Around the world, immigration and refugees are a hot topic. Europe is locked in a debate as to how to handle the millions of people who seek to migrate there. The US also has a similar debate running through its Presidential election process. By Dr. Peter E. Tarlow.
This article does not address the issue of immigration and refugees but it does look at how the movements of people impact the tourism industry.
Tourism is much more than merely about the movement of people from one place to another. It is also the exchange of cultures and the appreciation of the “other”. Tourism movements are not only about people from one place visiting another place, but often the tourist industry “imports” guest workers. These “people from other lands” provide needed services and often also give a sense of the exotic or internationalization to their host centres of employment. For example, the cruise industry has long sought multinational and multilingual staff. These international employees benefit from a chance to travel the world and provide a special flare and “joie de vivre” to the cruise experience. In other cases, people from one land have provided needed services in another nation and at the same time benefited from wages that may be higher than in their own countries plus the experience of having lived in a foreign land.
Unfortunately, due to issues of international crime and terrorism, our ability to travel freely or experience foreign employment opportunities is now being reviewed and in some places is being curtailed.
Below are some ideas on how we can maintain an open and hospitable industry while at the same time maintain safety and security standards. Please note that every location has specific needs. The information given below is meant only for the purpose of creative dialogue and does not give place specific recommendations. Please consult with local authorities before taking any specific action.
Develop a knowledgeable tourism police
The key word here is knowledgeable. Too few tourism locations have a special tourism police and many of those who do, do not have police who are trained as specialists in both the tourism side and the security side of the equation. Tourism police need to know more than merely how to stop pick-pocketing or deal with crimes of distraction. They need to be experts in everything from cyber security to hotel security, from issues of immigration to issues of legal and illegal employment. Tourism police must also know how to work with other forms of security professionals, especially those who work in private security. These security specialists also need to know marketing. A decision may make security sense but if that decision destroys businesses, then in the end it will prove to be counter productive. For example, it is essential to know when police should be undercover and when they should be in standard or special uniforms. Tourists tend to spend more money where there is a visible police presence, thus too few police in uniform can be a costly mistake.
Develop a tourism immigration committee
This committee should be composed of specialists from law enforcement, from immigration and customs authorities, from the hotel industry and tourism industry, and from the local legislature or government. Make sure that laws match both security and economic needs.
Learn from others
Go to tourism security conferences, write to colleagues and learn what did and did not work in the world of tourism security. Then adapt the other locale’s policies to your local needs. Some policies may not be geographically or culturally specific while other may address problems in one locale and not be valid for another locale. A mistake in one location may not be a mistake in another location.
Make immigration procedures thorough
Emigration and customs are the first line of defence of any nation. It is essential that those working there are carefully selected, are given the prestige that they are due, and are the right personality types. People who tend to be introverted are less suited for this job than are extroverted people. Chatting and smiling are an essential part of security reconnaissance. Questions should be direct and to the point and accompanied by biometric and psychological profiles. These officials need to remember that they are both the protectors and greeters of tourism. These officials should be both careful and cautious, courteous and thorough.
Review all entry forms
All too often entry forms either ask questions that make no sense or seem to have been placed there as a form of tourism harassment. Too many forms are hard to see, and almost impossible fill out especially while on a plane. The result is that people provide inaccurate information. It is better to get less information that is accurate than a great deal of inaccurate information. Do not duplicate questions and if the information is not necessary, then eliminate it.
Develop protocols for foreign guests
There are two parts to foreign or guest worker programs. The first part is who should be accepted into such a program and the second part is how to we work with these foreign guests once they arrive.
Do not depend on your government to identify problem people. This means that it is the tourism industry’s responsibility to check everything from social media to reputation. A major task of human resources now needs to be finding the right people who are willing to uphold the guest nation’s values and also tourism values.
Ask potential employees direct rather than hypothetical questions. The more direct the question the better the chance to judge the person not only by his/her answers but also by the employee’s body language.
Do not prejudge people. There are good and bad people in every nation, group, religion and gender. A woman is as capable as a man in being violent. Judge each person on his or her own merits.
Watch for problems once the person is hired. If something does not feel right examine and question. Use the same criteria that you would in evaluating any other form of work place violence and do not allow politically correct speech or actions colour the way that you confront a potential threat.
Make sure that the person is well integrated into the host society and help him fight off loneliness. It is not easy to be a stranger in a strange land. Giving a paycheck is not enough. Make sure that the person has the opportunities to make friends and to experience the joys of his/her culture.
Create a mentor or buddy program. These programs not only add value to the guest workers experience but stop issues of alienation that may result in tragedies. The better the person is integrated into a host society the lesser the chance that the guest will consider harming his/her host culture.
Understand cultures. Often what may seem to be violent in one culture may not be in another culture. Although the foreign guest is obliged to live in accordance with the host society’s rules, cultural norms and law, a good understanding of our guest’s culture may avoid miscommunication and misunderstandings.
About the Author: Dr. Peter E. Tarlow publishes a monthly ‘Tourism Tidbits’ newsletter. He is a founder of the Texas chapter of TTRA, President of T&M, and a popular author and speaker on tourism. Tarlow is a specialist in the areas of sociology of tourism, economic development, tourism safety and security. Tarlow speaks at governors’ and state conferences on tourism and conducts seminars throughout the world. For more information e-mail [email protected]