The nation’s travel agents, faced with a string of killings of foreign visitors in Florida, are calling for an industry summit to improve tourist safety.
“We definitely have to put a stop to this,” Earlene Causey, president of the American Society of Travel Agents, said in a keynote address at a convention being held here this week. In attendance were about 5,000 travel agents, as well as representatives from airlines, cruise lines, hotel chains and car rental companies.
Causey said a national summit would bring together law enforcement and government officials to discuss how to keep travelers safe. None of the specifics of such a conference have been set, but industry officials said they hope to hold one soon.
A German and a British tourist were shot to death in their unmarked rental cars in separate attacks this month in Florida. Eight other foreigners have been killed in the state since October.
“Everyone is horrified at what happened there,” said Paul Ruden, the Alexandria, Va.-based society’s senior vice president of legal and industry affairs.
“It’s a tragedy, and something needs to be done and done quickly, but the emphasis needs to be how to travel safely and smartly,” he said.
Ruden said a summit would help focus attention on the economic importance of the travel industry. Some officials have estimated that tourism revenue in Florida could drop 20% because of the killings.
Ruden said he doubts the killers in the two recent cases were specifically targeting tourists.
“It’s hard to believe that the Englishman or the German could have been identified as foreigners. It just seems to me to be a hideous coincidence,” he said.
The attacks are part of a bigger problem, he said--that of a “growing underclass without hope. That’s the breeding ground for people who don’t respect human life.”