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by Dr. Peter Tarlow

In May of 1992 a visionary Las Vegas police officer, by the name of Curtis Williams had an idea that tourism to be successful needed to have not only protection but also regular meetings where ideas might be exchanged and new concepts would be developed.  Curtis Williams and Peter Tarlow were able to get a small room and ran the first tourism security workshop. Since then, the idea of tourism security has become an important part of tourism.  The then workshop, and soon to be full conference proved to be logistically too hard for Williams and Tarlow to do everything on their own, and in its second year, Don Ahl, of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, and the Las Vegas Chief’s Association agreed to become co-sponsors.  Upon Doh Ahl’s retirement, he passed his baton to Ray Suppe of the LVCVA.  Ray Suppe and Peter Tarlow than transformed the now national conference into an international conference with speakers coming from around the world. 

Since then, Las Vegas has held a tourism security conference for every year (except one) for the last twenty-six years.  This year, its international tourism safety and security conference celebrates its twenty-fifth anniversary.  This month’s Tourism Tidbits focuses in on some of the major principles of tourism security. It is dedicated to tourism security personnel throughout the world, be they members of law enforcement, government agencies, or be they part of private security teams. Without these dedicated and hard working men and women, in today’s violent world there would not only be no (or a greatly reduced) tourism industry, but the world would be a much darker and poor place. 

As a thank-you to all who work to make the world safe and secure for the millions of people who travel daily, Tourism Tidbits provides its readers with some of the basic principles of tourism security. 

- Tourism Security is an essential part of your marketing efforts. Once upon a time tourism professionals did not see the relationship between tourism security and marketing efforts. This is no longer the case, the public seeks out locations that are  provide good service, high quality products and are delivered in a safe and secure environment.  

- No one needs to come to your locale.  This principle was true twenty-five years ago with regards to the leisure side of the market. Today, with multiple internet system, meetings can easily be held on –line. The key here is that if your community is not safe, then the loss of business will be a lot greater than the cost of security.  It is essential to remember that the lower the perceived safety the lower the relaxation and willing to spend.  Good tourism security means that visitors are more likely to return to a destination and while there they are more willing to spend more money.

- Tourism Security is much more than simply guarding a property.  Today we live in a world filled with multiple threats, from the potential of a bio-chemical attack to cyber-attacks, from crowd control to the potential of a dirty bomb, from classical crimes such as pick-pocketing to room invasions, from food safety to disease control.  Modern security analysis need to be aware of ever changing threats, to whom to turn and what are the proper questions to ask.

- Tourist Geography matters. Tourism security specialists have learned through careful study that as tourism entities cluster, there is a higher probability of both acts of crime and terrorism. Thus, tourism centers that desire to be successful (and clustering such as in the world of casinos tends to increase profitability) also means that tourism entities must invest to protect these vital assetts. 

- The tourism public has a long memory.  Tragically the further one is from an “event” the worse it seems and the longer it lasts in people’s memories. Locals, including tourism professionals tend to forget past crisis, but these crises not only live on the internet forever but have long after-lives that impact a location’s or business’ bottom line.

- Always ask yourself: what is the cost of a negative headline or headlines to my business? Tourism security is not merely about dealing with an incident after it happens, good tourism security is all about prevention and proactive behavior.  A good rule of thumb is: the best crisis management is often good risk management.

- Tourism security is more than dealing with crime; it deals with the total well-being of the visitor.  That means that good tourism security means good communication and foreign language skills, and an understanding of cultural awareness, interpersonal psychology, and being able to differentiate local perceptions from visitors’ needs.

- Tourism security means understanding environmental needs and working toward local beautification.  Although we should not judge a book by its cover, visitors judge a local by the way it looks.  Good tourism security requires clean air and water, and streets that are free of garbage and graffiti. Beautification not only helps to bring down crime rates, but increases a visitor’s proclivity to spend money.  Locations that lack beautification end up with numerous other problems that range from potential diseases to the potential for gang violence.

- Tourism TOPPs police units not only add to the bottom line but adds to the overall well being of a community. There was a time when the tourism industry shied away from police units. The fear was that tourists and visitors would see police officers, become scared and leave. The opposite has proven to be true.  Visitors report that when they see well-trained tourism police units they have a higher tendency to enjoy themselves, they feel safer and they spend more money.

This year’s Las Vegas Conference (April 17-18, 2018) marks twenty-five years of tourism security. These have been years filled with learning, training, and most of all, caring for the tourism industry. Let’s hope that the next twenty-five years are even more productive.

About Dr. Peter Tarlow

Dr. 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.

Contact: Peter Tarlow

ptarlow@tourismandmore.com / +1-979-764-8402

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