"TOURISM TIDBITS" Special edition: The Orlando Terrorism Attack
By Peter Tarlow, President of Tourism and More
The June 12th attack at the popular Orlando Nightclub "Pulse" has once again brought terrorism to the tourism industry. The recent attack is not the first terrorist attack on nightclubs. For example, as far back as 1998 the world witnessed theterrorist bombing of Cape Town's "Planet Hollywood". That incident ought to have served as a wake-up call for the tourism industry. In 1998, however, it was still rare to attack tourism centers. Such attacks were still a rarity. Over the years, unfortunately, terrorism has both changed and evolved. What was once a rarity has become all too common and today we realize that the tourism industry's many components are vulnerable to the possibility of attack. From the perspective of tourism, Orlando is a major tourism center and what happens in Orlando reverberates throughout the world of tourism. Although it is still too soon to analyze all of the facts, certain basic principles are emerging. Among these are:
- Never forget that every security decision is both a moral and business decision. It is a lot cheaper to stop an attack than it is to recover economically after the attack. Being prepared to deflect a crime or act of terrorism can save lives and businesses.
- The tourism industry must push governments to identify culprits and to realize that it is involved in a war. Weakness is a war is dangerous and the West's response so far to terrorism has been weak. This perceived weakness only encourages more terrorism especially against an industry whose very values are the antithesis of terrorists' "values"
- Terrorism has both a military narrative and a culture narrative. These attacks are not merely against specific targets but touch upon the entire tourism industry. If people are afraid to fly the consequences for tourism are grave. The same is true of soft targets such as restaurants, hotels and places of entertainment. Once the public becomes afraid to frequent these locales the economic consequences will be felt across the entire spectrum of the tourism industry
- The political and cultural narrative that comes from these terrorist attacks may be as important as the military one. The tourism industry cannot allow itself to become involved in false hypotheses and political narratives. Such issues as presidential elections, gun control, and gay rights can divert the industry from its main task of assuring visitors that they will be able to travel and experience a locale in relative security. Despite the public's call for total 100% security, this desire is a mere fiction. Life holds risk, and it is the tourism industry's job to seek ways to diminish these risks.
To lessen these risks here are a few suggestions that need to be considered:
- Develop a chain of command. Make sure that employees know who is to do each task. When each person does his/her job then mentally we reduce the "scope of fear" thus assuring a greater chance that everyone will do his/her job in dealing with the threat and thus lowering the possibility of injury or death. This chain of command should be printed and discussed at staff meetings. The better people are prepared the less likely that they will panic in the event of an emergency.
- Develop plans in case you lose your communication system. Establish strategic centers such as: a command center and a communications center to the local police dept, a medical emergency center, and a internal communications center. In this way, if your phone system should be damaged there is an alternative means of communication available.
- Get over the fact that your locale is far away from a potential terrorism attack. If you are in a public entertainment or tourism venue, then no matter where you are located, your business is on the front lines. Although the probability of most locations being victims of an attack is low, the consequences may be devastating. While the probability of a terrorism attack in any one specific location may be low, the media's hunger for news, and its tendency toward sensationalism means that were a terrorist attack or a bombing occur at any tourism venue, the consequences for the entire industry can be long lasting and highly destructive.
- Do not allow political correctness to override security issues. In too many cases people have not reported something for fear of being seen as prejudiced or intolerant. When we add this problem to the fact that many people on travel for business or vacation simply do not pay attention to their surroundings, then in an age of terrorism we are in a very dangerous situation. The tourism industry does not want to create panic but it must find ways to allow suspicious objects or people to be reported without fear of being labeled prejudiced or hysterical. Disciplined caution must become the new watchword of tourism.
- Develop as many ways to identify potential threats. That means that locales with heavy traffic such as nightclubs, shopping centers, restaurants, and transportation centers need to consider everything from armed guards to metal detectors. The worst thing that a tourism center can do is to create a sense of false security or to allow local politics to get in the way of safety and security.
- Never forget that terrorists seek publicity. These attacks are not only about killing innocent civilians but are marketing efforts to sew fear. When terrorists strike a tourism center, they receive the large amounts of publicity they seek causing not only damage to life and property, but creating a long-term negative economic impact on a society. To complicate matters, tourist centers are vulnerable to other forms of violence that at first may appear to be acts of terrorism but occur for other reasons. For example, bombings may take place as a form of revenge, extortion, or for reasons of sheer madness. In all cases, however, the negative consequences of such an act extend far beyond the "theatre of action." To help you deal with something, that all of us hope will never occur, below are several points for your consideration.
- Be Prepared. The worst scenario for a tourism industry is to try to deal with a bombing only after it has occurred. Develop a bomb incident plan. Among the items to consider in such a plan are: a security inventory of your facility, media kit, medical preparations and a method to notify and help bereaved families and loved ones.
- Know your limitations and get expert help. Bombs can look like almost anything. Develop a relationship with a trained bomb detective. Make sure that this person has the opportunity to familiarize him/herself with your facility prior to an incident. Never assume that you will know how to recognize a bomb.
- Teach employees what to do in case of an attack. No employ should be without a system of communication and be sure that local law enforcement has visited your locale on multiple occasions and understands the locale's geography.
- Good planning may also reduce the threat of panic if an incident ever should occur. Panic is one of the most contagious of all human emotions. Experts define panic as: a sudden, excessive, unreasoning, infectious terror. Once a state of panic has been reached, the potential for injury and property damage is greatly increased. In the context of a terrorism attack, panic is the ultimate achievement of the caller. Tourism officials then must take every step necessary to meet the threat prior to its being made.
Tourism & More expresses its deepest sympathies to the attack's victims and their friends and families. May this be the last of such terrible attacks and may the people's of the world learn to live in harmony and peace
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.More from Peter Tarlow
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