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Travel Agents Seek Summit on Tourist Safety : Crime: Industry says steps must be taken quickly in response to the killings in Florida.

From Associated Press

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.

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“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.

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“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.”


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