Tourism Security Challenges

By: , Posted on: April 1, 2015

Tourism security (1)

Tourism is facing four challenges that are perhaps more threatening than at any time since September 11, 2001. What is interesting is that just as in the years prior to September 11, 2001 many tourism officials have simply chosen either to ignore threats or to dismiss them with a great deal of verbiage and little actions. Although Al Qaeda, as it was constituted some 14 years ago, is less of a threat, terrorism has evolved into new and perhaps more dangerous organizations. This month Tourism Tidbits presents some of the major threats facing the world of tourism and what the industry can do to protect itself.

Be aware of the lone wolf. Modern terrorism is often now an offshoot of what 14 years ago was called the single cell. Lone wolves are people who belong to no organization, are “radicalized” by information gained from a variety of sources and often are willing to give their lives for the “cause” even if they do not understand the cause for which they are dying. Although one lone wolf attack will most likely not hurt a tourism center, a number of these attacks in the same location will create the impression of a chronic problem.

The twenty-four hour media may breed hysteria. There is simply too much time spent on too little. Because the media compete with each other to be the first with a breaking story, mistakes are made, and small incidents are often blown out of proportion. The media often give the impression that a place is far less safe than it really is and this impression hurts tourism. Furthermore, due to new overload most threats and dangers are soon forgotten. Although from a marketing perspective we do not want to dwell on threats to tourism’s wellbeing, it is dangerous when those who are forced to protect tourism have also forgotten what might have taken place only a few years ago.

Be aware of the lone wolf. Modern terrorism is often now an offshoot of what 14 years ago was called the single cell.

What we do not see may be even more dangerous than what we see. In the twenty-first century seeing is not believing. In today’s world many of the major threats to tourism come not from our physical world but from the cyberworld. Tourism is computer dependent. Computers control everything from billing to room occupancy, from flight patterns to bus schedule, from room service to credit card payments. What began with nothing the stealing of personal data and identify threat, cyber-crime, has now morphed into the potential for cyber terrorism. Most tourism centers have no back-up plan should there be a major cyber terrorism attack and the fears of Y2K are now simply a part of a history that never occurred.

Our food and energy supplies are more vulnerable than most of us want to believe. Most people have no idea where food is produced, who is producing it or how it is handled from farm to market. This ignorance has produced a new threat. Genetically altered foods may be richer in vitamins, but alternations can be made both for good and for bad. It would not take much effort to alter foods so that they do harm rather than good. Genetically altered foods are as much a treat as are an outbreak of salmonella poisoning.

Tourism Security professionals are woefully under-trained, underpaid and under-appreciated. Despite the vows taken by the industry after September 11, in reality not much has changed. Most police departments still do not have even a few dedicated officers to tourism security. The result is that the over billion plus tourists around the world often have little protection or as any airline passenger knows, are given nothing more than the chance to participate in “security theater”. The false sense of security is found throughout the industry.

Remember that it costs a lot more to recover from an incident than it does to prevent one. The question that tourism officials always need to ask is “how much damage will a negative headline cost me”? Crisis management means that our risk management has failed. In a world of competing news options, we can only spin a crisis so far and marketing cannot overcome a major crisis. The best way to handle a crisis is to avoid it.

Be aware of changing social-demographics. Not only do different age groups have different needs, but also these age groups are not monolithic. The fact that we have a lost generation of young men means new potential challenges for an industry that lives on expendable income. Be careful of the social problems that a generation of lost young men may produce, especially when many of these people were raised without fathers.

Terrorists are getting smarter. Terrorism is changing its face and attracting more educated people, many of whom are skilled in a variety of disciplines including the use of social media, marketing skills, bio-chemical warfare, and cybercrime/cyberterrorism. Many of these people are motivated and see tourism as the symbol of decadence. Tourism sites tend to be soft targets and many of tourism’s leaders live in states of denial. The mixture could be deadly.

Be aware of additional taxes. Governments love to tax and many a politician sees tourism as low hanging fruit. The politicians’ logic is that (1) tourists are rich, and (2) visitors are not voters. Of course, most tourists are not rich and additional taxes often mean that tourists travel less frequently or spend less time at their destination. Although it is true that tourists do not vote in elections they do vote with their feet and members of the travel and tourism industries need to remind their local politicians that (1) they vote, and (2) a loss of tourism due to extra taxes translates into a loss of current sales taxes, airport usage fees, car rental fees. Adding new taxes in economically uncertain times can be highly destructive especially during a possible period of deflation.

About the Author

peter tarlowDr. Peter E. Tarlow is a world-renowned speaker and expert specializing in the impact of crime and terrorism on the tourism industry, event and tourism risk management, and economic development. Since 1990, Tarlow has been teaching courses on tourism, crime, and terrorism to police forces and security and tourism professionals throughout the world. He is also a founder and president of Tourism & More Inc. (T&M). Tarlow’s fluency in many languages enables him to speak throughout the world. He lectures on a wide range of current and future trends in the tourism industry, rural tourism economic development, the gaming industry, issues of crime and terrorism, the role of police departments in urban economic development, and international trade. Tarlow trains numerous police departments throughout the world in TOPPS (Tourism Oriented Policing and Protection Services) and offers certification in this area. He has appeared on nationally televised programs such as Dateline (NBC) and on CNBC, and is a regular guest on radio stations around the United States.

Tarlow also organizes conferences dealing with visitor safety and security issues and the economic importance of tourism and tourism marketing. Tarlow’s research ranges from the impact of school calendars on the tourism industries to tourism ecology and business. These research interests allow Tarlow to work with communities throughout the United States. He researches how communities can use their tourism as an economic development tool during difficult economic times, and at the same time improve their local residents’ quality of life. He also functions as an expert witness in courts throughout the United States on matters concerning tourism security and safety, and issues of risk management. Tarlow earned his Ph.D. in sociology from Texas A&M University. He also holds degrees in history, Spanish and Hebrew literatures, and psychotherapy.  You can visit his website at

About the Book

Tourism security is an important part of both security management and tourism. Private security professionals and police departments in tourism cities, as well as hotels, major attractions, and theme parks, have all come to realize that tourism security and safety issues (often called tourism surety) are essential for industry survival and success. In Tourism Security, leading expert Peter Tarlow addresses a range of key issues in tourism safety and security.

Tourism securityThe book guides the reader through a study of tourism security themes and best practices. Topics include the relationship between tourism security and the economy, hotel and motel security, risk and crisis management, public places, transportation, and legal issues. The book also includes case studies of four popular tourist destinations. With each destination, an interview with a police or security representative is included—providing unique, in-depth insight to security concerns.

Tourism Security: Strategies for Effectively managing Travel Risk and Safety is available for purchase on the Elsevier Store. Use discount code “STC215” at checkout and save 30% on your very own copy!

Connect with us on social media and stay up to date on new articles

One thought on “Tourism Security Challenges

Comments are closed.

Physical Security & Emergency Management

The advent of the 21st century has brought with it a paradigm shift in approaches to physical security worldwide. In security management and homeland security, as well as in emergency management, mandates for securing people and property are constantly multiplying, leading to new organizations and infrastructures at every level, both public and private. These efforts both drive and depend on security techniques and technologies. Elsevier’s robust collection of physical security resources, such as our Butterworth-Heinemann imprint and our collaboration with the Security Executive Council, encompasses topics ranging from aviation security and crisis management to loss prevention and all-hazards risk mitigation.