With the 2019 Rugby World Cup on the horizon, insurers and assistance companies alike are putting in place preparations to ensure that tourists’ wellbeing is safeguarded. With potential risks including cyberattacks and earthquakes, there is work to be done, not just by officials but also travellers themselves. Peter Cooper, Global Security Director at Collinson, shared his thoughts on the innate challenges.
“Japan is considered one of the safest countries in the world, with well-resourced and trained security and emergency services, but low risk does not mean no risk,” he said. “Natural disasters are a common concern of travellers heading to Japan, which is in the most tectonically active area of the world. There are over 2,000 fault lines over the country, so powerful earthquakes, such as the one that led to nuclear meltdown at Fukushima, are a real possibility.”
According to Cooper, in addition to the risk of earthquakes, there is also a risk of heavy rain and winds: “Japan’s typhoon season is from May to October, which coincides with the Rugby World Cup 2019, and peaks between July and September. Storm systems bring heavy rain and strong winds, as well as surges near the coast that can be dangerous to buildings and people. These can cause flooding and landslides, resulting in travel disruptions, mass evacuations, and casualties.”
Japan has extremely robust contingency and response for such events, and there are resources that tourists can use
Cooper said that Southern Japan and Okinawa are traditionally the most affected by storms, and although no World Cup games are scheduled there, it has been known for the Kyushu and Honshu islands, where several games are taking place, to be affected. Fortunately, Cooper highlighted that Japan has extremely robust contingency and response for such events, and there are resources that tourists can use. “Travellers are advised to follow directions from World Cup officials,” he recommended. “Smartphone apps, such as the safety tips app from the Japanese tourist authority, are available with information and advice on how to stay safe if caught in a natural disaster.”
Cooper also pointed out that there are challenges associated with differences in culture. “Culturally, in public the Japanese tend to be calm and reserved, and boorish or loud behaviour can often be frowned upon,” he said. “Tattoos are considered taboo, and often linked to organised crime. Travellers should cover these up when in public and access to gyms or swimming pools may be refused.”
Cooper stated that tourists should have their wits about them when it comes to drugs and alcohol: “The authorities exercise a strict zero tolerance policy to drugs. If arrested, travellers can be detained for up to 23 days without charge whilst investigations and legal process take place, even if the alleged offence is relatively minor. It is unlikely that the authorities will take a heavy-handed approach with visitors to the RWC, but travellers should bear this in mind.” When it comes to the risk of crime, Cooper said that crime levels across Japan are generally low, and the main risks to travellers are from ‘petty, opportunistic types’. “Travellers need to stay alert and keep valuables hidden,” he warned.
Travellers need to stay alert and keep valuables hidden
Cooper also warned of the growth of cybercrime in Japan. “Methods can include infection, compromise, malware, spam email, phishing and social engineering. Travellers should take the usual precautions with personal data when using open networks such as those in hotels, bars and airports,” he said.
With best practices in place, along with advice for travellers on steps they themselves can take to protect themselves, the Olympics looks set to be a roaring success.