Cyprus Police, Headquarters, Nicosia, Cyprus
School of Economics and Management, Open University of Cyprus, Nicosia, Cyprus, email: email@example.com
Many tourists choose their destination based on the safety and level of security offered by the host country. According to the World Health Organization, road traffic collisions are the main cause of death of tourists while on holidays, as more than 50% of tourist deaths in the EU were due to road traffic collisions. Yet, no previous research has been carried out to tackle this phenomenon, at least for the case of Cyprus. An island whose economy is largely based on the tourism industry and a lot of effort is put in promoting it. Unlike previous work, this paper tries to measure for the first time the involvement of tourists in road traffic collisions in Cyprus and identify the main causes and factors related to them. Official police data is collected and analysed for the period 2010-2014, along with descriptive statistics illustrating the current situation. The findings of this research study are expected to raise awareness for stakeholders involved in the tourism industry, as well as in the national road safety strategy. Considering the limitations of the data used and lack of information kept in the police records, the results extracted by this study will provide a new framework and ultimately the basis for further research.
Key Words: Tourism, Traffic, Collisions, Cyprus
The welfare of tourists or visitors to a destination, received little attention until recently (Walker, 2004, p.5). Various issues relating to their personal safety and health are mainly marked by some high-risk events such as terrorist attacks, large-scale natural disasters and life threatening epidemics. Even though such events are catastrophic for nature and of great concern to society, the majority of travelers' health and personal safety are much more likely to be affected by either a disease or their involvement in a road traffic collision or even their victimization when a crime is committed.
In the European Union, road traffic collisions seem to be the main cause of death among tourists, accounting for more than 50% of all their deaths. Also, 20% of hospital admissions and 30% of visits to emergency departments are due to a road traffic collision (WHO, 2004, p.2).
The security level in a country is an important factor for choosing a tourist destination. Road safety is an important pillar in creating a sense of security to both its citizens and to those visiting for business or recreation, because it is associated with policies relating to employment, education, insurance, public health, justice, trade and foreign affairs (European Commission, 2010, p.4).
Tourism is a major revenue source for the global economy in general, especially for Cyprus, an island which in 2014, according to the Statistical Service of Cyprus (2015), was visited by a total of 2,441,231 tourists with a total income of about €2 million. It is not excessive to qualify tourism as the donor of the economy of Cyprus. Moreover, the development of tourism results in upgrading, modernization and creation of new services, infrastructure and roads.
The main objective of this paper work is to analyze the involvement of tourists in road traffic collisions in Cyprus, a phenomenon that can affect the already overworked economy and has a negative impact on tourism, which is the most important source of the island’s income. Also, the fact that no similar work, scientific study or research has been performed in Cyprus in relation to the participation of tourists in road traffic collisions, was an important motivation for implementing this research study.
1.2 Road Safety
Road safety is a serious social issue. Every day, millions of European Union citizens use the road network using a vehicle, a bicycle or even walking. In 2014, about 25,700 people died in road traffic collisions, while more than 200,000 people have returned home, with their lives change drastically as a consequence of their serious injuries. Any fatal or serious road traffic collision on the roads is a tragedy (Bulk, 2015, p.5).
In Cyprus, road traffic collisions are classified into four main categories: fatal, serious injuries, slight injuries and property damage collisions. Specifically in 2014, 45 people died in road traffic collisions, while 467 were seriously injured and 603 were slightly injured.
In relation to the victimization of tourists in general and their involvement in road traffic collisions, there is evidence that people during their holidays behave less rationally (Walker, 2004, p.38). Based on Tarlow (2000), this change in behavior lets the visitor open to risks which otherwise would have been avoidable. The belief of tourists that their destination is a more secure place than the place of their permanent residence, results in a more naive behavior in relation to the locals. Also, the unknown to them area, in combination with their request for higher levels of adventure, separates them from the locals. Tourists, while seeking for both physical and mental relaxation, do not maintain the usual social or ethical standards during their holidays, making them more vulnerable and unwary. Still, for many people to move away from the usual environment, letting them go from their restrictions and inhibitions, increases their risk of victimization (Tarlow, 2000, p.140-141).
