Editor's note: The original version of this post contained a map illustration intended to represent the countries of the Middle East and North Africa, which poll respondents identified as the region presenting the greatest risk to travelers and expatriates in 2016. The map had a number of errors. The countries of Cyprus, Israel and Turkey were either not shown or not labeled; the label for "Palestine" should have read "Palestinian territories"; and Afghanistan and Pakistan were mistakenly included. NPR apologizes for these errors.
Remember that movie, Around the World in 80 Days. It made it seem like traveling the world was just a big fun adventure.
Welcome to 2016. World travelers have to weigh the risks of terrorism and disease, not to mention traffic accidents, visa problems and pollution.
A new poll asked 415 world travelers about the risks they see. Those surveyed all work for U.S. companies in the fields of health care, oil and gas, mining, nonprofit work, aviation and for government agencies as well. (The survey was conducted by International SOS, which provides emergency medical assistance to companies whose employees work and travel abroad, including media organizations like NPR.)
Now it is true that a perception of risk is just that, a perception. But the answers do give us a window into what world travelers worry about.
Seventy-one percent of the respondents, for example, thought travel risks will increase in 2016 compared to previous years. And the last two years have seen the Ebola epidemic and terrible terrorist acts in Europe and elsewhere. Only one in 10 thought risks wouldn't increase.
Let me just say: Yikes! Also, if you need to reach me, I'll be hiding under my bed.
Here are the responses from the poll takers — and what Dr. Myles Druckman, Senior Vice President of Medical Services for International SOS, had to say about their answers.
The fact that food poisoning is No. 1 isn't a surprise to Druckman. "We have a broad range of people traveling, and the vast majority are not traveling to potentially Ebola-affected countries." The one thing all travelers have in common is that they eat and drink — and are nervous about encountering germs that can cause food poisoning. But he does say, "Ebola ranks surprisingly high from my perspective [considering that it's] almost extinguished." The poll was conducted before the rising concern about Zika virus and its possible link to birth defects. "As Zika continues to expand, everyone is looking at their policies now," says Druckman.
The answers make it look like "Asia is the safest place in the world," says Druckman. The explanation for the relatively high concerns about Europe can be found in the answers to the next question, where "acts of terror" led the list of safety and security threats.
Why isn't "air quality" more of a concern? "For travelers, it's less of an issue because they know they're going to be in and out," says Druckman. "They can handle three, four, five days of bad air quality. For persons living there, it's a major issue. For travelers it's more of an inconvenience."
Goats and Soda readers who travel: Tell us your biggest travel concerns for 2016 in a comment below or tweet them to @NPRGoatsandSoda.