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Tourism security for T&T

Published: 
Friday, February 5, 2016

Peace and order are key contributors to a successful tourism industry worldwide. As such, security and safety remain a primary concern for tourists when travelling to vacation destinations.

Indeed, the provision of a secure environment, as well as protection of tourists from violence is a priority for all tourism stakeholders. However, in order to attain this goal, there is an urgent need to develop and hone police officers’ skills. Such specialist training is designed to enhance existing police officers’ roles as effective tourism front-liners (tourism-oriented police officers) capable of providing excellent service to visitors travelling around the country. 

Globally, in spite of governments’ policies to ensure safety and security at vacation destinations, incidents such as 9/11 in the USA, the Bali bombing in Indonesia of 2002 and the deadly attack on tourists at a beach in Sousse, Tunisia, on June 27, 2015, for example, are grim reminders of extreme dangers which visitors often face whilst vacationing. 

When destinations are deemed unsafe or perceived as being risky travel options—crime, violence and insecurity can cause them to suffer economically.

Regarding Tobago (and by extension Trinidad), we can only be successful protecting visitors if the local populace, including stakeholders, understand the special needs of tourists. It is well-known that people avoid travelling to places considered security threats. By improving T&T as a safe destination within the international community, it’s attraction as a tourism destination grows and thus, increases socio-economic benefits. This is needed much more now, due to falling oil and gas prices internationally. T&T should not be left behind as police departments elsewhere modernise their operations. St Lucia, Haiti and Aruba have all implemented Tourism Oriented Policing to protect their tourism product.

Tourism security is vital to success as:

1. Violence may cause tourists to shorten their stay on the islands and/or choose elsewhere. This could decrease repeat visitations and word-of-mouth referrals. 

2. Tourism safety enhances T&T’s reputation and may increase visitation. 

3. Tourism safety positively impacts tourists’ expenditure and fosters sustainability of businesses.

4. Tourism safety is a basic need, without it, even the best marketing plans fail.

5. Tourism safety increases competitiveness and attractivity. 

6. Without tourism safety, tourism could fail causing an uncertain future.

7. Safety is critical to a high quality tourism product.

In mid-November 2015, a dedicated Police unit, the Tourism Oriented Policing unit, (TOP unit) was launched in the Tobago Police Division aimed at improving the level of security to tourists. The TOP unit is comprised of officers specifically trained in various aspects of Tourism Oriented policing in October 2015. This launch is evidence of the government’s commitment to tourist safety and serves to define the future of policing and tourism. 

There may be some disagreement with the formation of the Tobago Tourism Oriented Policing unit regarding compartmentalisation of functions within the department, since some police officers focus on crimes by and against tourists while others focus on crime in general. Modern departments are now adapting new and innovative models of policing.

Tarlow (2014) submits “the former paradigm of police generalists is no longer valid in an age of cerebral security and professional specification.”

Professionally, there is much support for the Tobago Tourism Oriented Policing unit, the Central Government and the Tobago House of Assembly for this initiative which would no doubt redound to the benefit of all citizens in terms of crime reduction, improved security and safety, and economic well-being.

Contact the Caribbean Institute for Security and Public Safety for almost 100 courses in law enforcement, corporate security, OSH/HSE, supervision and management etc, for companies and individuals. Tel: 223-6999/361-1024, email: [email protected]

- Dr Wendell C Wallace is a criminologist, barrister and university lecturer.

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