The Impact of Tourism Security on the Image Of The Destination - The Case of Portugal

Cátia Santos

Polytechnic Institute of Tomar, Portugal

Daniel Silva

Polytechnic Institute of Tomar, Portugal

Ericka Amorim

Polytechnic Institute of Tomar| Researcher, CiTUR (Leiria) and GOVCOOP (Aveiro University)





Perfect travels presuppose no security and safety issues. Once tourists are out of their normal environment (unknown place and culture) combined with the fact that during vacation time they usually change their behaviours and are more relaxed, they are more likely to be exposed to security issues. For terrorism, since the tourist industry promotes economic and social benefits as well as attracts tourists from different nationalities, it has become an interesting target to “delivery” their political, religious or philosophic messages. For chronic criminality issues, tourists’ pockets and vulnerability are reason enough to justify criminal actions. In times of threat against the tourist industry, security has become more and more a decisive factor of decision for choosing a tourist destination. The phenomenon of globalization and the evolution of ICT allows for a greater knowledge of the world to the most different levels, which allows tourists a detailed collection of information at the time of destination selection. Moreover, the media have a great power of influence on the perceived image of tourist destinations. With this in mind, the aim of this paper is to understand how Portugal is viewed externally in security matters and how this perception can be used as a marketing strategy. The methodology is based on quantitative information, using questionnaires as a method of collecting data, available on an online platform for non-Portuguese respondents.

Key Words: Security; Tourism; Image of the Tourist Destination



Security is becoming more and more an important factor when choosing a tourist destination. Tourism is a very attractive industry for both terrorism and local crime, although both have different objectives. Terrorism acts in the name of a cause (religious, political, philosophical, among others) and seeks to act in a way that captures world attention and therefore tends to seek more victims and preferably different nationalities to cause impact. Crime is aimed at economic benefit and tourists are usually the most vulnerable targets.

The phenomenon of globalization and the evolution of ICTs allows for greater knowledge of the world on different levels, thus granting tourists with the prior knowledge regarding security matters when selecting their destination.

The objective of this article is to understand, from the perspective of the international tourist, how Portugal is viewed in terms of safety and what importance these tourists give to this issue during the decision process of their travel destination. In addition, it also seeks to understand the impact that safety has on the image of destinations for these potential tourists.

A survey was conducted using the questionnaire as a data collection tool, which was made available through the online platform. 204 questionnaires were applied to non-Portuguese subjects.


Tourism Security and Safety

Safety and Security are factors that can be decisive in choosing a destination as well as a competitive advantage of great relevance in the context of uncertainty and instability experienced in the world today. Usually it’s not a primary factor for travel decision. However, it may determine that a tourist chooses one destination over another, or as an alternative consider the destination that poses less risks.

Tourists increasingly reflect before making a decision so that their leisure time matches and, if possible, exceeds their expectations. «Safety and security have always been an indispensable condition for travel and tourism. But it is an incontestable fact that safety and security issues gained a much bigger importance in the last two decades in tourism. Changes in the World during the last two decades were enormous. » (Kôvári & Zimányi, 2011: 59).

Pizam (2006) argues that Security Situation may be associated to crime-related incidents, terrorism, war, and civil / political unrest, and may be motivated by political, religious, economic, social, tourist hostility, publicity or destruction of an economic area. The author also points out that the main targets can be (declared or not): tourists on the way to and from their travel destinations; tourists vacationing in a given travel destination; tourism and hospitality installations and facilities; strategic and non-strategic transportation facilities serving tourists; and public and private services and businesses also serving tourists.

On the other hand, the concept of safety is associated with the well-being of the individual. However, there is a complexity in establishing a precise definition since well-being instils a holistic view of the tourist (Wilks & Page, 2003).

Due to globalization the increase of accessibility and evolution of transportation, the possibility of having holidays and subsidies for this purpose, travel has become an important option in the life of human beings. Tourism is no longer just the industry for people with great financial capacity nor is it just to visit the more developed countries. Tourism is an economic sector that contributes to local, regional, national and international development and to the continuous improvement of the quality of life. Tourism can, and should also, be an engine of tolerance, peace and cooperation (Kôvári & Zimányi, 2011).

Currently, in Tourism, many of the concerns are related to security, through mass tourism coupled with cargo capacity, resulting in loss of identity itself leading to false authenticity. In this way, security is a mirror resulting from the harmony, or lack thereof, between the internal factors previously mentioned and also from other factors external to the focused universe.

