Managing Risk in Global Events Tourism

In the following articles Professors Joe Goldblatt and Philip Riddle from Queen Margaret University discuss the challenge of creating a tourist event which is both welcoming and secure and ask what, as an event tourism planner, you should be considering to help minimise potential damage to your events.

 

Professor Philip Riddle, "A Question of Balance":

Developing tourism is about opening our doors to the world. It’s about mutual trust. The visitor trusts we will look after him or her in our “house”. As hosts, we trust our guests won’t break the crockery.

Unfortunately, it is this very open-ness and mutual trust that terrorists and other criminals seek to exploit. A very small minority see an open door as an opportunity to steal and do damage. Not only that but some abuse a welcome further by specifically targeting our other guests as we have seen at Luxor in 1997 and just recently in Bulgaria.

How can we welcome the world whilst ensuring safety and security for both ourselves and our visitors? It is a difficult balance to achieve. We spend millions inviting people to visit sometimes only to ruin first impressions at the door. Many of us have experienced – or at least have heard tell of – the often lengthy and dispiriting arrivals process at London and New York for example.

We cannot avoid the intrusion of services designed to protect us into our daily lives; in fact we must welcome this. At the same time we must not dilute the welcome we offer to visitors and potential visitors from around the world. Not only does this make good economic sense but travel and tourism, by broadening the mind and letting people experience different cultures in a pleasurable way, are two of the main weapons against the short-sightedness and festering prejudice that are fertile grounds for growing terrorism.

We just have to find the right balance between freedom and security. A good way to start is to involve all those working in law and order and immigration control in destination management – and not just at times of crisis or major events. They have a very important job to do and should share in the general plans for tourism development. This increases awareness of the potentially conflicting priorities on both sides and can lead to initiatives like the US Model Ports programme. The police and other officials must not be cast as “necessary evils”; they are key players in ensuring the very best tourism experience. In Scotland we have long espoused the idea that “Tourism is Eve-ryone’s Business”. This could not be truer when talking about safety and security.

 

Professor Joe Goldblatt, "Risk and Reward: Protecting and Preserving Global Event Tourism in an Uncertain World":

Immediately following the attacks of 11, September 2001 in New York City, Pennsylvania and Washington, DC many transportation options became extremely limited.  This reduced the opportunity for destination event organizers to proceed with their planned events and for several days events were cancelled or postponed.

On 11, September 2001 I was scheduled to give a speech in Boston, Massachusetts which was only a 50 mile drive from my home in Providence, Rhode Island.  After conferring with the event organiser, we determined to postpone the talk due to the disruption in the city (some of the terrorists had actually departed from Boston’s Logan Airport).  A few days later a close friend died suddenly and I was asked to be a pall bearer.  I tried to arrange airline transport and it was exceedingly difficult.  However, I was ultimately successful and among the first few thousand passengers to begin flying again.   I recall the shock and confusion of the flight crews as I asked for direction and information about scheduling.  It was as though the very heart had been cut out of the global transportation industry.  This is exactly what the terrorists had planned.

According to Peter Tarlow, author of Event Risk Management and Safety (2002) New York NY: Wiley, terrorists actually target special events for disruption because they allow for significant publicity for their causes and interrupt major transport, economic and business systems.  Tarlow also states that event tourism is highly vulnerable because many events are free of charge and do not require credentials for participants.  Therefore, a terrorist may enter the site and cause trouble very easily.  Therefore, in the aftermath of the recent attacks upon the U.S. diplomatic corp in Libya and other destinations, event tourism planners must consider how they will plan for this type of future challenge and how they will recover from a potential attack in their destination.  Here are five ways to reduce risk and increase reward at your future planned events within your destination.

First, always conduct a systematic risk assessment and involve local and central government officials to provide critical friend inputs.

Second, conduct scenario planning including table top exercises with your staff to determine in advance how you would respond to protests or attacks.

Third, study local laws to determine what your rights are as an event organiser.  For example, can you establish a ring fenced zone for protesters several hundred feet away from the Event venue?

Fourth, liaise with local hospitals to notify them of your upcoming event so they may be prepared to receive injured if necessary.

Fifth and finally, decide who has the authority to cancel or postpone the event and when this announcement should be made to provide the lease interruption for your guests.

Recently I attended a performance of a dance company and several hundred protesters stood shouting at the front door of the theatre.  The performance was interrupted three times by protesters in the audience.  Each time the protesters rose to stop the performance, the lights on stage dimmed, the audience lights brightened and the protesters were quietly escorted out of the theatre.  I was impressed with the level of pre-planning for these pre-determined activities.  The local police had actually penetrated the protest organisations and learned in advance of their plans.  They were ready to use their intelligence to reduce the risk that could occur for the event.  The audience was rewarded by a feeling of greater safety and security.  Your next event should similarly plan to reduce risk and increase reward for your event tourism audience to help promote the positive reputation of your destination.

(First published in the 4th edition of the newsletter 'IDEM: International Destination and Event Management', Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh)

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