APEC Strengthens Tourism Resilience Against Terrorism
If the world needed reminding of the extreme threat of terrorism against people exercising their right to enjoy leisure and tourism experiences, the hideous carnage in Manchester serves as a wake up call that terrorism is a real and present danger to all humanity and especially to tourism.
Between May 8-10 2017, over 120 government officials, security experts and tourism industry leaders from 18 of the 21 APEC (Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation) countries gathered in Bali for a two day workshop to seek solutions to the threat of terrorism against tourism. The workshop explored counter-terrorism strategies and policies to protect tourism. It was the culmination of a wide range of activities and projects undertaken by APEC’s Counter Terrorism Working Group since 2010 and also involved work done by APEC’s Tourism Working Group.
For readers unfamiliar with APEC, the 21 APEC economies encompass most Pacific rim countries. They include Canada, USA, Mexico, Peru, Chile, New Zealand, Australia, Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, Thailand, Vietnam, Taiwan, Japan, Peoples Republic of China, Republic of Korea, Hong Kong SAR and Russia. They include some of the most powerful economies in the world. APEC includes a number of special interest working groups. The APEC Tourism Working Group and the Counter- Terrorism Working Group both have a strong focus on tourism and work closely with the UNWTO, PATA, ASEAN Tourism and the World Travel and Tourism Council.
The Bali workshop brought together senior foreign ministry officials from APEC countries. Invitations were also extended to tourism specialists, security and police leaders and counter terrorism specialists. The current chair of the APEC Counter Terrorism Working Group is Mr James Nachipo from the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
The workshop was held in the beautiful surroundings of the Inaya Putri Bali Hotel. Delegates were welcomed by Bali’s Governor Mr Made Mangku Pastika and the opening address was given by General Wiranto, Indonesia’s Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs.
The speakers who followed covered a wide range of topics. Australian tourism security expert, Tony Ridley focused his attention on understanding the drivers of media coverage and its influence on shaping travel perceptions of countries affected by terrorism. During the same session Ms Fritanu from the Centre of Strategic and International Studies (Jakarta) discussed the impact of the Bali bombings 2002 and 2005 on tourism to Indonesia. Ms Rachael Doherty from the US Embassy in Kuala Lumpur explained how the US security services quickly restored confidence in tourism safety in Florida following the devastating massacre at a gay nightspot in Orlando in 2016 which killed 49 people, the deadliest terrorist incident in the USA since 9/11.
One of the most memorable presentations came from Bali’s police Chief Inspector General Dr Petrus Golose. He gave a brilliant account of the development of community based, tourism orientated policing in Bali which he and his colleagues have developed since the 2002 Bali bombing. To add to an already impressive address he finished with a superbly sung rendition of Louis Armstrong’s hit song “Its a Wonderful World“. This was the act I had to follow.
My talk focused on significant negative impacts of terrorism on tourism demand to destinations in which terrorist attacks targeting tourists had occurred (such as Turkey). I contrasted this with positive impact on tourism demand for destinations deemed safe, such as Japan, which has enjoyed 400% growth in international tourism arrivals since 2012. I made two key policy proposals to attendees. The first was to encourage all APEC counties to emulate the Australian and Canadian practice of the tourism industry leadership working in collaboration with foreign ministry officials to enhance the quality, accuracy, simplicity and dissemination of government travel advisories. My second proposal was to encourage all APEC countries to provide basic travel safety and security advice to international visitors arriving by land, sea and air. Some APEC countries including Mexico, Japan, Korea and Vietnam are already doing this. However, if it became universal practice, it would enhance the value of travel advisories for departing citizen passengers which implemented by most coyuntries. It would also be an exercise in duty of care as a host country.
Ms Lin Tsai-Shiuan of the Police agency of Taipei and Ms Tsai Ming-Lon of Taiwan’s tourism bureau provided a detailed account of security arrangements for a major sporting event which will e held in Taipei. In the final session of Day 1 one of the stand out presentations was made by Mr Joseph Franco , Research Fellow from Singapore’s Centre for Excellence in National Security. His presentation focused on strategies to reduce the terrorist threat to tourists from Jihadist groups based on the Philippines’ island of Mindanao which has long been a centre of Jihadist activity sometimes targeting tourists and based on terrorist actions in Mindanao, this is a very live issue.
On day two of the conference, delegates visited the memorial site for the 2002 Bali bombings.The morning presentations focused on regional approaches to counter-terrorism protecting tourists and tourism infrastructure. Professor Brent Ritchie from the University of Queensland provided delegates with a detailed background into the rapidly growing body of academic research into tourism safety and security. Professor Ritchie has made an outstanding contribution to this body of research.
The conference concluded with a comprehensive range of recommended actions which have been passed on the governments of all APEC economies. Tempting as it is to detail them in this article, it would be counter-productive to let those who may wish to harm tourism know what measures are proposed to counter terrorist and security threats against tourists. (p) The Indonesian government and the Island of Bali were gracious and welcoming hosts to all delegates.