page contents

Tourism: Security, Risk Management and Crisis Recovery

Tourism: Security, Risk Management and Crisis Recovery

Travel and travelers are often more sophisticated than many of us tend to believe. Most travelers are now aware that travel involves hurdles, from dealing with airport security to worrying about airport attacks, from the reality that they may not only have to worry about criminal incidents but that our world lives with the curse of terrorism.  To add to these obstacles there are the additional challenges of natural disasters (earth and seaquakes, tsunamis, volcanic explosions, and inclement weather) and the reality that the industry is not always composed of the most honest representatives.
The June 2017 edition of Tourism Tidbits published by eTN spoke about the use of law enforcement and private security in traveler protection.  This added sense of security, however, is not totally dependent on quantity; it is also dependent on the quality of personnel, their level of training and how well they have absorbed that training.  This means that tourism officials must learn to combine security with nurturing the tourist and creating an ambiance on which the visitor knows that s/he is appreciated and will be cared for.
Tourism wellbeing then comes in many forms. It concerns protecting the visitor not only against acts of crime and terrorism, but also against illnesses and natural disasters. It means having both a strategic pro-active risk management plan and crisis management plan.
Tourism Tidbits then presents you with the following suggestions and ideas to consider:
-Understand that part of your brand is the perception (and the reality) of your locale’s safety and security.  Without a clear and committed approach to visitor safety and security, the destination will acquire a negative reputation that may take years to overcome. Tourism security and wellbeing act as a vital foundation to destination building and sustainability. In fact tourism security may be as important as infrastructure, policy, governance and marketing investment with regards to a locale’s long-term sustainability and longevity.
-Be prepared for natural disasters. Natural disasters can come in multiple forms, from the devastating tsunami in the eastern Indian Ocean basin (2004), to Hurricanes Katrina in New Orleans and Wilma in Mexico (2005), to earthquakes such as the earthquake that devastated Haiti in 2010. Different locales are prone to different types of disasters. Natural disasters not only leave a tourism locale shattered but also mean that the local tourism industry may be devastated. How a tourism locale handles a natural disaster often determines how quickly recovery can take place.  Remember that the natural disaster is not merely an act of nature but also the form of media coverage that the disaster produces.  Perceptions here become reality all too quickly. In the case of a natural disaster, be sure to have a plan to care for the caregivers. If employees perceive that no one is taking care of their loved ones then they simply may not show up at work and thus exasperating the problem.
-A pandemic or health crisis can decimate a tourism industry.  One of the scariest things about a pandemic is that unlike a natural disaster we do not hear or see a pandemic, but only its results.  The outbreak of rare, unexpected and initially unpreventable and untreatable diseases in different parts of the world, and their ability to be spread to epidemic and pandemic can create fear not only for the local population but also who may have planned to visit. Pandemics gnaw at the heart of a tourism industry and the negative publicity they create may linger long after the pandemic has been conquered or stopped. This fear of illness directly impacts the tourism industry’s responsibility to its guests. To be a member of the international destination community is to accept the responsibility of taking care of travelers.
-Create tourism security partnerships. These can include but are not limited to government organizations such as: Department of Safety & Security, and Department of Health. Create ways in which hotel associations, convention and visitor bureaus (or local tourism offices), airport authorities can interact with both public and private businesses.  No one of these organizations can produce a total interactive tourism security policy and plan of action, but by working together the visitor comes to understand that the specific locale cares about his or her safety and wellbeing.
-Placing a brochure in a room rarely helps, especially in case of an emergency.  Try to provide as much oral information as possible and provide the information in a courteous and caring fashion.  When bad things happen, be ready with some form of truthful answers to questions such as:
·     Is it safe to go out at night?
·     Is it safe to wear jewelry in public, or carry a camera, or ask for directions, or look at a map?


-Poorly paid police and private security professionals equals poor security.  Tourism security is a complicated business and low pay often means losing the best and the brightest.  Tourism security professionals, both private and public who are low paid and given low prestige tend to drift off into other fields. Their departure is not only a brain drain but also becomes symbolic of an industry that does not care about the welfare of its clients. It behooves the tourism industry to pay well, demand the best, and have well educated and trained individuals protecting it in a world often fraught with dangers. 
-A lack of good tourism security can be expensive.  To lose visitors due to aspects within the control of the destination’s leaders at both public and private sector levels, especially fear of crime or illness, is to accept unacceptable losses in destination.  It takes years to build a tourism locale’s reputation, but it only takes one or two incidents to lose that reputation, and the revenue that goes with it.  When a tourism locale loses its reputation it often loses jobs, investment opportunities, its self-image and to some extent its humanity.  Tourism security then is tourism caring and forms the basis of the hospitality industry.  Remember!  Where there is good customer service then tourism security is often also excellent; where customer service is lacking then so will tourism security be lacking!

The author, 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.

 If you know of anyone else who might enjoy “Tourism Tidbits,” please send his/her email address to, Please let him know of any topic that you would like to see covered by “Tourism Tidbits.” We invite others to submit articles for consideration for publication.

More on