Another important variable that directly affects the tourists’ perspective on destination is the concept of risk. Moraes & Tretin (2015: 78) define risk as "the likelihood of harmful consequences, or expected damages (death, personal injury, economic loss, etc.) resulting from the interaction between natural or human-induced hazards and vulnerability ". The risk is therefore associated to Safety and Security and both, the real risk and the risk perceived by the tourist, influence the decision process of the travel destination.

Hall (2003: 2) points out that "tourist behavior and, consequently, destinations are deeply affected by perceptions of security and management of safety, security and risk" and emphasizes that "tourism industry is highly vulnerable to changes in the global security environment".

In Table 1, Korstanje (2015) presents the different types of risks associated with safety, security and the frequency they occur. It also covers who are the main affected as well as the main impacts considering society and the media. It is interesting to see how unknown diseases or viruses, natural disasters generated by man and political instabilities are considered high impact risks. On the other hand, terrorist attacks, food in poor condition, accidents and robberies and crimes do not make much of a social impact.

The author explains that according to the model presented, when the whole community is subject to a danger that cannot be controlled, and the frequency is low the degree of impact becomes high. From another perspective, when the same event affects only a few civilians whose social status is expendable the impact becomes low. Both the possibility of repetition and the XX of the victims allow society to know the hypothesis to control the risks, in case they are low the impact and the terror begin to take possession of the population (Korstanje, 2015: 144-145).


Table 1. Types of risks and their impacts on society and the media


Control Horizon




Unknown Diseases or Viruses



Children and Women

Hight Impact

Terrorist attacks




Low Impact

Food in Poor Condition




Low Impact




Passengers and tourists

Low Impact

Natural disasters



The whole Community

Hight Impact

Theft and crimes




Low Impact

Political instability



The whole community

Hight Impact

Source: Korstanje (2015:145)












Directing the concept of Marketing to the viewpoint of tourism and the city as a cultural and heritage element, it can be said that it aims to design the tourist destination in order to meet the needs of the target audiences.

With the realization that the principles of Marketing have remained unchanged since its inception in the 60s, 70s and 80s, it is well known that, today, tourist destinations are organic sites and need to be more flexible, responding in an almost personalized way to each case (Kotler & Armstrong, 1998). In this way, marketing is shaped according to the characteristics of Tourism, having four peculiarities:

                Intangibility, in the sense that tourism works with emotions;

                Simultaneity, all services occur simultaneously and together;

                Perishability, is consumed at the moment and is not storable;

                Heterogeneity, diversity and constant variation of supply and demand.

Taking into account such peculiarities, it is possible to develop a tourism marketing strategy in order to respond to the needs of the target audiences as well as those of the companies and residents involved with tourism in order to guarantee the sustainable development of the tourist activity.

The Image of Destination is closely linked to Tourist Marketing as this is a crucial process for each location. It is that differentiates it from others and influences consumer behaviour, in particular in the process of choosing to visit, to repeat (or not) the visit and to recommend the destination to others. (Cerdeiro, 2014). Besides this aspect, the Image of Destination also has an important role in the economic and sustainable development of the destination.

             The destination image is recognized as the main factor responsible for choosing a destination (Chagas, 2009).  This is why the relationship of Marketing with the Image of Destination is so important. In this sense, the proper training of each employee, the quality of services and communication, correct and conscious management, efficiency and hospitality are some of the aspects that should be considered.



In a current general plan, where security is somewhat dubious, and being difficult to ensure, this can and should function as an element of promotion of the destination and as a marketing tool in case the tourist destination is characterized as safe.

Security has always had an impact on the decision, regardless of the area in question. Maslow (1943) refers to safety as the second tier of the triangular base that underpins his theory, stressing the importance of risk control and physical integrity, although these needs are influenced externally by the environment and the conditions it provides.

When combining the security factor with the marketing of the image of the destination, the result will lead to the increase in tourism demand, as well as to economic and social development, the fidelity of the tourists which provokes the promotion of destiny via "word of mouth" with the friends and family, among others.

If tourist destinations suffer terrorist attacks, these reveal an immediate concern for the safety factor in tourism, using the tourist promotion sites, to reassure and transmit stability. For example, there is the case of Paris, where you can find in the official Tourism Board website various forms and measures that the tourist can and should take into account in order to make their trip as desirable and as safe as possible. There is also a safety manual entitled Guide Paris en toute Sécurité (Office du Tourisme et des Congrès de Paris, 2015). According to Chevrier (2005), it is necessary to start thinking about the management of communications regarding the aspect of security, since periods of restlessness are becoming more normal.

