Tourism Se­cu­rity: A com­par­i­son on Safety Tips

A Com­par­i­son on Safety Tips

Tourism Tattler - - EDITORIAL - By Ian van Vu­uren Pro­ject Con­sul­tant, Tourism Safety Ini­tia­tive, Tourism Busi­ness Coun­cil of South Africa

Like many other tourist des­ti­na­tions in the world, it could be ar­gued that South Africa has some way to go to man­age the trade-off be­tween pro­vid­ing in­for­ma­tion to trav­ellers about safety and se­cu­rity con­sid­er­a­tions ver­sus the im­por­tant task of grow­ing tourist num­bers into the coun­try.

The coun­try’s cli­mate, scenery, in­fra­struc­ture, its friendly peo­ple and a pos­i­tive ex­change rate all con­trib­ute to make South Africa a very at­trac­tive tourist des­ti­na­tion. And with the visa de­ba­cle now be­hind us, there is vir­tu­ally noth­ing that stands in the way of in­creas­ing tourist ar­rivals into the coun­try.

Or is there? Safety and se­cu­rity is al­ways up­held as our Achilles’ heel, but if that is the case, why is a coun­try like Thai­land still welcoming more tourists than South Africa as a tourism des­ti­na­tion? Could it be due to amongst other things, the way they deal with mat­ters of safety and se­cu­rity?

One pos­si­ble an­swer is that it could have to do with how safety and se­cu­rity mat­ters are com­mu­ni­cated and in­te­grated into their mar­ket­ing strat­egy. In a coun­try like Thai­land, de­spite hav­ing a much poorer safety and se­cu­rity record re­gard­ing tourist than South Africa, they are ex­pect­ing 33 mil­lion tourists this year, which will be more than dou­ble the num­ber to visit South Africa. And in a re­cent ar­ti­cle the Thai­land gov­ern­ment has vowed to im­prove the sit­u­a­tion, so no at­tempt is made at hid­ing the facts.

Look­ing at the se­lec­tion of South African web­sites that deal with Tourism Safety (see anal­y­sis graphic along­side), and how they com­mu­ni­cate re­gard­ing mat­ters of safety and se­cu­rity, what lessons can be learned?

Firstly, one has to ac­knowl­edge that this is but the tip of the ice­berg when it comes to tourism safety and se­cu­rity ad­vice. Vir­tu­ally ev­ery ho­tel and ac­com­mo­da­tion fa­cil­ity will have some ad­vice or warn­ing mech­a­nism in place, be it elec­tronic, brochures, z-fold­ers, or even ver­bal warn­ings. The same also goes for ev­ery lo­cal mu­nic­i­pal­ity, es­pe­cially within tourism dom­i­nated ar­eas. This study there­fore does not pro­fess to be ex­haus­tive.

There are a num­ber of com­mon themes that run through th­ese safety tips. In most cases they deal with the var­i­ous places where a tourist may find her­self in the “travel value chain”, i.e. at the air­port, in the ve­hi­cle, on the street, at the ac­com­mo­da­tion fa­cil­ity, at places of leisure/at­trac­tion.

In most cases emer­gency num­bers are pro­vided, and in some cases also a list of em­bassy num­bers.

Only in a few in­stances is in­for­ma­tion pro­vided on card fraud preven­tion – this de­spite the fact that this is one of the ma­jor crimes af­fect­ing tourists (with ATM scams).

A few sites deal with how to pos­i­tively iden­tify mem­bers of the SAPS, by im­pli­ca­tion sug­gest­ing this may be a prob­lem.

There is lim­ited in­for­ma­tion on deal­ing with safety is­sues, as op­posed to se­cu­rity, i.e. ill­nesses, malaria, wild an­i­mals (granted, this is likely to be in the fo­cus at ar­eas where this may be rel­e­vant).

In most in­stances warn­ings are phrased in a neg­a­tive man­ner, i.e. “do not”.

In many cases the safety and se­cu­rity in­for­ma­tion is “hid­den” be­hind other in­for­ma­tion that mar­kets the des­tiny. This is un­der­stand­able, but in some cases nav­i­gat­ing to find such in­for­ma­tion is dif­fi­cult. Note – this is not a phe­nom­e­non unique only to South African tourism au­thor­i­ties/as­so­ci­a­tions.

There is, with the ex­cep­tion of the pro­vi­sion of emer­gency num­bers, vir­tu­ally no ad­vice on how to re­spond to var­i­ous types of vic­tim­i­sa­tion. In other words – if you have been a vic­tim of card fraud, fol­low th­ese steps, or if you had your pass­port stolen, then th­ese are the steps.

WAY FOR­WARD Through the Tourism Safety Ini­tia­tive ap­proach of fo­cus­ing on es­tab­lish­ing Pub­lic-Pri­vate Part­ner­ships, the idea is for the in­dus­try to ul­ti­mately achieve the fol­low­ing: De­vel­op­ing a com­mon “macro” mes­sage that can be repli­cated at the level of South African Tourism, Tourism Busi­ness Coun­cil of South Africa, pro­vin­cial and city lev­els.

From this generic mes­sage, more spe­cific mes­sages may be de­vel­oped by lo­cal au­thor­i­ties, tourism prod­uct own­ers and ser­vice providers, etc.

Th­ese mes­sages should in all cases phrase mat­ters, as far as is pos­si­ble, in a pos­i­tive man­ner, i.e. “do” in­stead of “do not”. Look at SABRIC as po­ten­tial best prac­tice. Links would be pro­vided of sup­port of var­i­ous types on all sites, i.e. emer­gency re­spon­ders, trauma coun­cil­lors, trans­la­tors, em­bassies, banks, etc.

We will also de­velop com­mon ways to re­spond to spe­cific types of emer­gen­cies, es­pe­cially un­der the cat­e­gories of vi­o­lent crime, fraud, ex­tor­tion, and health and safety. This can be done with sim­ple flow charts. Through the TSI, a fa­cil­ity will be de­vel­oped with the ca­pa­bil­i­ties of re­spond­ing to emer­gency needs of tourist trav­el­ling within the bound­aries of South Africa as a des­ti­na­tion. Th­ese things should be de­vel­oped in a “fun” man­ner, i.e. in­ter­ac­tive colour­ful posters that in­te­grate nor­mal tourism in­for­ma­tion with safety and se­cu­rity in­for­ma­tion in a seam­less man­ner.

In the fi­nal anal­y­sis, we recog­nise that what is re­quired here is a joint, in­te­grated strat­egy on how to han­dle the com­mu­ni­ca­tion of safety and se­cu­rity mes­sages hor­i­zon­tally and ver­ti­cally through­out the tourism spec­trum in a fused pub­lic and pri­vate sec­tor ap­proach. This after all, the long term ob­jec­tives of the TSI with the sup­port of both the pub­lic sec­tor at all lev­els and the pri­vate sec­tor.

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