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Tourism Industry Rethinks Promotion
on Security Issues Data
By SANDI CAIN, February 2004

Forget carefree days and nights of fun: Visitors and businesses rank safety and security as key factors in planning a vacation or convention.

That’s the key finding from a survey released last week by the Southern California Tourism Safety & Security Association. The survey confirmed anecdotes that tourism officials have been hearing since the 2001 terrorist attacks. And it could change the way travel marketing is done.

The survey, by San Diego-based CIC Research Inc. for the tourism safety association and the Anaheim/Orange County Visitor & Convention Bureau, measured visitor attitudes about safety and security. Researchers did face-to-face interviews with more than 2,300 visitors to Orange County last year for the survey.

They asked visitors to rank the importance of safety and security in their destination choices and their comfort level with a visible security presence.

“This is the first survey of its kind that measures visitor safety and security perceptions,” said Charles Ahlers, President of the Anaheim/Orange County Visitor & Convention Bureau.

The survey also illustrates that at least some people make vacation and business choices based on their perception of how safe a given destination is.

On a scale of 1 to 10, international visitors placed the greatest overall value on safety and security, with 63% giving it a rank of 10. The average rank of safety by domestic visitors was 8.9.

That’s a shift for an industry that focuses its efforts on promising endless days of entertainment away from home.

And it’s one that could change the way destinations are sold.

“We feel this is an important marketing aspect of our destination and that this survey helps differentiate us from our competition,” Ahlers said. “It gives us a new marketing tool to promote the Anaheim and Orange County area as a safe family destination.”

When choosing a hotel, 66% of international travelers and 62% of domestic travelers gave safety and security a rank of 10.

Jim Abrams, president of the Sacramento-based California Hotel & Lodging Association, said the survey provided useful information.

“We’re certainly going to tell our members about it and encourage them to consider it in their plans,” he said.

But Abrams cautioned that people shouldn’t get the idea that just having visible security is enough. “One of the most important things to instill in all (hospitality) employees is that they are all part of the security force,” he said.

Before the 2001 terrorist attacks, hotels, theme parks and other visitor attractions cringed at the thought of putting uniformed security personnel on site.

Since 2001, hotels generally have been more aware of security concerns, asking for photo identification at check-in and quietly adding security cameras in public areas.

The Hilton Costa Mesa last year added cameras that allow a 360-degree view of the main lobby. And the St. Regis Monarch Beach Hotel & Spa in Dana Point last fall installed electronic door locks. Disneyland has uniformed security around the clock and inspects backpacks, purses and other bags at the gate.

Business travelers have less to say than vacationers about when and where to travel. But that doesn’t mean they don’t care about safety.

About 39% of business and convention travelers gave safety and security a top rank of 10 as a factor in deciding whether to attend a convention or trade show. But 61% placed a high premium on hotel security.

And an August poll conducted by Meetings & Conventions magazine, in cooperation with Secaucus-based Northstar Travel Media LLC, found that 52% of association meeting attendees and 41% of corporate attendees are concerned about security.

Meeting planners have caught on.

Tim Brown, managing partner of Newport Beach-based Meetings Site Resource, said there’s no question clients are looking for visible security.

No Negative Events

“Cities that have had exposure because of negative incidents will be avoided,” he said. “Some people are still hesitant to go to Atlanta because of the Olympic pipe bomb incident (in 2000).”

Even before 2001, visitor bureaus were beginning to recognize that some visitors worried about their safety. The Anaheim/Orange County Visitor & Convention Bureau often has teamed with the Anaheim Police Department to tout Orange County as a safe destination during presentations to tour operators, convention managers and planners.

“This survey shows that police and security should take a more prominent role at tourist venues,” said Dave Wiggins, past president of the Southern California Tourism Safety & Security Association.

“Those marketing tourism and tourist-related businesses should partner with local law enforcement and security personnel to better promote the safety and security features of the their destinations or businesses,” he said.

The tourism safety association, a nonprofit group of law enforcement, security, hotels, attractions and other tourist businesses, plans to co-host the fifth annual safety and security conference at the Hilton Anaheim on March 25.

Sandi Cain is a freelance writer and contributor to the Orange County Business Journal and meetings industry publications. She specializes in hospitality, tourism and travel. Cain holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in education from Kent State University in Ohio, where she majored in social studies. A former high school teacher, she has written for niche-market sports publications in the U.S., England and Australia and formerly worked in both the printing and high-tech industries. A Cleveland, Ohio native, Cain hasbeen a resident of Laguna Beach since the late ’70s. She enjoys travel, gardening, reading and spoiling her three cats.


Sandi Cain
Laguna Beach CA

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Orange County Travel Agencies Bear Brunt Last Week, Waiting For Fallout / Sandi Cain / Sept 2001 
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