A new study shows that American travelers rate many Asian countries as safer travel destinations than four years ago.
South Korea, Singapore, Thailand, Japan, China and Vietnam moved up in the annual safety rankings released by travel insurance provider Berkshire Hathaway Travel Protection.
The 2022 “State of Travel Insurance Report” survey also showed that some of the United States’ favorite travel destinations in Europe and the Caribbean – namely Italy, the Bahamas, Spain , Jamaica and the UK – lost ground in terms of perceived travel safety.
Australia also took a hit. From 2018 to 2022, the country rose from No. 1 to No. 10 in the survey.
The “safest” places to travel
Three Asian countries ranked among the top 10 safest travel destinations in the survey of more than 1,500 Americans in September 2021.
The survey asked travelers about their perceptions related to crime, terrorism, transportation, and the health and safety of travelers who are women, people of color, or LGBTQ people.
Singapore – a city-state that did not feature in the survey’s country rankings – ranked No. 3 in the safest cities ranking – ahead of Tokyo (No. 5) and Bangkok (No. 11).
Singapore finished 21st (out of 56) in 2020 and 25th (out of 53) in 2019 on Berkshire Hathaway Travel Protections’ list of safest destinations, the company said.
Taiwan was not included in the survey, according to a company representative.
According to the survey, women and millennials were more likely to rate Asian destinations as safer.
After Iceland (#1), millennials ranked South Korea and Thailand as the next two safest travel destinations in the world. The composite scores also showed that they rated Vietnam (#6) as slightly safer than Greece (#7).
Millennials – those currently between the ages of 27 and 42 – also ranked Singapore No. 1 for “global security” in the city survey, ahead of Montreal and Amsterdam.
Changing Perceptions of “Security”
Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, terrorism and violent crime were top safety concerns for travelers, said Carol Mueller, vice president of Berkshire Hathaway Travel Protection.
But in the 2022 survey, travelers said they were most concerned about “being able to move around freely” and staying “disease-free”, she said. Survey responses indicated that being stuck in a country even overshadowed fears of falling ill there, she said.
“It’s become a concern, okay, I’m going to travel. I’m vaccinated, I feel comfortable,” she said. “But… what if I get stuck?” »
That’s probably why Canada tops the list, she said. Canada reopened to vaccinated Americans in August 2021, the month before the survey was conducted. Its proximity to the United States has worked for travelers wanting to “stay closer to home,” she said.
Australia’s declining perception of safety “could be due to… their strict Covid restrictions – the safety of not being able to go home when you want to go home”, she said. Australian borders were closed at the time of the survey.
Movement in the ranking
Iceland and Sweden maintained their rankings as safe travel destinations, while Italy – which always scored high – fell due to the difficulty of entering the country and “because of what was going on with Covid,” Mueller said.
Mueller said the survey “cannot enter the minds” of survey respondents, but she noted that places that featured prominently in the news of Covid outbreaks – such as the UK – could have been affected by the cover.
She also said the rankings could have been affected by a change in survey methodology in 2022.
“Only people who have actually visited a destination can weigh in on its safety,” she said. “From a distance, it’s easy to think that European countries are safer. But people who have visited many Asian countries know firsthand how safe they are.”
Berkshire Hathaway Travel Protection also released a separate set of rankings for the safest countries and cities, which combine survey results with crime statistics and Covid performance factors, Mueller said.
Will the perceptions last?
Many Asian countries that have moved up the rankings have been praised by medical experts for the tactics they have employed to manage the Covid-19 pandemic.
After Abu Dhabi, Singapore ranked No. 2 and Seoul No. 3 in a global ranking compiled by London-based analytics agency Deep Knowledge Analytics which analyzed responses to the pandemic in 72 cities.
Both countries, along with Japan, have some of the lowest Covid-related death rates in the world among countries with at least 1,000 reported cases, according to data research website Statista.
How countries have responded to Covid will affect how tourists perceive their travel safety, both before and during their trips, said Rachel Fu, director of the University of Florida’s Eric Friedheim Institute of Tourism. .
She said it will be important for regional and international tourists.
“The facts will be recorded with historic value as future generations look back on how each country … handled the pandemic,” she said. “History will hold us accountable.”