This week’s terrorist attack in the tourist area of El Kantaoui in Sousse, Tunisia is a reminder that despite the fact that the world’s eyes are firmly fixed on COVID-19 and its repercussions, security-related risk management remains an imperative.

However, it is also so important to acknowledge that highly publicised incidents such as this attack are high severity, low-frequency events.   This means that they occur relatively infrequently, but when they do, they have a significant impact or make international news.  From a risk management perspective, we need to treat the medium severity, high-frequency events that we consistently see in destinations and in hotels with the same level of concern as we do terrorist-related incidents.  These are things like physical and sexual assault, internal and external theft, hotel misuse associated with sex trafficking, etc.  From the perspective of proactively managing risk, we also need to align our treatment of security risk management with the methods we use to mitigate food hygiene, gas & fire safety, and infection-related risk.  

In the environment we currently find ourselves in, it is important to note that criminal activity hasn’t dissipated or somehow been limited by the travel restrictions, economic conditions, or regional lockdowns; it has simply shifted toward less visible mechanisms such as cyber-attacks and other opportunistic criminal behaviors.  Over the course of the pandemic, we have seen a huge increase in data ransom attacks, data breeches, and other cyber-related crimes.  Of concern, many of these attacks have been successful or have exposed huge gaps in infrastructure and operating practices across the spectrum of travel and tourism operations.

In a world where COVID-19 is the primary focus, hotels and destinations alike are recovering economically and operationally from regional lockdowns, travel restrictions, and continued government uncertainty.  Add to this dormant buildings and operations, slashed budget allocation toward personnel, training, and proactive physical control measures and what results is the perfect storm of a risk-exposed environment.  Standing these systems up again, reimplementing proactive measures, and re-establishing sufficient budgets will be a key aspect of the travel industry’s recovery process.