UN disaster management expert Muralee Thumarakudy has said the tendency of those accompanying passengers to crowd the terminal entry and exit points of the Kochi and Kozhikode airports is a security issue.

He was delivering the keynote address on ‘Tourism and safety concerns' organised by the Kerala Tourism at the Mascot Convention Centre here on Monday.

No such crowds can be seen at the 250 airports, including the busiest JFK in New York or the Rumbek airport in Sudan which has only one weekly flight.

He pointed to the rise in the number of road accident fatalities involving those coming to see off or receive air passengers.

High visibility, severe economic impacts and ability to spur religious clashes are the main reasons why tourists are often targeted by miscreants, Dr. Muralee said. The response to such acts should be calibrated, he added.

It is highly difficult to provide high-level security in places of tourist interest. Even rumours can cause disasters, Dr. Muralee said. He urged the authorities to bring in more regulations on mass congregations including religious ones.

The safety of waterfront tourist destinations is poor. The State needs floating aids, community-based rescue and more dependence on ‘professionals rather than heroes and heroines,' he said.

Safety and security are different concepts. Kerala is not considered an insecure place, but safety levels are deemed poor due to reasons like bad roads, dilapidated buildings, exposed power lines etc. Steps should be taken to prevent fire accidents in high-rise buildings. Use of better equipment for construction and adherence to safety norms and procedures should be ensured, he said.

International tourists think they need a great deal of luck to negotiate Indian roads unhurt, he added.

Director General of Police Jacob Punnoose said the State was one of the most secure places in the world and the murder rate of 330 in the last year was an all-time low in the history of the State. The State had to improve safety aspects to retain the number one position in the tourism sector. The message that Kerala is safe should be spread. Security should be the selling point of Kerala Tourism, he added. State Tourism Secretary V. Venu said no destination can be complacent in the present context. A thorough re-examination of processes is imperative, he said.

‘Orungam Vinodayatrakku,' a book by Dr. Muralee, was released by V. Sivankutty, MLA, by handing over a copy to Mr. Punnoose. Tourism Director M. Sivashankar; Kerala Tourism Development Corporation Managing Director K.G. Mohanlal and KITTS Director V. Rajeevan were among those who spoke.