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KCC hospitality students will soon be required to take visitor safety class

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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

When tragedy strikes a popular tourist destination, how the visitor industry responds plays a major role in preventing long-term damage. 

That concept is driving a new effort to teach tourism students at Kapiolani Community College how to prepare for the worst.  

A class called "Tourism Safety and Security" has only been offered at KCC since last fall, but instructor Frank Haas is working to make it a required course for the hospitality program. 

"Safety and security are part of hospitality. We want the students going into the industry to be aware of the potential scenarios and how it affects the guests and how it affects the industry," said Haas. 

He says Hawaii is known as one of the safest destinations in the world for visitors, but that could all change if the state isn't resilient. 

"That reputation can go away awfully quickly. There's an impact that can be financial or reputation-wise if your guests are not safe. And if there's an incident, it can really impact your business," he said. 

Haas says 2017 has given his class many real-life examples from which they can learn and develop emergency plans. 

"We've had people coming in to talk about sea level rise and sex trafficking. We've talked about food-borne illness, terrorism, active shooters. We teach our students to pay attention to that so they can anticipate, plan for, train for, and hopefully minimize the possibility of risk," Haas said. 

Students say the class has taught them how to serve guests in a more impactful way. 

"We become soft targets all of the time if you're not aware of these things," said Joanna Palomar. 

"To know what's going on in our industry, it's very important for us," said Clifford Yacapin. 

Tourism leaders say empowering the students with this knowledge before they enter the workforce will help strengthen the industry. 

"They're going to walk in much more prepared than we were at their age. In the world we live in, its the right thing to do," said George Szigeti, Hawaii Tourism Authority president and CEO. 

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