- On October 14-15, the Colombian National Tourism Police ushered in a new era of tourism security with its in-person and virtual “Congreso de Seguridad Turística” (Tourism Security and Safety Conference).
- Approximately two hundred people attended the conference in person along with approximately 2,000 virtual attendees from across Latin America.
- The conference featured speakers from both Colombia and other Latin American nations as well as Dr. Peter Tarlow, who represented the United States.
Colombia has long been a leader in tourism policing. Under the astute direction of Coronel Jhon (not a misspelling) Harvey Alzate Duque, Colombia has become a Latin American leader in the field of tourism security. This emphasis on tourism safety and security has transformed the nation’s previous negative image, and today Colombia is a leader in Latin American tourism.
The event was opened by General Jorge Luis Vargas, who heads Colombia’s police force. International speakers came not only from across Latin America but also from France and Spain. The speakers’ topics ranged from how tourism security and tourism security policing have become central in this post-Covid-19 pandemic age to issues of cyber security and biosecurity. When asked about the importance of tourism security, Tarlow noted that “ten years ago, Colombia was a very different place” Tarlow continued by stating that although in past decades visitors to Colombia were afraid to venture out especially after dark, that situation is no longer the case. Tarlow noted that today due to the thousands of dedicated and specially trained tourism police officers, visitors are able to enjoy Colombia knowing that the only risk that they will face is that they might not want to leave.
The conference speakers unanimously praised this conference and noted the importance of having a Spanish language conference throughout Latin America. For example, Juan Fabián Olmos, who before retiring headed Cordoba Argentina’s tourism policing, congratulated the Colombia police on the spectacular job that they have done in creating a safe and secure environment for visitors from around the world. Brigadier General Minoru Matsunaga of the Dominican Republic spoke about how Politur (combined police and military tourism security and safety unit) became a trademark for tourism safety across the region.
Juan Pablo Cubides who coordinates tourism security projects across Colombia noted that Colombia is a country that sees tourism security as part of its hospitality. Cubides noted that police officers are more than mere agents of the law, but representatives of their nation, and as such tourism policing is an integral part of a nation’s economic development. Other notable speakers included Manuel Flores from Mexico. Flores is the first Latin American to be awarded the World Tourism Network’s prestigious Hero of Tourism award, and Oscar Blacido Caballero, of Peru’s southern command which includes the important tourism city of Cuzco and world-famous Machu Pichu. The conference not only looked at local issues but also international problems such as cyber security. Dr. Juan Antonio Gómez , of Spain provided new insights into the worldwide threat of cyber-attacks again the world’s tourism industry.
The conference ended on October 15th with the singing of both the Colombian and police anthems and the determination to apply the lessons learned across Central and South America.
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