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Gregory E. Osland, Robert Mackoy and Marleen McCormick

Abstract

Terrorism, pandemic diseases, and other threatening events have recently heightened the sense of personal risk for tourists considering international travel. This article addresses the paucity of research assessing perceptions of risk both before and during travel to risky destinations. Tourists on two nature tours in Mexico were interviewed and observed while engaged in the travel. Many types of specific perceived risks were uncovered, including insect-borne disease, traffic accidents, financial losses, and unattained goals. Some correlates of perceived risk were tour company reputation, stage of family life cycle, age, and motivation. Based on the types of perceived risk and the factors, five propositions are discussed. One unexpected proposition addresses the role of age and states that as the perceived years of physical ability to travel decreases, the tolerance for safety risk increases. Another proposes that eco-tourists with intense, destination-specific motivations are more tolerant of travel risk than those with casual and/or social motivations. The article concludes with suggestions for tour industry managers and directions for future research.