Photo: Cape Town waterfront by Slack12 on Flickr. Some rights reserved.
What do murder rates tell us about a country? So asked the Guardian yesterday in a blog listing global homicide figures.
I’d like to turn that round and ask: what does a murder rate tell us about tourist safety?
My answer would be ‘not a lot’. Not if it’s just a figure in isolation. Articles about tourism often throw in a national murder figure as if that neatly sums up a tourist’s personal chances. Two recent classics: the Mirror saying Americans would be crazy to go to Lewisham and an infuriatingly daft Guardian sports blog implying that most people going to the South Africa World Cup won’t come back alive.
If the murder rate for a country is quoted as a reason not to travel to a country as a tourist, I’d I want to know these things:
a) how many murders were of random tourists (ie not gang crime, drug dealers or domestic disputes)?
b) how many were walking through supposedly tourist-friendly areas?
c) and how many where in areas tourists were advised not to go to?
Crime shouldn’t be brushed under the carpet in a bid to protect a country’s tourist-friendly front, but you need more info than a throwaway statistic to make an informed decision about personal safety.