25 April 2002 | David Arminas
Travel managers are an important part of the fight against terrorist attacks and should get more recognition for this role, according to a leading academic.
While security has been increased in almost all travel sectors since the 11 September terrorist attacks in the US, the threat to travellers has not receded, said Professor Paul Wilkinson, director of the centre for the study of terrorism and political violence at the University of St Andrews.
He told the Institute of Travel Management's (ITM) 2002 international conference, held at St Andrews: "The industry could do a great deal in pressing for higher standards of security, greater training in security awareness, and ensuring that the standard of risk management is raised.
"The corporate travel buyer should have more recognition for their expertise in these matters, so they don't feel they are a simply a cog in a big wheel."
In his keynote address to the 250 delegates, Wilkinson called for greater co-operation and sharing of information between government agencies, police and the travel industry.
Some form of international body was needed to set up worldwide security standards, he added.
"I'd like to see the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), the United Nations body for airline civil aviation, have an international inspectorate role that is based on one set of standards worldwide."
At the moment, the ICAO advises on standards, but each country is left to apply them as they see fit.
Louise Innes, chairman of the ITM, ruled out a naming and shaming table as "the wrong thing to do", but added that travel buyers want to hear from suppliers that are doing something.
Martin George, British Airways' director of marketing, said since 11 September the airline had increased its communication about security matters with travel buyers.
"If a travel purchaser says they are concerned, we have a head of safety who can talk to them," he said. "We have also had forums at our head office for up to 300 travel buyers."