Terrorism threat to tourism

A 30-year law enforcement veteran advised the Cayman Islands that a response to or preparation for terrorism should be part of any comprehensive safety and security policy.

The threat of terrorism is of particular note with regard to tourism, the former District Commander with the Anaheim (California) Police Department Mike Hannah told the annual Tourism Conference Friday.

Terrorists target tourism because it is considered a soft target (versus government buildings and police stations). A tourist terror attack also gets high media attention. It creates fear and has a shock value, he said, and a terrorism attack on tourism impacts resorts globally.

Mr. Hannah took a recent example of a Turkish bombing that occurred in August over a three days period. Popular tourist cities were targeted. The first set of bombs, he said, was thought to have been timed so first responders were injured in the second set.

Director of Tourism Pilar Bush said the Department of Tourism is very pleased with the pro-active stance the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service has taken to working with the tourism industry. ‘We know that you have plans to work even more closely with us,’ she said.

Deputy Police Commissioner Anthony Ennis said it is easy to become complacent living on a Caribbean Island.

He referenced the 2002 Bali Bombings in which the majority of the dead were foreign tourists. ‘Bali like the Cayman Islands is an idyllic tourist area and a soft target.’

Vulnerability issues for Cayman include the majority of visitors being from the US, which is at the forefront of the war on terror. This is with their allies the British, he said, adding that we live in a British overseas territory.

Cruise liners are also vulnerable targets, the Deputy Commissioner stated.

Although small, the Cayman Islands has become a proactive thinking community. With regard to Mr. Hannah’s presentation he said, ‘What we’re doing here is a very important step.’

All it would take is one tiny incident, not even terrorism, to damage tourism.

He applauded everyone including the Ministry and Departments of Tourism for being proactive in protecting tourism.

Director of Tourism Pilar Bush said the tourism industry has to remain vigilant to crime, security and even terrorism.

Mr. Hannah said there is a seven-step process by which an attack is put together.

First of all terrorists identify potential targets. This could involve critical infrastructure or tourist areas.

Next, they gather research and compile data on their markets.

Surveillance is next. The terrorists go to the site and take photos, make sketches, watch for patterns, ask questions, look for vulnerabilities and means of escape. They will avoid contact with security. This is the stage where they are most vulnerable.

Next, they start planning, then they put together the equipment they need and do dry-runs, checking the plan. They may leave unattended packages to check what the response would be.

Then there is the attack. ‘Their success depends on secrecy, surveillance and practice,’ he said.

Some of the mitigating measures to help us protect ourselves include training personnel to identify certain behaviour patterns while the terrorists are in the surveillance stage.

These behaviours could include awkward attempts to blend into a crowd, fiddling nervously with clothing, profuse sweating, slow paced walking while looking in secure areas and attempts to keep away from security.

The next stage would be to secure and protect files and documents, chemicals, electric grids.

Guard against questions from outsiders (people posing as the media or students). He suggested designating one person to media queries to control the channels of information. ‘We definitely don’t want to inhibit information sharing but if you control and channel the information it’s a safeguard.’

Be careful about people asking about deployment and security measures and those asking about access points, he said.

Proactive preparation is next. For instance, after 9/11 police were brought inside the Disneyland park wearing soft uniforms. There are ways of brining in a police presence versus a military atmosphere, he pointed out.

Train personnel to include disaster preparation. If you have pro-active training that is a positive thing, he said.

Another important mitigation measure is to evaluate vulnerabilities such as in buildings or system design, lighting or natural barriers, or to widen secure perimeters and consider adjacent properties.

Passage points are very important, as is controlled access for personnel.

Mr. Hannah pointed out the importance of following up on all these mitigation measures through periodic re-evaluation evolving as challenges evolve.

A study done in Southern California in 2002 polled 2,500 tourists there. One of the questions asked was how important is safety and security for them in regard to travel. For local travellers to the Southern California area, out of a scale of one to 10, it was 8.9 and for international visitors it was 9.3, he said.

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