The U.S. Department of State regularly issues its list of travel advisories: places that it’s better for travelers to skip if they value their safety.
Now, in an ironic twist, the U.S. has been placed on such a list by at least seven countries that are alarmed by the levels of gun violence, racism and acts of hatred that occur with disturbing frequency in this country.
New Zealand, Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom, France, Venezuela and Uruguay have each urged precaution for travelers when visiting the U.S., due in large part to gun violence.
In the first weekend of May, eight people were shot and killed at a busy Dallas-area mall after a 33-year-old gunman opened fire, wounding at least seven others before he was fatally shot by police. The previous weekend in Oklahoma, a convicted sex offender shot and killed his wife, her three children and two of their friends before he killed himself, according to police. And just two days prior to that, a man shot and killed five neighbors, including a 9-year-old boy, after the family asked him to stop firing rounds in the air as a baby tried to sleep. The suspected shooter was arrested after a manhunt that lasted several days.
There have been more than 200 mass shootings in the U.S. so far this year, according to the Gun Violence Archive, which defines a mass shooting as an incident in which four or more people are injured or killed, not including the shooter. Since 2018 mass shootings have gone up by nearly 100 each year. In fact, in each of the last three years, there have been more than 600 mass shootings in the U.S., or about two each day. The world is watching and it is appalled by what it sees as “normal” in America.
Yet according to some statistics, despite these numbers, the U.S. remains one of the safer countries in the world. Overall, violent crime sharply declined since the mid-1990s. But the U.S. is the only nation in the world where guns outnumber people, at a rate of 120 guns to 100 people, according to the the Switzerland-based Small Arms Survey.
The threat of gun violence in conjunction with the perceived lack of security within the U.S. is increasingly seen as a safety concern by both American citizens and would-be tourists. Though the chances of a tourist in the U.S. becoming a victim of gun violence remain low, experts say “perception is reality.”
“If people perceive they are not safe in the U.S. they will not visit,” Simon Hudson, a professor of tourism at the University of South Carolina, told Yahoo News. The 2022 Global Peace Index, which measures the peacefulness of countries and is made up of 23 quantitative and qualitative indicators, ranks the U.S. 129th out of 163 countries, just above Brazil. The optics as this as they say, are not good.
Given this ranking, Hudson added, “it is a cause for concern for any country seeking to attract people to live, work and play.”
Even our closest and friendliest neighbor, Canada, is concerned for the safety of its citizens:
“The rate of firearm possession in the U.S. is high,” a portion of the Canadian advisory reads. “Incidents of mass shootings occur, resulting most often in casualties. Although tourists are rarely involved, there is a risk of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
South America, an area of the world that the U.S. media usually portrays as a violent continent, is afraid for the safety of its U.S.-bound travelers.
Venezuela and Uruguay have issued warnings for the U.S. since 2019. Venezuela’s government has urged caution since August 2019 because of a “proliferation of acts of violence and indiscriminate hate crimes.”
Similarly, Uruguay’s government urged caution “in the face of growing indiscriminate violence, mostly due to hate crimes, including racism and discrimination.”
Both warnings came shortly after two tragic shootings in less than 24 hours. The first was a shooting at a crowded El Paso, Texas, department store where 22 people were killed, and the other was where a gunman killed nine people in less than a minute on a crowded street in Dayton, Ohio.
Such warnings, whether justified by reality or not, can severely impact tourism and its much-valued revenue.