Conventions and meetings comprise a significant portion of many world destinations’ tourism business. This issue of Tourism Tidbits outlines how law enforcement, security professionals, and tourism sales/marketing personnel can collaborate better to address the concerns of meeting planners and convention managers. Dave Wiggins is the principal author of this month’s edition.
The principle: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure often applies not only to medicine but also in law enforcement and security. This concept lies at the heart of the best tourist oriented policing and security programs. As Dr. Peter Tarlow has often stated: “For our guests, all the best detective work in the world pales in importance to preventing a negative incident in the first place.” This sentiment is worth remembering when considering how best to serve and protect conventions and conventioneers. All convention groups have one thing in common, the desire to be safe and secure during their visit. In many parts of the world, safety and security has become a top priority with convention managers and meeting planners. These meeting planners often take their business to destinations with a demonstrated commitment to visitor safety and security.
ECONOMIC IMPACT OF MEETINGS and CONVENTIONS
Conventions and meetings comprise a significant portion of the tourism industry. Last year, for example, it is estimated that 1,243,600 meetings were held in the United States. Spending related to these events totaled over $107 billion. Throughout the world, conventions and meetings generate significant revenue for area hotels, restaurants, attractions, transportation, and related services catering to tourists. In many parts of the word, more than one-third of the hotel industry’s revenues stem from convention related businesses. For these cities, conventions translate into a significant source of revenue.
Like all forms of tourism, the convention/meetings industry is extremely sensitive to safety and security issues. A survey of over 700 meeting planners in the USA indicated that 77 percent of planners stated that the Safety/Security of a destination is more important than any other criteria. Since the professional reputation of meeting planners and convention managers rests on the success of the events they plan and manage, they strive to minimize risk. Tourism risks include factors such as crime rate, emergency services capability, climate and propensity for natural disaster. One survey revealed that, as a result of Hurricane Katrina, 51 percent of planners say they will not book an event into a hurricane-prone area from June through November. According to New Orleans (USA) sources, two years after Katrina, convention revenues in that city are still down 40 percent.
A partial listing of some of the world’s major convention cities include: Chicago, Las Vegas, New York, London, Buenos Aires, Toronto, Vancouver and Barcelona. Throughout the world, however, are many successful smaller cities that also greatly benefit from conventions in their communities. The communities, which have law enforcement agencies that devote specialized attention to the particular needs of visitors and the industry that serves them, enjoy a competitive advantage over other cities that lack specialized TOPPs (Tourism Oriented Policing and Protection Services) teams.
CHALLENGE FOR LAW ENFORCEMENT AND SECURITY
Protecting and serving conventions and conventioneers poses special challenges for police and security teams. In a traditional (non-convention) jurisdiction, police demographics typically change slowly. The types of populations that a police department must serve however change rapidly in convention cities. Not only do different conventions cater to different audiences, but also the character of a convention city may change overnight, as one group moves out, and another group moves in to town. When a major convention comes to a city its populations increase tremendously and this increase may strain the local area’s available resources.
Each major convention brings with it different issues and priorities. Some events feature valuable product on display, while others may include dignitaries, celebrities, or similar high-profile attendees. Some events may even attract their own particular protesters. Some events are associated with excessive alcohol
consumption, generating all sorts of “misdemeanor craziness.”
All large events invite “crimes of opportunity,” and may attract a class of criminals who prey specifically on conventions and conventioneers. The challenge for security teams is to adapt the services they deliver to the needs of each individual group. Common crimes and investigations involving conventions include: distraction theft, pickpockets, theft of laptop computers, theft from exhibits, theft from the facility, auto burglary, counterfeit currency, credit/check fraud, copyright infringement, public intoxication, assault/battery, sexual assault, and various civil disputes. These cases may involve delegates and exhibitors as either victims or suspects.
Responding to these issues requires dedicated police and security teams working in close cooperation with one another, and with convention managers and meeting planners. There are several excellent safety/security role model tourism destinations. For example in the United States, the Anaheim/Orange County area of California offers several proactive tourism safety/security programs and partnerships. For example, the Anaheim and Garden Grove police departments work closely with the staff of the Anaheim Convention Center and the local visitor industry. These California departments’ police officers participate in sales calls and site visits, as well as Pre-Convention Meetings and related events. Officers then assist in policing events, and investigating any related crimes.
The convention security process begins with the initial “site visit” by a prospective convention or meeting client. Event planners now ask many questions regarding safety and security issues. Meeting and convention managers receive training on how to select safe destinations. Be sure to include police representatives and/or security personnel in reception teams for those working with planners coming on site visits. These security professionals should be prepared to provide perspective clients with honest answers.
GOOD SECURITY IS GOOD BUSINESS
Being engaged with the tourism community helps security professionals remain informed about the groups attending a particular convention and to know about any particular safety and security concerns. Police services can then be tailored to match the priorities of each group. Ideally, a police and security representative should meet with every convention manager who expresses concern over safety and security issues. These meetings often result in extensive follow-up work with host hotels, the convention center, and within the police or security department to ensure the desired level of service. Such personalized protective service is very favorably received by meeting managers and has proven effective in helping prevent crimes involving conventioneers.
Dr. Peter E. Tarlow is the president of T&M, a founder of the Texas chapter of TTRA and a popular author and speaker on tourism. Tarlow is a specialist in the areas of sociology of tourism, economic development, tourism safety and security. Tarlow speaks at governors’ and state conferences on tourism and conducts seminars throughout the world and for numerous agencies and universities. He may be reached via the email address: [email protected]
Dave Wiggins is a member of the Tourism and More team. He is a veteran of California (USA) law enforcement, and represents T&M in that part of the world. You can learn more about Dave Wiggins by going to the Tourism and More web page at www.tourismandmore.com.