October 2016 – Travel is no doubt a wonderful experience. It broadens our horizons, permits us to understand new societies, allows us to see things about which we have only dreamt, and gives us the opportunity to see ourselves in entirely new ways and often as others see us.
Unfortunately, when some people travel they may also do things that are both foolish and harmful. This month’s Tourism Tidbits addresses some of the things that when traveling we want to avoid. For those in the travel industry, it is essential to understand these sociological phenomena so that they can be taken into account and planned for. These principles are important because these same sociological phenomena often occur to both business and leisure travelers, to men and to women, to the teenager and to the senior citizen. When these problems occur, tourists and visitors rarely blame themselves, but rather tend to blame the locale resulting in negative word-of-mouth advertising.
A key point for all tourism professionals is the realization that travelers have choices. In the case of the leisure market this assumption almost always holds true. In the business word, business travelers are , finding ways to replace some business meetings by other forms of virtual communications.
Tourism industries that believe that they are essential can easily suffer calamities if they are not careful with their customer service and their creation of safe and secure locations. In the case of leisure travelers, often these travelers assume that the place to which they are traveling is safe and as such often lower their level of caution.
The following principles often reflect some of the common mistakes that we make when it comes to travel and to those who are our customers. Tourism Tidbits offers for your consideration an outline of some of the common mistakes that we all make whenever we travel and phenomena about which we want to be mindful. Part of the challenge of being a tourism professional is advising visitors about security and safety while at the same time not scaring them. This balanced approach is one of the reasons that tourism (TOPPs) units are so essential. These travel security professionals, be they public or private security officers, are an essential part of tourism’s front line.
– Travel is stressful. No matter what we in the tourism industry want to believe, travel is stressful and stress places us in danger. Prepare your guests for the stress of travel by having reminding them to have alternative plans, to take needed telephone numbers, and making sure that they carry food and water in case of delays. Criminals know that when we are under stress we tend not to think, leave things (such a wallets and passports) exposed and tend to speak louder. Remember when the traveler is under stress; the criminal is not. That means, take the time to remind customers to put their wallets away, not to expose credit cards, and when using public phones or ATM machines to block the access so that someone cannot photograph the person’s code.
– When we travel we often seem to leave our common sense behind. Part of the reason for this phenomenon may be that we assume that where we are going is safe, or that nothing will happen to us when we are traveling. Nothing could be further from the truth. Crime exists everywhere and police departments around the world are understaffed and over-stretched. To add to this, recent historical trends have shown that terrorism is a growing problem. For example, the British Journal, The Economist stated that: “And terrorism is spreading. 67 countries saw at least one death last year (2014) compared with 59 the year before. The number of plots by jihadist groups against Western countries has leaped, in particular since September 2014 when an IS spokesman called for its followers to attack those Western countries involved in military efforts in Syria and Iraq. Most plots have failed, though a growing number have been successful. But the terrorists only need to carry out one big plot to succeed.” One new source reported that in 2001 there were some one thousand terrorism attacks around the world. By the year 2015 that number had climbed to 30,000. It is important to realize that some sources count failed attacks as attacks, and there is no one accepted definition of what is or is not a terrorism attack. Good common sense dictates that it is important to take a two-tier attitude regarding visitors and staff. Remind them to relax and smile but at the same time be aware and vigilant.
– It is a mistake to assume that people in other places are all good. It is far better to assume that crime occurs in all parts of the world and take the same precautions that you would take at home. In the world of travel, there are not only the generalized crimes that can occur anywhere, but also specific crimes that are especially prevalent in travel and tourism. As such, be careful of such crimes as conmen and crimes of distraction artists (i.e., pickpockets, bag snatchers, credit card thefts). Remember that not everyone who works in the tourism industry is honest, and that violent crime can happen to anyone.
-Remember that when you are in a different place, you are in a different place! That means that travelers can often be taken by surprise. Advise travelers that they do not want to take a cab that has not been approved by the authorities, how much of a tip to leave at a restaurant, or even how to determine the value of foreign monies. In a like manner, remind visitors not to walk down a dark street alone, take enough money with them that in case of a robbery the thieves will not become so angry that they do harm. The bottom line is always remembered that even the strongest man can be taken down, especially if he is taken by surprise.
– Remember that in most cases, most perpetrators of tourism crime are not caught. That means that prevention is the best protection. Remind visitors to try whenever possible to blend into the local environment. Dress as others dress in that local, do not carry maps and cameras in such a manner as to make you noticeable, and have a sense of where you are going and how much it should cost to get there.
-Try to be respectful of nature. All too many visitors believe that they are on a movie set rather than in the wild. Blizzards, wild animals, hurricanes, and tornadoes all kill. A perfect example of this principle of lack of respect for nature coupled with a lack of common sense is the number of drowning off of Hawaii’s (Ohau) north coast. Despite the lifeguards and warning signs, there are all too many visitors to Hawaii who are convinced that the Pacific Ocean is a giant swimming pool.
Click here to find other Tourism Tidbits by Dr. Peter Tarlow.