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Tourism Tidbits Archive

Ports and Tourism Security

November 2016

In much of the world the month of November is a time when the cruise industry begins to enter into its high season, especially for those ships that frequent warm water tropical ports.  Although the cruise industry has had its ups and downs, so far the industry’s ports-of-call have avoided any major terrorism crisis. The same, however, cannot be stated with regard to issues of crime.

Today’s travelers and tourists seek out places/experiences where there is a sense of security and safety.  Cruise liners bring thousands of people to a port of call, but if there is a perception that the port is dangerous, then passengers may simply choose not to disembark. In the world of cruises, often the cruise is the journey.  At times more than the ports-of-call, the cruise itself is the real destination. Contrary to most hotel experiences cruises permit visitors to stay on board and still feel that they have met their vacation goals.

Safety, Security and Surety

In order to maintain a port-of-call’s sense of security and to enhance its reputation while protecting its economy many communities have established special police units the ports serving sea transportation.

Just as at hotels and attractions, ports and their surrounding communities, are centers where visitors often need protection. The busy traveler often is running to/from gates, may have minimal control over his/her luggage, and often has no idea where his/her documents may be.  Some ports may be centers of crime, prostitution, and drug dealers.  Security specialists are aware that an attack against the site’s infrastructure may not only knocks out the terminals or docks, but also the locale’s reputation and economic viability.  Such an attack may also cause cessation of transporting of goods and passengers.  An attack at a port might not only causes death, but also would be a major blow to a tourism community’s overall economic vitality.  To make a port safer and to help to assure the continued viability of a cruise community’s tourism industry Tourism Tidbits offers the following suggestions for your consideration.

  • Port officials must assume that their ports, be they for shipping or air, will be targets of terrorism.  This caution does not mean that every port will be attacked, but it does mean that any port can be attacked or can become a conduit for an attack.  Ports are doorways to the transportation system. Thus, a terrorist may use one port in order to gain access into the sanitized area of another port.
  • The media today is highly conscious of port security.  An attack at any airport of seaport (or if an attack is launched from that port) may result in a great deal of negative publicity and economic damage for a long period of time. The cost of reputational recovery far exceeds the cost of security.
  • Ports are not only places through which visitors egress but also ingress into an area. Thus, if a nation’s airport is not deemed safe, the reputation loss may be felt throughout the entire local tourism industry.
  • It is important to recognize that there is a fundamental paradigm shift in the travel industry.  Old assumptions will no longer hold.  From a business perspective these old assumptions are very dangerous.  Those parts of the travel and tourism industry that emphasize security will have a good chance of surviving.  The venues that provide give good security mixed with good customer service will flourish.  Those parts of the travel and tourism industry that hold on to the old way of thinking will fade away.
  • No one knows everything.  Inviting specialists to help train people helps to create a paradigm shift and provides fresh pairs of eyes. The worst thing a port manager can do is to bring in someone who is not a specialist in both security and travel and tourism. Remember this is not a passing emergency, but a new way in which people think.  Port security officers must not only think security but also how that security impacts the economy of an area and the marketing potential of their actions.
  • It is important to develop security coalitions with all components of your community.  Ports are not stand-alone communities; they are part of a living community. Make sure that your port security/police department is trained and understand tourism, and that the local tourism industry understands how it needs to cooperate with port security officers.  In too many cases port security personnel and tourism personnel do not even know each other’s names.
  • Ports and tourism industry leader must conquer their desire for denial and the belief that all problems can be handled through creative marketing.  The best crisis management is good risk management.  Recognize that no part of the world and no sea or airport is immune from a terrorist attack.  Too many parts of the travel and tourism market simply do not believe that an attack can happen to them and therefore fight against security professionals rather than working with them.  Do not forget that the media devotes a great amount of coverage to an attack against a tourism area, the fear factor spreads from one locale to entire regions, nations, and even continents.  Terrorists are well aware of the role in the media in helping their cause.
  • Know what are your tourism weak points within your port.  For example, as people line up at ticket counters are they secure. Is there a proper stand-off distance between check-in and drop-off areas. How easily can baggage areas be targeted and can baggage easily be stolen?
  • Make sure that all police personnel and port security personnel are aware of how important tourism security is to port management.  Most police have never been trained in good tourism security.  It is essential to have a person work with your local police who can “translate” between tourism and security issues.
  • Security and Safety may have different meanings to scholars, but in the world of travel they are one and the same.  In the new paradigm shift recognize that poison water and gunfire have the same results: the destruction of your business. Begin to see the relationship between risk management and security. They are two sides of the same coin.
  • Determine how well your port:
    • employs duplicate checks of baggage
    • scans all bags including those which are checked
    • removes all potential weapons from gift shops that are beyond the security barriers
    • checks all workers who have access to airplanes while it is at the gate.
    • In terminals, check and recheck all ventilation systems.  No one should be allowed to approach a ventilation system who does not have your full confidence. Make sure that contract labor is kept far from areas that can be used as delivery systems for bio-terrorism.
    • Get beyond the fear that too much security will scare the public.  The public is more frightened of security breeches than it is of security methods. The old paradigm of hiding security professionals is no longer valid.  Visible security is the best marketing tool that you can develop.