would be a good extension on this initial analysis (who issues most warnings, where are most warnings issues against, etc…).

tl;dr

The probability (US citizens) of dying most countries is rarely low, with the exception of Thailand. In Thailand US visitors have a 0.06% chance of death.

Footnotes

  1. Data sources + data used in this post.

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