2 LITERATURE REVIEW
Daily, global roads are hosting a very large number of users, such as motorists, pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists. The road use confronts thousands of people who differ from each other in character, way of thinking, mental and physical ability, gender, age, experience, education, race and country of residence (Sotiriadou et al., 2013, p.59). This diversity creates vulnerable road users including tourists, who visit a foreign country in unfamiliar surroundings and roads. Generally, in Europe, road traffic collisions are the leading cause of death among tourists, although this fact does not prove that it occurs to the same extent in all countries (WHO, 2004, p.2).
2.1 Driving behavior
There are several theories and manner models that try to explain the various factors that determine behaviors. These theories attempt to explain driving behavior by focusing on behavioral, environmental, psychological and social factors. For example, Forward (2009) concluded that the deliberate unlawful driving behavior compensates emotionally the offenders, who as a consequence do not accept the negatives of their behavior (Sotiriadou et al., 2013, p.62).
According to Sjoberg (2004), risk perception depends on the ideological, cultural and social values of the person. Driving in a foreign country with different culture and values, increases the risk of engaging a person in a road traffic collision. The driving behavior varies greatly from country to country. The results of a survey conducted in six countries: Greece, Great Britain, Turkey, Finland and the Netherlands have shown that there are very large differences in terms of what is considered "safe driving behavior" among Western European countries and the Southern and Middle Eastern countries (Sotiriadou et al., 2013, p.64).
As noted in Turker et al. (2006), the survey results revealed significant differences between countries in relation to the safe driving skills and automatic mechanical skills. For example, a research conducted in Sweden and Turkey regarding the speed limit, showed differences in drivers’ behavior (Warner et al., 2009, p.816-819). These differences were due to the different mentality of drivers, the perceived behavioral control, subjective norm, the intention and their behavior.
Also, as reported by Petridou et al. (1999), statistics regarding road traffic collisions in Greece show that during summer months, the number of collisions increases due to tourism and the many foreign vehicles driving in the country that period. Tourists are more prone to accidents due to the ignorance of the driving conditions in the country they are visiting.
Lifestyle in one country may also affect significantly the probability of engaging tourists in a road traffic collision. For example, based on the findings of Papadaki et al. (2008), the entertainment levels that a country offer, like the many party organized in conjunction with the vigil and excessive use of alcohol, significantly increase the chances to get involved in road traffic collisions. These possibilities are increased for tourists traveling abroad seeking for entertainment, pleasure and fun without limits.
2.2 The impact of road traffic collisions on tourism
The social cost of the loss of any human life is incalculable and certainly beyond any economic impact, and seriously harms those who experience the loss of their own person. In conjunction with the financial part of the loss of a human life, fatal road collisions are considered worldwide as one of the biggest social and economic problems.
The calculation of socio-economic costs of road traffic collisions is very complex, because human life is not measured in money and the assessment criteria differ between countries. Both moral, cultural traditions and values in every country, and also political systems and forms of social organization, influence this assessment (Ntemogianni et al., 2012).
The economic cost of injuries from road traffic collisions is estimated at about 1% of the gross national product (GNP) in low-income countries, 1.5% in middle-income countries and 2% in high-income countries. The total economic cost of road collisions exceeds $518 billion worldwide (WHO, 2004, p.5).
In the cost-benefit analyses on security issues, the European Union has set the cost of a human life to €1 million. The estimation of this value includes the productivity loss, although the material cost is only 9% of the total cost of a fatal road crash, 20% of a serious traffic collision and 40% of a collision with minor injuries. Studies in various countries have shown that the largest proportion of the total cost of road collisions is about the human cost and the productivity loss. They also show that there is no specific cost estimation method and the choice of the method to be used, depends on the facts and circumstances that exist in each country (Ntemogianni et. al., 2012).
