By Dr. Peter Tarlow
As the world hopes that COVID-19 restrictions will wane, we all need to work for a safer and happier tourism industry
As war continues in Europe pray for peace and remember that tourism is an instrument of peace!
It appears that many of the Covid-19 travel restrictions from around the world are slowly being removed and tourism is beginning to return to normal. Most employees and guests want both their holidays and their workplace environment to be a safe and secure spot where no one has to worry about street crimes, tourism crimes, issues or rage, and poor interpersonal relations. In the post Covid world an additional requirement is that the location be sanitary and disease free. The last thing about which the average visitor wants to worry is being a victim of crime or illness while on vacation. Yet crimes, and illnesses do happen and when they occur often a large amount of time and effort must be dedicated to repairing the damage that is done to psyches, people lives and to the image of the place.
Visitors often let their guard down. Indeed, the word vacation comes into English from the French word “vacance” meaning ‘vacant” or “empty.” Vacations then are a period from which we vacate ourselves from life’s daily stresses and seek a period of mental and physical relaxation. Most people see vacations as “their time,” that is to say a time where someone else can do the worrying for them. If tourists often let down their guard, the same can be said of many of the people employed in the travel and tourism industry. Tourism and travel employees often enter their professions because it is seen as glamorous and fun. While most travel and tourism jobs are hard work, it is easy to get caught up in the revelry of the profession and let one’s guard down and so become a victim of rage and/or crime. Tidbits offers you a potpourri of ideas intended to help make your tourist environment as safe as possible, be that environment a hotel/motel or tourism attraction, consider some of the following items.
– A police presence is a double-edged sword. A visible police force can serve as a “psychological” security blanket. On the other hand, too large a presence or heavy a police presence can make a tourist wonder why such a large force is needed. The solution to this dilemma is often two-fold. Tourism safety/security specialists may use “soft” uniforms that identify them while being part of the local culture. To further enhance guest security and safety, every employee at a hotel/motel or tourism attraction/center should see him/herself as a member of the property’s safety and security team.
– Provide special tourist training for your police force. A police officer can be an asset to your tourist industry. A special training program for your community’s police ought to include: the economic and social impact of tourism on their community, a hospitality program on how to handle strangers, and an information packet on the tourist facilities and attractions within the community. Research demonstrates that those cities that generate a great amount of money from tourism have the most to lose if their police force makes a mistake.
– Use your information services as an implicit anti-crime tool. Even in cities with high crime rates, crime tends to be highly concentrated in small geographic regions. Use your information services, and especially your city maps, to direct tourists on the safest routes between attractions. Train employees to take an active rather than passive role in advising visitors of the best (safest) routes to take and modes of transportation to use.
– Have a plan of action to deal with tourists who are victimized by crime or succumb to illnesses. Even in the safest of places a crime can occur. This is the moment to give the tourist all the TLC possible. The tourist professional’s actions can create a situation where the victimized tourist leaves with a positive attitude about the locale’s hospitality rather than as a vocal critic. Remember that a bad experience that is nor repaired is the worst form of publicity for a tourist industry.
– Be prepared for greater litigation in the world of tourism and travel. Hotels/motels should especially be careful of guests suing them for lack of background checks, improper training of employees in tourism safety and security techniques, and poor control of keys to rooms and to non-guarded entrances.
– Develop security standards for your hotel/motel and attraction. These standards should contain policies on who can and cannot enter the premises and what type of non-human surveillance systems will be employed. Other policies should include what type of lighting is to be used, which outside vendors will be allowed access, and who will check their backgrounds, what type of parking lot security will be used, how safe is the baggage room not only from theft but also from acts of terrorism.
– Expect Issues of fraud to increase as the public returns to travel. Fraud will become an even greater part of the tourism safety component. Tourism was once travel and sightseeing, but in today’s world the largest tourism activity is shopping. Indeed, shopping is no longer a by-product of tourism, it is now a tourism attraction in and of itself. Furthermore, many large shopping centers, and hotels, are “anchored” by large multi-national conglomerates that often command only minimal loyalty among employees. Shopping’s rise to prominence means that sales personnel are now front-line fighters in the war against fraud and shoplifting. Often these people do not connect theft to their loss of pay and may even be willing to look the other way. To help prevent credit card fraud and other crimes inspired by shopping, make sure that those people who work with the public not only realize how to identify crimes-of-shopping but also understand that they lose when others steal.
– Be prepared to confront workplace violence. Travel and tourism is hard work, and often requires taking a certain amount of “abuse” from angry customers. This anger can result in delayed workplace violence. Take the time to know some of the signs of workplace violence, realize that any form of hitting, shoving, sexual assaults, intimidation, threats or harassment may be construed as workplace violence.
– Watch for signs of stress among both employees and guests. Stress often comes from a sense of being out of control or not knowing what to do. Make sure that employees know to whom they can turn and that there is a sympathetic ear. Make sure that both employees and visitors know what to do in case of an emergency. List emergency numbers in multiple languages and in large font sizes. Provide personal safety tips and never forget to apologize when something goes wrong. Often crimes can be prevented when we stop making excuses and concentrate on making it right.