Last summer the tourism industry not only experienced a major marketing paradigm shift, but it found itself in the midst of the worst crisis in its history. Even as late as the last decade of the twentieth century it was not uncommon to hear tourism officials voice their concerns that they feared that too much, or too visible, tourism security practices would lead to visitor fear and a lowering of profits. Then Covid-19 became a reality, and every form of security became important. The twenty-first century first year of its third decade changed all the assumptions of the past.
In an ever more dangerous world, visitors and tourists demanded to know what security and health precautions were being taken, how their safety was being considered, and to whom to turn in case of an emergency.
Modern tourism authorities recognize that there is a fundamental paradigm shift underway in the travel industry and that old assumptions will no longer hold. Due to government-imposed multiple shut-downs and the need to work from home, living with the business assumptions of only a few years ago is very dangerous and might make the difference between a business’s survival and failure.
Those entities and organizations in the travel and tourism industry that embrace and emphasize security will have a good chance of surviving and this includes parts of the industry, such as national parks, that are interconnected with government. The venues that provide give good security mixed with good customer service have a better chance of resilience and survival. While no one can produce absolute security, nor do we know which challenges lie ahead, the techniques found below might help you to become a smaller target and recover faster. They can help you to use security, safety and health as a marketing tools. The key is to begin with achievable successes and use those successes to build momentum.
- Security and safety, and public health may have different meanings to scholars and in the US government, but in the world of travel they are one and the same. In the post-Covid era it is important that we recognize that poisonous water, poor sanitation, and gunfire have the same results: the destruction of your tourism business. It is essential that the travel and tourism industry understand the relationship between risk management and security. They are two sides of the same coin. Places that receive a great deal of negative publicity, fairly or unfairly, will have to work to change the perception if they hope to survive.
- Beautification and security go hand and hand. When the environment is safe, the visitor also feels safe. Tourism security professionals know that good security begins with a perception of safety. By cleaning your streets, planting flowers, trees and mini gardens around your city, you are not only lessening the chances that a crime will occur but also increasing a visitor’s desire to spend time in your community. Make sure that when you landscape an area to do it according to the principles of CPTED (crime prevention through environmental design)
- Be careful of whom you chose to invite into your community to give advice. Tourism security specialists must know both tourism and security. There are many universities that give courses in tourism but few that understand the relationships between tourism surety and tourism. Invite people who can help a community not merely solve a problem but promote a vision. Tourism security can only be a marketing tool if it is part of a community’s total vision. That means that the vision must be accepted by the local attractions, politicians, police departments, first responders, hotels management, restaurant owners, and tourism authorities.
- Never create false senses of security, safety when it comes to visitor’s health. Never promise what you cannot fulfill. Marketing disasters occur when reality does not match expectations. Train and prepare your community to be safe and secure. Good security is not a matter of gas masks, but simple logic. Check to make sure your signage is accurate, review traffic patterns, and provide up-to-date tourism information and emergency numbers.
- Develop cooperative efforts with your local police and fire departments, first aid providers, medical personnel and hospitals. Make sure that your first responders, both public and for-profit are aware of how important tourism security is to tourism. For example, most police officers have never been trained in good tourism security. It is essential to have a person work with your local police, private security, ambulance units, and first aid units who can “translate” between tourism and security issues. Most tourism officials do not realize that police and fire departments follow strict Weberian bureaucratic procedures. If your police department’s senior administration does not support a tourism security policy and the training of officers, then there is a low probability of police cooperation. Help your chief to understand that tourism security is good business not only for the community but also for his/her department. For example, too many police departments still believe that their task is to earn money for their communities through the giving of traffic tickets. Have your city government explain to your police department that such policies are not only out of date but counterproductive.
- Offer seminars for your tourism security and safety partners. First responder departments will be much more willing to aid in tourism security if they too see the benefits. Show them how the profits from tourism can help to purchase new equipment, fund a new position or aid their budget.
- Encourage tourism security professionals and security partners to attend both in-person and on-line state and regional tourism conferences. The oldest and most famous tourism security conference is held each year in Las Vegas. Right now many of these in-person conferences are just coming back to life after a year’s absence due to the pandemic. Every major CVB should have a representative at a tourism security conference along with at least one member of its law enforcement agency.
Know what is unsafe in your community and work with local governments to improve these security concerns.
How safe is your local airport? Are hotel and restaurant workers’ backgrounds investigated? How often do we check for updated health regulations? How often do taxi drivers over charge or not clear their vehicles? Do tour companies provide their customers with what they promise? How often are credit card numbers stolen as part of an identity theft scam? What cyber security problems exist or might exist?
- Know who is studying at your local university, especially in engineering courses and who is using his or her academic career as a background for spying. University students act sociologically as if they are long term visitors. Many university host foreign students, about whom they know very little. Are university students a positive or negative for your community? Are foreign students there only for the sake of academic learning or are they also on undercover reconnaissance missions? Tourism professionals should be working with university administrators and security specialists never to go beyond the law, but also to have a good idea about who is in their community and for what reasons.