Portugal is considered a safe destination by various authors and influencers of the media. In 2017 it was awarded by the World Travel Awards the destination prize of excellence for its quality, hospitality and tourism offer (Jornal de Notícias, 2017). Not being implicit, without the safety factor certified within its limitations such an award would have been impossible to win. Therefore, it is understood that security is the agglutination of all other factors of success in the case of Portugal.

The absence of acts of terrorism in Portugal has reinforced an image of a safe tourist destination, so this has brought benefits to tourism and its practice in the country. This is a factor that European tourists are increasingly beginning to favour as a consequence of the increase in terrorist attacks in certain European sites and at a world level (Almeida, 2017).

Portugal has affirmed itself as a competitive country, assuming an important role in tourism worldwide. One of the ingredients of this importance is the image of a safe tourist destination and it currently occupies the 11th place in the safest destinations in the World list according to the report The Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Report 2017 (World Economic Forum, 2017).



In order to understand the importance of the Safety and Security factors, a questionnaire was applied in order to understand the influence of these factors in the choice of the tourist destination. As the focus of the survey is the case study Portugal, it is also sought to understand how this is seen externally in terms of Safety and Security. The questionnaire was made available on an online platform where 204 responses were obtained from a universe of individuals of non-Portuguese nationality.

 The respondents were mostly female (63.2%), compared to 36.8% male. In the age group, 20.6% are under 20 years of age, 57% are between 21-40 years, 20.1% between 41-65 years and 2% above 65 years

Of the total number of individuals, 67.6% has visited Portugal, while 32.4% still do not know the country. Those who have visited Portugal have a more realistic perspective, due to their lived experience, while the individuals who have manifested their opinion but do not know the country base their ideas on the reality perceived and influenced by personal and internal factors as well as external factors (such as information obtained by the media and / or family and friends).

The issue related to travel motivation offers a set of multiple response options. Of the respondents who visited Portugal, 47.3% were motivated by cultural issues, 31.5% visited friends and acquaintances, 32.9% were "Sun-and-Sea Destination", while 48.6% presented fragmented reasons relating to their visit.

Asked if safety is a decisive factor in choosing the tourist destination, the clear majority (72.1%) agreed that safety influences the destination selection process. In response to is Portugal a safe country 87.8% agree or fully agree, indicating that it has a good external image regarding the safety factor. Regarding the factors that make a destination safe, 59.8% responded to the absence of terrorist attacks, 63.2% to low crime rates; 40.7% urban policing, while 14.2% classified the efficiency of the Armed Forces as a relevant factor.

Although the focus was Portugal, there was a concern to question the individuals about what other European destinations they consider safe, referring only five. Based on The Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Report 2017 (World Economic Forum, 2017) and in comparison, with the survey carried out, it is possible to conclude that the top 5 of the most voted countries (Portugal, Switzerland, Finland, Sweden and Norway) coincide with the European top 9 of the referred article. Portugal was considered the safest in 26%, followed by Switzerland in 20.6%, Finland with 16.7%, Sweden with 15.7% and Norway with 15.2%.

Figure 1: Do you consider safety and security decisive factors on choosing of the tourist destination?



Figure 2: Do you consider Portugal a secure tourist destination?  



Figure 3: What makes a tourist destination a secure place?



When an individual has the desire to visit a destination, s/he considers a set of factors which include the variable security. As discussed earlier, Safety and Security, although they are not travel motivations, are considered limiting factors, since in case tourists sees some risk associated with their trip they will consider whether it is worth keeping this option or going someplace else.

In this perspective, in the tourism industry Safety and Security are attributes that confer a competitive advantage to the destination. In today's world context, to be seen as a safe and effective destination along with other elements that contribute to the motivation of the trip, can determine the success of tourism in that same destination.          

The empirical research carried out amongst the non-Portuguese nationality interviewees allowed them to get know the perspective of others as far as Portugal is concerned regarding security as a tourist destination. Individuals also considered that security issues are decisive for the choice of destination, which may represent a great advantage for Portugal in the face of competition. 

Portugal is an effectively safe country with low crime rates and no terrorist attack episodes so far. The country has benefited from the image of a safe tourist destination, thus contributing to the growth of tourist flow in recent years.




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