Travel Security Mania

I was, by then a child, when Mr. Spock and Captain Kirk were “beamed’ up to the surface to a yet unexplored planet. Although it was annoying to see always the same team, I was fascinated by the idea of being beamed-up. Now, after 30 years later, we still have to use the “prehistoric” transportation means in order to travel from point A to B. Unfortunately, the so longed promised beaming-up is far, far away from the point where we are standing now. And it looks like it is only getting much farther.

Somehow, though, every time when I have to travel to a destination I can’t get rid of the idea of beaming-up versus fixed-wing aircraft, which most of the time is driven by a jet engine. Now everybody would agree with me that the 9/11 attacks in New York have made traveling to a destination more complex, if not harder or sometimes even impossible due to restrictions. According to some data it has even sometimes four folded in costs. (See article Airport passenger screening is costing the government almost four times what airlines paid before Sept. 11.)

I remember an interview with a former policeman in which he was telling that before the Palestinian attack on the Israeli Olympic, supporters in Munich Olympics of 1972 did not even have any particular idea of “terrorism”. Since then, if we look back to the developments originating from the Middle East, we just have to admit that the situation is getting more difficult. And somehow I have missed the opportunity to understand why a couple of squire miles somewhere in the globe have to have so much effect on our daily life. Even now we entered a phase in which we started to give in with our civil liberties. We are currently dealing with a huge security apparatus globally which is promising a “safer” world by imposing its rules.

Every time I have to fly to a destination, I have to observe the trouble that I and my fellow travelers have to undergo on the horror of passing the gates. My conclusion, unlike my other fellow travelers’ opinion, is that it is more a selling point then a necessity or a solution to some problem. The security industry itself is doing its best to convince us of what necessary and good job they are doing. Hence it is not so strange that we all start believing in their promises.

First let’s have a look on the figures and find out how much money we are already willing to pay for our “security” and what we get in return:

The airline industry says that they have been carrying close to 2 billion passengers last year (2005). (See: iata)
The security costs within the airport taxes vary from 3 to 15 Euro. If we take an average of 7 Euro that would even be a underestimated value, since most of the 2 billion passengers travel from one of the main global hubs. And these hobs have the highest security costs, e.g. every passenger who had used Amsterdam (Schiphol) airport, with a traveling capacity of 44 million last year, paid an additional 13.50 Euro for security costs. Roughly, about 14 Billion Euro is spent on security costs considering the 2 Billion passengers and 7 Euro. At the moment Airline companies do not complain since they are not obliged to return the airport tax (which includes the security tax) to the passenger when the passenger misses its flight. The passenger, since his/her security is at stake, is willing to accept the extra trouble and sometimes the humiliation. But overall the travel industry should complain because the costs of security are rising what means that the total costs of the travel have to be compensated somewhere else. At the end of the supply chain are, unfortunately, the hotels and all the travel related services at the destination, including the restaurants, bars, clubs, taxis and all the other.

Paying 7 Euro each time when passing an airport terminal is a lot when I take in account that half the world’s workers (is about 1.8 Billion people) still do not earn enough to lift themselves and their families above the US $2 a day poverty line (See http://www.ilo.org/public/english/bureau/inf/pr/2005/48.htm) Then there is no wonder why we have to set-up huge fences on our borders to protect our lifestyle.

Our politicians should be more worried in the security leak at our borders when it comes to exported animals that might contain viruses like the SARS and H5N1 (better known as the chicken flue) and future viruses then happily X-Raying the passengers luggage and scanning their shoes and thereby guarantying our safety.

The example of the H5N1 virus shows that a lot of research is needed in order to reduce or prevent this kind of attack on our life style. Whether this particular case was caused by the natural or manmade elements is outside the scope of this article. It is sad but true that we are far away from defending ourselves against the new viruses with huge economical costs and implications. Every one in the tourism industry knows that the implications for the tourism sector are immensely huge.

Fourteen Billion Euro which is used for “our” security can better be used for research in new technologies which in the long term will not only make the flying vehicle more secure, less polluting but also faster and more pleasant.

Tourism is the only true bridge between cultures. It is not, as it were hundreds of years ago, only in the hands of some adventurers and gypsies, but a massive short migration to other destinations around the globe. Tourism can not only help building up understanding for other cultures but it is also able to create economical opportunities especially for the hopeless people of the globe who are even not able to find a daily job which pays less then US $2 a day. If we created hope for the hopeless then it would decrease the possibility of terrorism and if we are in contact with them the chance for a more democratized world would be closer. In return we would not only have cheaper travel costs but also would not have to loose our civil liberties. By introducing the draconian security measures we loose sight of the true security problem and thereby create contemporary Gestapo’s in our societies. This will probably not be solved within couple of years, even if we wanted to. Therefore the question not to get willingly blinded by the security apparatus/industry is a serious one to consider. Think about the alternative future: we may never achieve the final goal of beaming-up ourselves to another point but nevertheless we could get very close to faster, better, less polluting transportation vehicles and a more pleasant world.