Safe Hotels: Securing Safe Hotels in the UK

In our fast moving security environment, the need for safe hotels is greater than ever before. We speak to Hans Kanold, CEO of the Safehotels Alliance to find out why hotel security is now at the top of the agenda. Has hotel security become more important in recent years?

Hans Kanold: Yes, I think it has. When guests visit a hotel they expect a safe environment with a high level of fire security and medical security. If an incident did occur, it could be very damaging to the industry a hotel didn’t have the right equipment and training in place to deal with eventualities.

It is therefore crucial to ensure that all staff are trained to be able to handle incidents – as well as trying to lower the risk level. At the end of the day, being safe is simply a matter of being prepared. So, hoteliers can use their existing human resource to improve security?

Kanold: Absolutely! A hotel which cares about the quality of its customer service should also train its staff in security procedures like fire drills, evacuation drills, medical care and general observational security. All staff should have basic security training.

Hoteliers should focus on writing instructions and checklists applicable for all levels in the hotel; but this is a huge challenge because the hotel industry, by its nature, experiences a high turnover of staff.

The priority must be to advise and train all staff to be observant; train them in reporting and give the employees the authority to act if they see anything suspicious. Do you think the security priorities of hotels have changed in recent years?

Kanold: Security priorities have definitely changed due to an increased threat level. For example, people carry more valuables and travel further – the financial impact of a business traveller being unable to perform his duties because of a security incident is greater today than a decade ago.

Besides, “thanks” to the internet, bad news travel faster: the reputation and brand can be severely damaged if an incident is not handled quickly and efficiently. Are hoteliers therefore spending more on hotel security than in the past?

Kanold: Yes. I understand that hotels are spending a lot more on both equipment and training in recent years. I think it’s important for the investment to be shared in this manner: the spend on equipment must go hand-in-hand with staff training – security should not become the remit of just a few select people in a hotel. Should security measures be unobtrusive to the guest experience – or is it important for them to be visible?

Kanold: Hoteliers aim to provide a comfortable, but safe environment – and this is a huge challenge! If the level of risk increases, then it’s important for security measures to become more visible, as required.

However, be warned: visible security measures that cannot be acted on can be very damaging for a hotel. False cameras, inexperienced security guards and alarms that don’t work properly will fail during an incident and damage the reputation of the business in the long term. Is it important for hotels to strike the right balance between in-house security and third-party security providers?

Kanold: I strongly believe that hotel security should be built by people highly experienced in hotel security. There are massive differences between protecting a hotel and a bank, industrial premises and so on. The individual needs of the hotel should dictate the level of security and hoteliers need to work with third-party security providers to properly implement this.

We don’t always want fences and weapons … we want instructions, routines and high-security services – all provided by the right people. What advice would you give GMs looking to improve their hotel security?

Kanold: Listen to what your clients demand! Be flexible and train your staff. You can increase the level of security throughout the hotel if you utilise your entire human resource, rather than just the security officers.

Training is the key to high security level – not just equipment – so do exercises to increase preparedness and keep documentation from incidents and learn from them.

To be able to handle a terrorist attack (to mention the worst case scenario), you have to start with the details. You have to have the right routines, training, documentation and check lists – and your entire team needs to follow it, every day.

About Hans Kanold: Hans is CEO of the Safehotels Alliance which created “The Global Hotel Security Standard” to meet the need for measuring hotel and conference security and matching the business travellers demand for it.

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