Helping Guest Relax with Better Tourism Safety & Security ©
Top international tourism destinations and companies know that to increase arrivals and sell more trips they must positively influence perceptions of their company and country’s safety and security. The #1 reason tourists or outbound tour operators (OBTO) will book your trips or not, depends on if they feel your region, country or operators are safe. Few tourists want to go on a vacation to risk their life. No matter how wonderful your country, trips, pricing or tourist attractions are, prospective travelers are going to assess their safety and security first.
Is the information that prospective travelers or OBTO hear or see accurate, complete and what you want to communicate? Quite frequently – it is not! If the information is false or incomplete about your destination’s safety, security and tourism appeal, will this effect sales and arrivals? ABSOLUTELY YES.
The 3 Principals of all Travel
Prospects To evaluate safety and the best destination/trip to spend their money on, tourist first need to know three core elements about your country or trips. They want to know:
- You are experienced – meaning that they are not the first tourists you have ever had and that you or your region is experienced with tourists.
- Your destination and trips are fun – meaning that you run good trips to fun places.
- Nobody DIED– meaning that your country is safe, you run safe trips and that their safety and security is your #1 priority.
With so many wonderful travel options on the planet, and information so readily available via the internet or media – what and how prospective travelers hear about your tour destination or tour business – can either help your sales and arrivals or hurt them.
How Prospective Tourist Develop Safety Perceptions
Prospective tourists and OBTO develop their perceptions about the safety of a destination or operator, whether if it is true or not, from three primary sources:
- What they have read, seen or heard in a newspaper, magazine, television or radio.
- What they have heard from a friend, family or associate.
- What they read or hear about your country, tour company or tourist lodge on your website, in E-mails, brochures, tradeshow stand, in person or on the phone.
Where did these sources get their information in the first place? As tourism professional, you have the ability to influence, at some level, all three sources of information. It is critical that you understand your potential impact. Implement the action steps below and positively influence prospective traveler’s perceptions.
Improve Travelers Perceptions of You As a Safe & Desirable Destination
During the fall of 2001, I did a USAID funded workshop on safety and security in Mongolia for the Mongolian Tourism Association. As a group, we summarized that Mongolia was near the very bottom of the list as an international terrorism target and had no political instability, social turmoil or war. This is good news! Israel, Jordan and Egypt, all with great historical and religious tourism sites, have been economically devastated by significant downturns in their tourism arrivals. Unlike these Middle Eastern countries, Mongolia has not experienced enormous media coverage, either good or bad. This is a problem – and an opportunity if you help increase the quality and quantity of information the world read, hears and sees.
Tourism Marketing – Web sites, Brochures and Tradeshow Stands
Media and prospective travelers are now using the Internet as the #1 source of travel information. This is the best place to start influencing perceptions. What does your web site communicate about your region’s/countries safety, security and desirability first – on the home page – then about your tourism company? In addition to language supporting a safe and secure vacation, your words must also create desire to visit your destination and what it has to offer. Some of the language, words and images we came up for Mongolia and the tour operators to use were:
Safety & Security Words Words that Create Desire
- Stable democratic government
- Growing economy
- Helpful, friendly people
- Very low crime rate
- Positive television coverage by Lonely Planet and Survivors
- Enjoyed by celebrities Julia Roberts and Richard Gere
- Well educated people
- Very welcoming to tourists
- No visa for US &? tourists
- Good food
- Buddhist religion
- Sparse population
- Beautiful wide open countryside
- Western standards of lodging and service available
- Good exchange rate
- No Police problems
- No earthquakes
- No major disease problems
- International flight with major airlines
- Adventure and sport opportunities
- ¨ Home of Chinggis Khaan
- Nomadic lifestyle
- Gobi /Dinosaurs
- “Mongolia” – the name itself
- No fences
- Authentic horse culture
- Famous history
- Remote. Not an overrun tourism destination
- Unspolied mountains, rivers, lakes, forest, steppes and desert
To create your own powerful tourism marketing message that communicates safety, security and create a desire to take your tour or visit your destination, read: Tourism Marketing Material Success.
Install a “Media and Travel Professionals” link on your site or use a profesional media relations firm with more information and resources that will help prospective visitors form positive opinions and decisions. When these tourism or media professionals request information from you, what are they reading in your brochures or e-mail response? The language, image and message should always support that your destination is a safe and secure choice for international travel.
Create Ambassadors of Goodwill – Before and During a Tourist Visit
Even after a tourist has decided to visit you, and before and after they arrive, they have questions, concerns and maybe some fears. These are usually based on their current level of information – or lack of it. It is your job to address their needs and questions. The more thoroughly you educate your guest, the more comfortable and safe they will feel, even if the information has some negatives and warnings. An informed and secure traveler or media professional, will be better ambassadors of your country or tourism company – spreading goodwill, even before they arrive.
Some of the areas that should be addressed before the trip in your pre-departure information, e-mail and verbal communications and during the trip are:
- Vehicles & roads
- Food and vegetarian options
- Safety precautions
- Drivers and guides experience and capabilities
- First aid knowledge of staff
- Rated difficulty levels of trips
- Travel Insurance, Insurance in Mongolia, Liability insurance
- Water supplies & quality
- Aircraft safety
- Horse trip considerations
- Emergency communications
- Vaccination requirements
- Cultural faux -pas
- Availability of medical Services & Quality
- Bathroom and shower options in UB and in the countryside
- Any special food, medical needs
Keep Ambassadors of Goodwill – After a Tourist Visit
If a tourist or media has a great time visiting your destination and taking your tour, then they will return home and communicate to their friends, family and associates, what a wonderful, safe and secure country you represent. Hopefully they are very enthusiastic and are communicating positive and accurate first-hand information. This is word-of-mouth advertising at its finest. We want these visitors to spread the word that your destination and tours are safe, secure and fun vacation destination that they will recommend to all.
Keep your former visitors vacation positively alive in their memory through regular communications. Use E-mail newsletters, post visitor travelogues on your web site, mail post cards, phone calls, letting them know about new media coverage and personal visits during trade shows and sales calls. Our former guest should the best sales people we can have. Let’s promote and demonstrate safety and security in your destination and your operations, and watch tourism grow.