An important factor in the decision for choosing a tourist destination is the standard of living of a country and the conditions prevailing at that time. In a global tourism survey conducted in 2013 by CNN, involving 70 countries, it was revealed that in relation to the tourist’s trends in choosing their destination, the majority (67%) of tourists choose their destination based on the security level of the country. Therefore, the involvement of tourists in road traffic collisions in Cyprus and particularly the loss of life because of them, can be a deterrent factor for tourists wishing to visit the island. Thus, it can affect the already overworked economy, leading to adverse effects on the most important source of income of the island.
As Emilianidou (2013) states, the importance and great contribution of the tourism sector in Cyprus’ economy, was emphasized even more from the effects of the economic crisis. Therefore, it is necessary to adopt both development measures in the tourism industry, as well as measures in the security field.
The economic impact in tourism is inversely related with road traffic collisions, since the reduction of financial resources will also lead to reduction in funds needed for road safety. Specifically, it will slow down the growth rate of infrastructure and the degree of maintenance and upgrading of the existing road network. This will affect the road network level and will reduce the road safety level, increasing the probability of road collisions to occur (Handanos et al., 2012, p.10).
In addition, the effects of the economic crisis and the reduction of financial resources are expected to adversely affect the degree of maintenance of motor vehicles and the purchase of new cars equipped with modern and efficient security systems. This will result in the release of more inefficient vehicles on the roads, increasing the risk of causing road traffic collisions (Handanos et al., 2012, p.10).
For completing this research study, descriptive statistics and analysis were used, as well as processing of quantitative data on road traffic collisions, focusing on tourists. In the system of the Cyprus Police, all road traffic collisions reported nationwide are included, thus for the purposes of this study only the incidents involving tourists have been considered. As Katsanos and Avouris (2008) report, descriptive statistics represent the main statistical method that simplify and facilitate both the organization and presentation of the analysis results, for the purpose of easy understanding and exporting the right conclusions.
Also, for the analysis of the primary data from the Cyprus Police system, the SPSS software was used as the data have not received any previous treatment. Data analysis focuses on the involvement of tourists in road traffic collisions by month, hour, day, cause, province, age group, sex and country of origin. For the presentation of the analysis results, graphs and statistical tables have been used as they are useful tools for clearly demonstrating the important characteristics.
However, it is worth noting that some difficulties and problems encountered in the identification and evaluation of the data, since not all information concerning the involvement of tourists in road traffic collisions is kept in the records. Specifically, apart from the fatalities for which an additional and detailed data base is recorded, there is no information about the country of origin of tourists. Moreover, there are no reliable figures for several years in the past in order to draw safe conclusions and thus the present study was based on the analysis of the data related to the period 2010-2014. It is also important to mention that not all traffic collisions are reported to the police, especially if these are not so serious or if the involved parties manage to settle the damages by their own without involving the police, which is a more time consuming process.
Finally, data from various other European official sources is limited to general figures concerning the involvement of tourists in road traffic collisions with not detailed information. Thus, at this point, this issue under concern cannot be studied in more depth and compared to the current situation in the rest of Europe.
4 ANALYSIS AND RESULTS
The analysis of the data that follows below, covers all road traffic collisions in which tourists were involved and occurred in Cyprus during the period 2010-2014. The analysis results show a clear picture of the phenomenon and can guide the relevant parties in their effort to improve road safety, and thus in the overall effort to make Cyprus a safe tourist destination.
Cyprus, an island with a population of less than a million, is an attractive tourist destination for millions of people. Based on the official statistics of the Statistical Service of Cyprus (2015), more than two millions of tourists arrive to the island every year, thus increasing the possibility of being involved in a road traffic collision. However, according to the results of this research study, the involvement of tourists in all road traffic collisions in Cyprus is estimated to be only 3.6%, thus answering the main question of this research regarding the level of their involvement in road traffic collisions. Specifically, the survey results suggest that during the period 2010-2014, 258 tourist victims were recorded in Cyprus, of which 6 dead, 124 seriously injured and 128 slightly injured. As shown in Figure 1, tourist arrivals in Cyprus increase during summer period, which seems to have a significant impact on tourists’ involvement in road traffic collisions, as the corresponding number of tourist victims increase during the same months.