Experts Discuss Visitor Safety

By Brittany Yap, Advertiser Staff Writer – The Honolulu Advertiser on July 29, 2006

For the orignal article, Click Here.

An expert on crime and tourism had this bit of advice for travelers: “If you cannot afford to lose it, don’t bring it.”

Peter Tarlow, who specializes in the impact of crime and terrorism on the tourism industry and is a lecturer for the Department of Homeland Security, was one of two keynote speakers at the Sharing Aloha Visitor Crime Awareness Conference yesterday.

More than 200 people, including legislators, law enforcement officers, medical and social service professionals and hospitality and travel industry representatives, attended the conference at the Hawai’i Convention Center.

“It’s a wonderful learning experience for everyone,” said Jessica Lani Rich, president and executive director for Visitor Aloha Society of Hawaii. “It’s a coming-together of people who care about visitors.”

The Visitor Aloha Society of Hawaii, an organization that assists visitors in emergency situations, hosted its first conference to raise awareness of crimes against visitors and discuss how to implement solutions.

The conference, paid for by a grant from the state attorney general’s office, took on a number of topics, including types of crimes against visitors, identity theft, car break-ins, robberies and visitor assistance and safety measures.

Approximately 7.5 million people visit Hawai’i each year, said Frank Haas, vice president of tourism and marketing for the Hawaii Tourism Authority.

In his speech, Tarlow emphasized the importance of having visible security and police officers at tourist hot spots, such as Waikiki.

“Security sells,” Tarlow said. “Where you have high security, tourists tend to stay longer and spend more money.”

He compared this to the early 1990s, when plainclothes police officers would patrol Waikiki so tourists wouldn’t be afraid.

“That theory was wrong,” Tarlow said.

The Visitor Aloha Society of Hawaii program was first launched in 1996 by a sub-committee of the Rotary Club of Honolulu. The program on O’ahu was established as its own nonprofit agency in 1997. VASH services are provided on O’ahu, Maui, Kaua’i and the Big Island.