Tourism Security – Tourism’s Greatest Global Challenge
By any measure, the first few days of June 2017 have been horrific. Just as the UK had begun the recovery process after the Manchester suicide bombing, Londoners are now reeling from an attack on London Bridge. At least six people (including one tourist) have been killed as a result of a car ramming and stabbing attack by alleged Jihadists. In Manila, a crazed gunman was responsible for an attack at Manila’s Resorts Casino which led to the deaths of at least 37 people (most from suffocation when he set gambling tables alight).At the time of writing, the assailant’s motives are unknown. Filipino authorities have ruled out any religious or ideological motives. However on the Filipino Island of Mindanao the Philippines military is locked in a bitter battle with Islamists loyal to ISIS in the town Marawi which has led to over 139 deaths . Abu Sayef, an Islamist group has been responsible for a number of kidnappings and murders of foreign tourists in Mindanao in recent years.
In Melbourne, courageous passengers and crew on a Malaysian Airlines flight which had set off from Melbourne-Kuala Lumpur subdued a would-be Sri Lankan hijacker. The day before the flight, the suspect had been released from a psychiatric institution. Many security specialists are still perplexed as to why armed police at Melbourne Airport took 100 minutes to board the plane after it landed, arrest the suspect and evacuate terrified passengers from the aircraft.
The London, Melbourne and Manila incidents all have a connection with tourism. Despite the significant advances in airline security since 9/11 almost 16 years ago, a determined or crazed person can still be a security risk. Fortunately, the suspect did not breach cockpit security. The London attack demonstrates the great difficulty of securing a popular tourist precinct despite the fact that the London police response was almost instantaneous and effective in neutralizing the terrorists.
The Manila attack raises questions about the effectiveness of hotel/resort security. Over the past ten years many of the most serious terrorist attacks targeting tourists have taken place at hotels and resorts who have the enviable task of balancing their commitment to hospitality and their duty of care for the safety of their guests.
We have found that in certain sectors of the tourism industry (airlines. airports and Cruising) there are enforceable global standards of security and safety which apply. While these don’t guarantee immunity from terrorist or criminal attack, they have been effective as a deterrent. The events this week should be a wake up call to seek to extend global standards of safety on the accommodation and events sectors. The task is difficult but our industry must be seen to be doing all it can to protect our most precious assets, our customers and our reputation.