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Hospitality V/s Hostility

Wednesday, June 5, 2019, 17:55 Hrs  [IST]

Luxury Hotels are endangered.
They are coming into the cross-hairs of International Terrorism. This is not the place to analyse the origins of terrorism. The fact that it is faith based, and virtually as old as organised religions, is axiomatic and accounts for the dedicated fanaticism of its rank and file. All terrorist organisations seek publicity and a successful attack on a Luxury Hotel, with its high-profile guests, gives it screaming globe-spanning headlines at the cost of a few of its happily suicidal workers.

We have had the advantage of having viewed this phenomenon from two diametrically opposite points of view. For the first part, our working lives we were an Indian Naval family dedicated to building defensive bastions around our nation. We lived in a secure environment, ensured the 24 x 7 protection of all who shared our boundaries even if we had to sacrifice our own freedom. For the second part, we changed our profession to tourism: the business of building bridges between countries, demolishing walls separating people, celebrating our freedom to move, meet and mingle without restriction.

Tourism, which is essentially the activity of travelling for leisure and pleasure, is a 20th century phenomena. It created hotel chains, travel agencies, guides, cruise ships and airlines. Then came international terrorism: largely a 21st century clone of an ancient socio-religious virus.

Terrorism threatens the foundations of tourism and our luxury hotels are particularly vulnerable. They cannot afford to be snug about their own security.

Here are a few points which all endangered hotels should consider when assessing the adequacy of their response to the threat posed by terrorism.

Financial:

  • What do you spend on Security?
  • What will be your material and projected revenue losses if you are attacked?
  • What will be the long-term impact on your group, and on tourism, if you are attacked? Avoid placebo generalisations, be specific and face the harsh truth because your job could be the victim of your own complacency.


Organisational:
  • What training have your security guards had? Who trained them? For how long?
  • What area does each security guard cover? How often does he visit each area?
  • A hotel is like a ship at sea working 24x7. A ship’s “watch” is relieved every 4 hours with a half Dogwatch of 2x2 hours to ensure that the same crew does not do the same watch every day. In all likelihood your security staff is being worked well beyond its alert levels. Can you afford such fatigue laxness?
Internal:
  • Technology is only as good as its human handler. All the CCTV screens in the world cannot spot danger. Only the human watching the screens can. How many of your screens are scanned by how many humans and for how long?
  • What security checks are in place to prevent dangerous items from being smuggled in through your service channels?
  • Are your housekeeping staff been trained to be watchful against hazardous and suspicious items from being kept in guest rooms?
  • Have you informed your guests that, in the interests of their own security, their luggage and the contents of their room may be searched at any time, in their presence, by the security staff? Do you get a waiver for such security routines from your guests, in writing, when they check in?
These are some of our suggestions. Many hoteliers don’t like facing up to the terrorism threat because they don’t want to be burdened by the extra expense and the perceived inconvenience to their guests. But it is better to have a peevish guest than an injured or dead one! In fact, it is time that the industry associations like FHRAI set up its own Hotel Security Rating Agency which could assess and rate both the providers of hotel security services as well as the security standards of hotels. The rating could be in the form of “Shields” the same way that Stars are awarded for the level of guest facilities.

Consequently, when a guest chooses to book into a Five-Star Five-Shield hotel he or she will be deemed to have accepted the level of security, and its consequential checks. Further waivers will not be needed.

(The Views expressed within this column are the opinion of the authors, and may not necessarily be endorsed by the publication)

 
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