A senior UK counter-terrorism officer has called on the industry to do more to ensure travellers’ safety in the face of terror threats.
Detective chief superintendent Scott Wilson, national counter terrorism Protect and Prepare coordinator at the UK’s National Counter Terrorism Security Office (NaCTSO), said: “There is a lot of stuff we’ve suggested with the travel industry [to which] people have said ‘That’s too difficult, we don’t want to do that’.”
Wilson told a Hill Dickinson travel law seminar in London: “We’ve done so much work with [UK travel association] Abta, but we need to keep the momentum going. We need to be more ambitious.
“If I want to take my kids on holiday, I look at a brochure, see a four or five-star hotel and know it will be nice. But I don’t know about the security. I know there will be hairdryer in the room, [but] I don’t know if there is CC TV, if there are security guards. I’ve no clue. I don’t think that is right.
“There is more we need to do before we have another incident overseas.”
He told the seminar: “With health and safety, you know the balcony must be a certain height, you must have a gas safety certificate. But there is nothing to say you must have security in a hotel. We should be doing more.”
Wilson insisted: “I don’t want us to fall behind. We’ve been well ahead [of other sectors] with what we’ve done with Abta.
“[But] Premier League Football was well behind us a year ago and they’ve overtaken us. In [match] programmes you get a ‘Run, hide, tell’ message, a ‘suspect package’ message, ‘suspicious behaviour’ messaging, and it’s going to be on match tickets.
“I went on a package holiday. I don’t see the messaging on tickets. I don’t see it in brochures. It’s never mentioned at welcome meetings.”
Wilson added: “Some processes I just find unbelievable. Hotels will take your case away in the morning. An hour later there are 200 cases in the street. I was flabbergasted [when that happened]. My bag should have been in a secure room, not on the street for two hours. It’s putting all customers at risk.
“This industry could do more and it’s not always going to cost money. Don’t be left behind and have another incident and then say ‘Well, we could have done this’.
“Abta, Tui, Thomas Cook have done some really good work, but we need to think what else we can do. This problem is here for a generation. It’s not going away.”
Hill Dickinson partner Jo Kolatsis pointed out: “It’s difficult to ensure security arrangements are as robust as we expect in the UK. You’re stuck with local resources unless you’re going to parachute people in. It’s a big ask of the industry on its own to set that standard.”
Wilson urged industry representatives to submit suggestions for improvements to the government via Abta. He said: “We feed back to ministers on what the travel industry wants.”
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