Just How Safe is Your Hotel?

Low angle view of surveillance camera. Shallow DOF, selective focus, toned image colors.
[vc_row][vc_column][vc_single_image image="9020" img_size="full" alignment="center"][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Terrorism strikes in soft targets have put the spotlight on security around the globe. Just how safe is your hotel in an emergency situation? Hans Kanold, CEO of Safehotels, outlines the most critical components for hotel safety and security.

Can you tell us about Safehotels and what it takes to become certified?

Safehotels Alliance created the Global Hotel Security Standard© in order to make the communication between the hotels and the travel managers and tour operators easier. A hotel or meeting venue has to show they work proactively and has a readiness to work reactively as well. Safehotels measures and evaluates processes, procedures, looks at documentation, evaluates training, conducts alarm functions and maintenance – from fire security, First Aid equipment to luggage handling and alarm systems from the guest safety and security point of view. We cover about 220 questions all together.

What are some of the biggest threats that face hotels in Asia and the Pacific?

We look at all threats, and the everyday incidents like theft, violence, lost luggage and injuries — heart attacks are far more common than terrorist attacks. More or less, the same threats exist in all hotels all over the world. However, natural disasters are a bit more common in Asia and the Pacific due to just that — nature. As we’ve seen in Europe, these days terrorism is a threat besides everyday incidents. Good hotel security always starts with the details.

What are the most basic security measures that hotels are missing?

Staff training is by far what’s lacking the most. It is the most important factor: consistency in training. Of course, equipment and technology is of high importance (cameras, screening, fire equipment, First Aid equipment) but if the human factor isn’t working, then it will fail the whole system of security.

What are some basic strategies to prepare for terrorist attacks?

A terrorist attack is always carried out after a long period of planning. So it is very important the hotel staff observe what could be considered odd behavior or details in ordinary patterns that doesn’t correspond to normal acts within a hotel. Cars parked in odd locations, a smell in corridors, a room that doesn’t welcome housekeeping staff, guests who don’t leave their room, luggage that are brought in at odd times, etc. Being reactive is likewise important: Once an incident or attack is executed you are in a far more better position if a hotel has their equipment in order, and staff is trained to handle the situation, big or small.

What are some of the biggest threats that make hotels are such prime “soft targets” for terrorism?

The challenge is to find a balance between a comfortable, safe hotel and a welcoming, open environment. Hotels have multiple entry points and open public areas. However, one can not be naïve: security measures as in routines for luggage control, being very observant for irregular behavior, drug use, alcohol abuse and inappropriate acts are key. The most important issue, and the biggest challenge, is to quickly be able to increase security if the threat level changes. To constantly monitor the area, what happens in the immediate surrounding and activity in the destination is crucial.

We’ve been talking about hotels as soft targets for terrorism for some time now, particularly after the events in Jakarta and Mumbai. Do you see a disconnect or lag time in how the travel industry is embracing security?

Parts of the travel industry are better than others. I would say that the airline industry and cruise ships are on top of it, although incident do happen. If you look at the bus/ground transportation they are far behind, and the hotel industry is even further behind — even though there is a huge variety among hotels. Why? It has to do with consistency and lack of standards. The part of the industry that doesn’t measure security or provide standardized measures also lacks security. That’s why our standard now is being implemented worldwide.

Where do you hear the most feedback on the need for safety standards?

Without a doubt, it’s from travel managers and tour operators as well as meeting organizers. They have to show duty of care. Also, hoteliers that invest in security now realize it’s a competitive advantage — and a superb communication tool.

When planning business or MICE travel, is the Safehotels certification something that travel managers are seeking out, specifically?

The travel management community who have realized there is a Global Hotel Security Standard© include the question “Are you certified by Safehotels?” in their RFP. Some travel managers state that in order to become a preferred partner hotel you simply have to be certified.

What are the top three things hoteliers need to know about responding to a crisis?

Gather correct information
Being able to communicate
The ability to act fast

Its difficult to pick three, but those are very important in order to be able to help and to get support from the outside.

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/mbbirdy[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]