Coconuts Or Sharks: What Is The Most Dangerous
By Ian Yeoman, Associate Professor at Victoria University School of Management
According to Dr Dirk Glaesser, Head of Risk and Emergency Planning at the UN World Tourism Organisation - 20 people die every year because of shark attacks. At the same time, an unnoticed fact goes by, that 150 people die every year as a result of coconuts falling on their head! Which one is the most dangerous? Coconuts are the symbol of holidays whereas Sharks are the fear of every beach holiday. Ian Yeoman, Trends Analyst writes that many destinations take sensible precautious when it comes to sharks, i.e., safety notices, patrols and bylaws, whereas no one bothers about coconuts as they are not perceived to be a danger to tourists or tourism. It’s all about risk and perception.
In 1996, when the world experienced the first BSE crisis following the announcement in Britain that Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) could probably be transmitted to humans as New Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD). Across the world, beef consumption dropped by 20% and New Zealand imposed a number of restrictions on importing meat from the UK (including the banning of the importation of Haggis – which is still in place today thou)
As affluence grows, our concern for safety increases, producing more rules and regulations. In the UK train spotters are perceived as potential terrorists following the London underground bombing, so they have being banned from strategic rail stations. In Blackburn, the local council has banned the backstroke in public swimming pools because swimmers may bump into each other. Calderdale District Council banned Tomato ketchup because of its sugar content. A number of councils banned ‘hanging flower baskets’ in case one falls on a tourist’s head (nobody has banned coconuts).
Getting back to sharks! Shark attacks are bad news for tourism destinations, therefore journalists like to report them. The notion that frequently prevails is that the media exaggerate some risks and ignore others or, alternatively, sacrifice objectivity for sensationalism. Tom Felton writing in his book, Bad News notes those journalists’ pressures to tell a story ‘as simply and dramatically as possible’ as well as the fact that good news and bad news do not affect people to the same degree might explain the media effects on public perceptions. It might be argued that once the popular media identifies a risk, journalists indulge in ‘sharpening’ (using weasel words like ‘may’ or ‘could’ to exaggerate the strength of a finding), ‘levelling’ (playing down or ignoring the caveats in a report) and ‘superimposing’ on everything as a ‘risk ratchet’. Basically, journalists love a nice shark attack….it’s just that coconuts don’t sell newspapers. On the other hand some tourists like sharks and will go cage diving with them!
Ian Yeoman is the world’s only professional crystal ball gazer or futurologist specializing in travel and tourism. Ian learned his trade as the scenario planner for VisitScotland, where he established the process of futures thinking within the organisation using a variety of techniques including economic modelling, trends analysis and scenario construction. In July 2008, Ian took up a faculty position at Victoria University, New Zealand as an Assoc. Professor of Tourism Management. He is a popular speaker at conferences and was described by the UK Sunday Times as the country's leading contemporary futurologist. Ian’s new book, tomorrow’s tourist envisions what world tourism will look like in 2030, where tourists will go on holiday and what they will do.
Ian has a PhD in Management Science from Napier University, Edinburgh and a BSc (Hons) in Catering Systems from Sheffield Hallam University. Previously, Ian was Senior Lecturer in Tourism and Hospitality Management at Napier University and University College, Birmingham. He has extensive experience within the hospitality industry, for which he was a hotel manager with Trusthouse Forte.
Ian has received a number of awards in recognition of his research including his appointment as a Visiting Professor of Tourism Management at Stirling University and Stenden University of Applied Sciences and the Mike Simpson Award from the Operational Research Society. Ian is also Editor of the Journal of Revenue & Pricing Management.
Further details about Ian and futurology in the travel industry can be found at
Victoria University Management School | Victoria University
Phone: 00 64 (0) 4 463 5717