Tourism Security: Helping the Tourism Industry Recover in the Face of Global Terrorism Overview
Tourism has become a major global industry and is highly lucrative for any country seeking to earn foreign currency and boost its international appeal. According to WTO Tourism data, international tourist arrivals reached a record 1.2 billion in 2015. Nearly 50 million more tourists travelled internationally worldwide as compared to the previous year. Safety and security are a vital aspect of making sure that tourists have an enjoyable and trouble-free experience.
Unfortunately, global issues like terrorism, territorial disputes, civil wars, natural disasters, epidemics and pandemics affect all aspects of human life. It was only inevitable that even tourism security would be greatly compromised by these.
Some terrorist strikes like those in Mumbai, Paris, Nice, Istanbul, and Brussels were deliberately meant to harm tourists and decimate the thriving tourism industry of these nations. That is why tourism security measures have become very important, both from the governmental and private citizen point of view.
Tourism security has always been the highest priority for any organiser of a major event. For e.g. - during the Ancient Olympic Games, all warfare between different Greek states would be suspended. Travel risks contributed to a substantial industry-wide decline in the Middle Ages. With the advent of mass tourism from the 1950’s, tourism security evolved into its present form.
Tourism Security: Drivers
The main reasons driving the need for tourism security today are Tourism involves not only narrow strata of society but also the widening middle-class in nations like China, India, Brazil and Mexico. This is directly due to greater disposable incomes in these countries on account of strong economic growth.
Tourism has begun to cover more and more countries around the globe. This means that developing countries of the so-called ‘third world’ have also become attractive destinations to visit. Tourism forms a key component of their overall development strategy. There is a chance that tourists might feel less secure in these nations which make them opt for tourism security in some form.
Political instability is a major driver of tourism security. Developing and less developed countries are far more likely to witness violent coups which overthrow the government. They might also be at greater risk of civil war, natural disasters like floods or drought and also pandemics which can cause devastating loss of human life.
Global terrorism will also boost the tourism security sector. While initially thought of as a developing world issue, terrorist attacks in places like New York, London, Paris, and Madrid have shattered the illusion of safety in developed nations. This might spur tourists to pay a closer look at the tourism security industry.
Tourism Security: Challenges
A major challenge to tourism security is not any physical threat but a virtual one. Cyber security is as vital to us now as any other form of security. The entire tourism industry runs on computers and the Internet. Computers handle everything from billing to room occupancy, flight patterns, bus schedules, room service, credit card payments and everything else in between. What began as the stealing of personal data and identification i.e. cyber-crime has now evolved into cyber terrorism. Most tourist destinations are woefully underprepared for such an attack, should it ever occur.
The second issue is the security infrastructure and apparatus. Post major attacks like 9/11 in the USA, 7/7 in the UK and 26/11 in India, they along with many other nations vowed to improve their security. However, not much has changed in reality. Most police departments do not have dedicated officers exclusively for tourism security. In addition, security professionals are often under-trained, underappreciated and woefully underpaid. This makes them take a reactive approach to any incident rather than taking a proactive one to prevent it from happening in the first place.
A third problem is a hysteria created by the 24/7 news media. News channels compete with each other for being the first to ‘break’ the news. They are very likely to make mistakes due to this competitive drive and blow small incidents out of proportion. This can create mass panic, making the job of tourism security personnel even more difficult.
Tourism Security: Key Players
A few companies providing tourism security worldwide are the Olive Group, Triple Canopy, Control Risks, UnitedHealthcare Global, MEDEX Global Solutions and International SOS.
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