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WBCN – Hotel Security.

March 2016

Events in March 2016 have demonstrated to dramatic effect that terrorists are increasingly selecting soft targets to commit their atrocities. The reality is these location, which include hotels, holiday resorts and tourist areas, are hard to secure.

Terrorists and other criminals exploit any weakness, with lone or small team attacks using well-planned tactics and weapons. Add to this the extensive media coverage that successful perpetrators receive, as well as the devastating effects on the country’s economy and a high-profile governmental response, and they make an even more attractive target.

As a result, hotels are developing and improving systems for assessing risk and implementing security. It has always been a trade-off between what is needed and the cost of implementation. However, over the last decade, understanding has grown of why investing in this area is not only beneficial but can lead to more custom and profitability. The hospitality and corporate industry realizes that doing nothing can be costlier than investing in security.

As travelers become more aware of potential risks, it is encouraging to see some hotels and resorts have responded to possible threats to their business, staff and guests by bringing in outside experts to test and advise on security shortfalls within their estates.

The main challenge, of course, is that hotels are public places: it is almost impossible to check every piece of luggage coming in and out. Coupled with this, hotel management does not want the hotel to look like a high-security prison. However, that said, as with many areas in life, “you get what you pay for”. In my view, 4 and 5-star hotels tend to have a better security and safety culture and invest more in this area. A number of hotel chains realize the key to good security is to have better trained staff who are security aware. Over the last few years, high-end hotels and resorts have prioritized this area and have commissioned me or others in my field to review, write and deliver security awareness programs, aimed at staff at all levels, as well as reviewing and practicing response plans.

A recurrent area of risk requiring attention is the staff vetting process. Hotels in general tend to rely on large numbers of agency staff to support the hotel functions. This is a weak point within the security process since some agencies do not vet or train their staff to the same standards as the hotel would itself. Furthermore, some hotels ignore the vetting and checks on staff being supplied. Although all hotels use agency staff at some point, the high-end hotels tend to have a better control and monitoring process for this.

Having the right security manager in place and having a clearly understood and implemented security policy is critical for a hotel group. For example, is a hotel manager wants to override a security manager’s decision or budget, this decision must go through an approval process from the hotel’s head office, so everybody is aware of the risks and mitigation that is required. Having a health and security culture at a hotel is critical and needs to be driven from the top.

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