Best practices in tourism security, risk management and crisis recovery
This June, the 23rd Annual Las Vegas International Tourism Safety and Security conference will take place, and in honor of the conference, this month’s Tourism Tidbits focuses on issues of security and safety.
Although the public, media, and politicians expect continuous 100% safety and security, the reality is that total security does not exist. What is true of the non-tourism and travel world is even more so in the world of travel and tourism. Not only are tourism and traveling security problems often more challenging, but the traveling public can also easily be frightened, and in the case of leisure travel decide simply not to visit a specific locale. Furthermore, many tourism professionals are frightened by the topic and provide more lip service to the subject than real substance.
To help one think through some of the issues and finds methods to confront these ever-changing challenges, Tourism Tidbits presents the following ideas for consideration:
Never forget that all travel security and safety begins with a sense of hospitality and caring. Customer service is the foundation of any security program. Employees need to remember that they should not treat others in a way that they would not want others to treat them. Customers are not the enemy; they are the industry’s raison d’être. From the moment a traveler leaves his/her home until the moment that s/he returns, the industry needs to project an image of we care, of creating an environment in which customers know that they are not prisoners or cattle but respected guests.
Understand that in most cases (drugs being a major exception) acts of crime and acts of terrorism are different. It is rare that poverty is a root cause of either crime or terrorism, and the two social illnesses have a very different interaction with tourism. Crime has a parasitic relationship with tourism, that is to say, if there is no tourism then there is no tourism crime. Although, terrorists may use crime as a means to fund their projects, their ultimate goal is the destruction of tourism and the economic prosperity that it produces around the world.
The most effective security is proactive rather than reactive. This means find ways to layer your security and be aware of where the security weaknesses may be. Know your property layout and remember that there are no 100% safe places in any building Use combinations of a physical security presence plus technology, such as surveillance, makes sure all your bases are covered.
Know local laws! Hoteliers must know their responsibilities for security within local laws and regulations. Knowing whether issues would result in criminal or civil liabilities can influence security protocols. Be aware of terror trends: Not every attack is the same. Over the past several years, many terror events have “evolved to be locally inspired or involve locally trained citizens.” The newest “trends” in attacks against hotels are small-scale, high-body-count attacks that draw global media attention. Nevertheless, do not forget that terrorism is ever changing and what is true this year may be different next year.
Partner Simple partnerships with local law enforcement are an easy, low-cost way to keep security top of mind. Invite your local police to spend a night in the hotel or have dinner there. The better the police understand the property’s security and emergency protocols and see the capabilities, the faster they can react in case of an emergency or advise you on simple solutions as to ways to stop and attack before it occurs. Ask your police department to educate hotel staff on what their own capabilities are and what emergencies they can and cannot handle. Then develop a formal plan with the local police department and be sure that they have a copy of the plan.
Tourism security does not exist in a vacuum. That means that tourism security is part of the overall local environment. If a particular city is not safe, then eventually that insecurity will impact the local hotels, attractions and transportation systems. What that means is that the tourism industry needs not only to ask for protection but also that it needs to work with local community leaders to bring down the overall crime rates. For example, communicate with local organizations that seek to lower crime rates. The bottom line is that what takes place outside of the hotel impacts what occurs inside of the hotel. Regular meetings between government officials, tourism officials, and local managers can save time and lives, and it can reduce from what might have been a major incident into a minor one. In today’s world security not only adds to the bottom line, it can be a major marketing tool.
Have multiple plans in place prior to an event and not after the event. In cases of crises, crisis management is essential, but tourism and travel officials need to ask themselves if the crisis might have been lessened in its severity or even avoided if they had had good proactive risk management plans. Crises come in all sorts of sizes. A terrorism attack is a crisis on a large scale, but there are a million small inconveniences that government regulators have imposed on tourism that have created a sense of continual mini-crises. When tourists need to factor terrorism hassles into their travel plans, many people may choose other methods of communication, leaving the industry in a business crisis. The bottom line is that many small personal crises may produce large industry crises.
In an age of insecurity tourism officials must make sure that their security agents are not only well trained in every aspect of security including the customs and cultural habits of their customers, but also well paid. For example, some cultures tend to be more trusting than others and different cultures may have distinct patterns for what is acceptable or not for female guests. It is essential that tourism management develop security patterns that meet not only the local environment but also meet the cultural needs of their guests. In a business climate as unstable as the current one, it is essential that security personnel be the best, that they receive regular news updates, and be able to act not only quickly, but in a caring and professional manner with travelers. It does no good to have people well trained and then leave the field because of low pay.
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