Recently in South Africa we have experienced some bad xenophobic violence, specifically in the Durban area. The media and social media has blown the events completely out of proportion and made our beautiful country look like a racist, xenophobic war zone. How does this influence your decision on travelling here, or to any other country portrayed in the news in similar ways?
It doesn't, I would have never been to the places I have been if I payed attention to the "News". I also find it cheaper to travel to areas that have in the media for negative things! I was in Aruba for almost free after the tourist murder and in marroco a week after a terrorist attack? I have been mugged at gun point three times and my home has been broken into twice while I was home, if you can live in down town savannah Ga. you should have the street smarts to survive anywhere lol!
I think it's wise to pay attention, but to take everything with a grain of salt and understand that coverage is not always proportional to the issue. For instance, when we were going to Ethiopia, some tourists had been killed about a month before we went. However, they were up in the Danakil Depression, which is known to be rather insecure. However, it's also isolated, so learning about the event had no real effect on our comfort with taking the trip. I neglected to tell my mother about the event, because she would have fully lost her mind.
We were in China when there was a pretty big attack at the Kunming train station that made international headlines, but we never felt unsafe, even though we were in regions bordering Yunnan. When something like that happens while you're traveling, it certainly helps you to keep things in perspective, as far as the reach of newsworthy events.
Be aware, but don't be paranoid.
Good question. I personally don't get as affected by the media's portrayal of certain situations in foreign places as I think others do. I have seen this happen various times. I personally have been to Mexico multiple times in my life and seeing the way people avoided it like the plague because it was thought to be very unsafe due to the cartels, I know media has a huge influence. But I think any trip is what you make of it. In the Mexico example, I wouldn't wear expensive jewelry or carry an open purse, but I definitely didn't encounter violence the way it was portrayed. I think as a traveler you have to be smart... don't be an obvious target or obnoxious tourist. As a girl I'm always cautious to not travel to "dangerous" places by myself or just be mindful of where I go. But to your specific example, this recent news would not dissuade me from going to South Africa. In fact, I have been and encountered nothing but great people. The situation would have to be very serious in order for me to mark the place off my list.
Great question since I'm leaving for South Africa on Wednesday. If anything, it's made me hyper-aware. I visited South Africa in the early 2000s for the first time and it freaked my parents out, but being my first big trip abroad I found myself just being a really conscious traveler, and that something that's continued to stay with me. Nonetheless, when some of my inner circle texts me about being safe in South Africa as a result of the news, then I really become even more aware and conscious.
It's unfortunate because South Africa is one of my top three favorite places I've traveled and the people are really next-level amazing people. In North America, this happens frequently, typically with how media has honed in on violence in Mexico, which is largely in concentrated areas where travelers should be at anyways. As a result, I get more questions about safety in Mexico then any other destination and I've felt safer in Mexico then my own country.
At the end of the day, it's my job to be an incredibly informed traveler, and therefore, help make more informed travelers as a result. I think so often people take things on the surface for how they appear in media. And it's our job to be those people on the ground who can be intermediaries between destinations and the potential travelers to that destination, painting an unbiased, transparent view of it.
Really fantastic, provocative question Richard!
I agree with Ross, it doesn't. If nothing else I have media and government sites in most cases for nothing but a propaganda one should watch or look at as a sort of amusement or assume that exact opposite is most probably true. I found them of very little help in the past.
When it comes to natural disasters it's usually more accurate since there is not so much to gain politically except to show their (government) incompetence to deal with the situation, but I take reports about civil unrest, crime rate, and political instability of a region with a grain of salt and always do additional research talking either directly to immigrants from the country who live in Canada where I reside or delve into various Internet sites that are out of tentacles of government.
Think for yourself and do your own research! Many times a place just a few blocks away from where you live (or even your own) is more dangerous than some village in Latin America or Africa.
We are headed to Paris shortly and although we've been before the recent Charlie Hebdo events and this week's almost tragic church shooting incident make us more nervous than usual. Unfortunately I think these types of things can happen anywhere so we shouldn't let it keep us locked up at in our homes.
In general the media doesn't influence me much but I do take note and perform additional research. The toppling of governments and natural disasters get my attention but I'd visit Durban or Baltimore, Maryland at this point. Do take into consideration U.S. State Dept. Advisories as well.
I am more influenced by the more trditional media than the social medias. At least they verify, for the most part, there sources. But by far I counter verify the info at the official goverment web site of my country For there advice for travelers.