Secure Tourism Summit on Travel Safety
James Waters, Chief Counterterrorism Group, NYPD at Secure Tourism Summit
Kathleen Matthews interviews former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson.

The first Secure Tourism Summit was held in New York City on April 9,2017. It was sponsored by the industry trade organization, US Travel Association and, while many of the topics discussed were directed to large organizations, a few concepts were quite apt for family travelers.

Starting with the numbers, the United States travel industry, both international and domestic, is responsible for $2.3 trillion of the economy and 15 million jobs, according to the USTA. Any large scale problem, with security for example, can affect these numbers to the detriment of all.

Jeh Johnson, former Homeland security Executive in the Obama Administration was first to speak. He indicated that to design a completely secure environment for air travel would mean passengers could wear no clothes, have no carry on or checked luggage, nor would there be food or drink on board; in short, an impossibility. He reminded the attendees that the current TSA security protocol is designed to alleviate many of the worries when these factors are part of the travel experience.

The balance that security specialists seek is always between physical security and an open society. As proof, think of the hundreds of flights every day between the US and international destinations. The inter-agency security measures in place with the TSA, ICE, CBP and many of the components of the National security Administration are designed to protect all Americans as well as travelers on these flights. In the 1960’s, there was no airport security to speak of. Today our world has changed, so we rely on the men and women of all these agencies to be eternally vigilant on our behalf.

Making Travel Safer

Many plans are in place to make travel security better and more safe.

At Denver International Airport, for example, public safety and security are blending together, to insure travelers are completely safe from curbside check-in to flight departure.

Throughout the agencies, discussions are being held to ensure that electronic devices cannot be repurposed as weapons by anyone.

In New York City, when the United Nations General Assembly is held in September every year, 170 heads of state are kept safe with a multi-layered approach to security, as many different agencies cooperate to ensure safety for all the attendees and residents and visitors of New York City.

New environments are being designed with security safety at the forefront. The London Olympics of 2012, for example, were designed to keep the landscape of vehicular traffic and pedestrians separate to minimize threat concerns. As new mass audience ventures arise, this will be the rule rather than the exception. For public events, the secure flow of people will always be a top priority.

What’s Next for Airport Security?

As for the future, the prognostications are in. Tomorrow’s travel security and technology will look something like this…

Security will start at home, with your identity and biometrics established in the comfort of your living room. When you arrive at the airport, the now present, first stop TSA podium will disappear.

Body scanning will take 2 seconds, instead of the current 15-30 seconds, which will make wait lines much shorter. Advanced security technology will adapt a lot from the medical technology already in place. That will make looking for threats before they happen, easier.

Think of it. You will be pre cleared at home, your irises, your fingerprints, and voice recognition will identify you in full.

How Soon with Things Improve?

Will this happen next month, next year, when? While maybe not months away, it is conceivable these security improvements might occur within the next 5-10 years. The technology is here, the funding is not.

Above all, one thing that the Secure Tourism Summit stressed is that security and situational awareness needs to be part of daily life, no matter whether you are at the mall, the stadium, the theatre, or any large public venue. Travelers should always keep in mind: Where are the exits? Are there video recording devices? Are you aware of the whereabouts of everyone traveling with you?

Their message was repeated over and again: Travelers must always be careful, aware and vigilant.

The Conference brought forth the notion that no matter where you are in the world, security should always be something that you think about beyond airport check-in.

Exactly what the country’s security agencies are working on now.

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