Basel Fair “will definitely” tighten its security

The Basel Fair “will definitely have stricter security controls” at the upcoming Basel 2002 World Watch and Jewelry Show and at future shows, following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on America and the U.S. military response, officials tell JCK.

The watch and jewelry trade fair, the world’s largest, is held annually in Basel, Switzerland. It attracts more than 85,000 visitors from Europe, the Middle East, Asia, and the Americas (8% from North America), some 2,000 exhibitors and thousands of exhibitors’ staff people.

The event organizers of Messe Basel (the Basel Fair management, which operates more than two-dozen different trade shows annually) met Sept. 18. They discussed tightening security for all future shows, including the next watch and jewelry fair (Apr. 4 -11, 2002).

The watch and jewelry show already has a high level of security. Up to 30% of Basel’s police force, uniformed and plain clothes, patrol the show, and the Fair annually spends $60,000 to $120,000 to add equipment and upgrade security systems and strategies, says Ueli Born, the Basel Fair’s long-time security chief.

“Most people probably won’t be aware” of the tighter security, says Born, nor are they supposed to. “We don’t give details on in-house security,” he says.

However, some can be mentioned. The show’s security people and the local police have lists of persons who might try to make trouble for American, Jewish, or Arab visitors. There will be more police controls and patrols at Swiss airports, including the Basel airport, and at all the border checks with France and Germany (which are only a mile or two from the fair grounds).

At BASEL 2002, registered journalists must have a show-provided photo ID badge to be admitted to the show and exhibitors’ events. For BASEL 2003, the registration/security system will expand to include all show visitors.

Basel show officials are also debating whether to add metal detectors and security entry checkpoints, similar to those used at airports or public buildings. One Basel show tradition won’t change, however. The public will continue to be admitted (with a ticket) into the watch and jewelry fair, say show officials.

How much tougher the Basel Fair’s security gets “depends on the political situation at the time,” Born says, “but we can tighten security up to the day before a show begins if necessary, as we have done in past years, because we work closely with the [Basel] police.”